The topic has been tossed around for years, more like decades actually.
What is good surfing?
So when Kelly ripped the bag, so to speak, out of a couple of waves against Italo down in Mex a few weeks ago many of us waited with a piqued interest to see the scores. Approaching 50 years of age Kelly’s surfing isn’t what it may have years ago but on a couple of waves at Barra he looked pretty damn solid. Speed, commitment, full rail, etc.
A couple of mid range scores.
Might not have made a difference but it would have put some pressure on Italo had Kelly’s waves been scored appropriately, in our opinion.
Which then begs: who is it that actually decides what is ripping and what isn’t?
When it boils right down to it the reality is that a small group of semi-anonymous, middle-aged men, with possible input from other middle-aged men, who may or may not even surf, have been self-anointed as the current arbiters of performance surfing.
Editors note: A quick Google search revels nothing as to the current identities of the WSL judging panel.
Traditional surf media used to have a significant, authoritative say on these matters but with that all but gone, there isn’t much out there these days to keep tabs on what is progressive surfing.
We will acknowledge that most of these semi-anonymous, middle-aged men do indeed watch a lot of surfing and from that should be qualified to pass some type of judgment based on whatever criteria they are instructed to adhere to. However, in our opinion, this is exactly where it’s all going sideways: the criteria on which it is being judged.
Ya see competitive surfing has always been a weird thing in many ways. Professional comp surfing, or specifically in this conversation, the WSL’s CT, has recently become much more of an entertainment-based proposition, which has complicated things. Clicks, eyeballs, etc., being the important metrics over simply who surfs best. Unfortunately, those two things are often miles apart when it comes to how a heat might be judged. Which, we suppose, is understandable when the underlying motive of the governing organization one of financial profit.
So when the man up high instructs the minions below to create a judging criteria that rewards “exciting surfing” over let’s say, solid surfing, as understood by those who might actually know what that means, there will be confusion and most likely disappointment from a core audience point of view.
Simply, powerful, rail to rail, no check turn surfing is boring to the uninitiated and credit cars airs, weak tail blows, and anything else Joe T. can call progressive, has been deemed as the “money shot,” to borrow a metaphor, by certain decision-makers.
Apparently, that kind of surfing is more exciting to the uninitiated, easier to sell to a mainstream audience, etc.
So when Kelly, or any number of others, buries a rail to the stringer it will go underscored simply because good surfing has been highjacked by a group of semi-anonymous, middle-aged men with an agenda.
We bring this up because in a few days this very subject will most probably rear its ugly head as we have 5 surfers vying for a world title, all with a rather different skill set.
Filipe is a small wave, hot-dogger extraordinaire. Italo is perhaps a step or two towards a more power-oriented game, but still very much focused on above-the-lip maneuvers. Gabby pretty much runs the whole package, and, in our opinion, is the best competitive surfer alive right now. Morgan Cibilic leans towards the classic Aussie power play, but does possess enough new school air attack to keep it interesting. And then there’s California’s great white hope, Conner Conner, who is a pure power surfer.
Based on what we’ve seen from the WSL judging of late, one of the Brazilians is surely favored for no other reason than the current judging criteria is skewing new-school air game over power surfing. And not because it takes more skill or is most appreciated by actual surfers, but simply because it has been deemed as more exciting to watch by, you got it, the semi-anonymous, middle-aged men we spoke of.
However, as we write this some rather above average swell is forecast to arrive next week of what just might turn all of this on its ear. Lowers doesn’t really work as well in waves over 6 feet. Kinda moves off the point proper and starts to swing wide on the bigger sets. A bit mushy even and not really the best waves for an aerial showcase.
That said, even over 6 feet it’s still Gabby’s to lose but suddenly Morgan and Conner come into the picture quite clearly.
But then again, what the fuck do we know?