It is 6:30 am, picture the scene. It is 6:30 am and the crack of dawn in San Diego and I’m paying for a latte at the coffee shop I frequently go to. “And what,” the barista says as he takes my cash. “What do you think about the upcoming WSL season? What with the wave pool, no Trestles, and no Hawaii, right? Oh wait, no, Hawaii is gone next ye—” He is awake and caffeinated and ready. I’m about the furthest from that without being actually deceased. “And how… do you think… it’s all going to sort out?” he says. Imagine me, for a moment. Imagine being me, in my shoes. I’m tired because I suffer from a legitimate caffeine dependency and it’s early and I haven’t had my fix. I’m not quite in the mood to talk to anyone about anything at this hour and the concept of organized professional surfing and its execution through 2018 isn’t some exception to this rule. It’s also quite cold outside which always puts me on edge.
“Oh that is creeping up on us,” I mutter. “But I don’t care too much for it all. To be honest I haven’t really read up on all that stuff.” The barista tilts his head a bit. He looks grim. He is not happy about this response. He does a tremendous wince. He is so, so disappointed in me, in a way I’d never know. He knows I dabble in “surf media” and believed I could answer an earnest question he had and I let them down.
Look, I love surfing. I love it, mate, I really do. And believe it or not I don’t have any massive qualms with competitive surfing minus that whole wave pool thing which I’ll get to later (and EIC Travis gets to often). Yes, I’m aware hating on this sort of thing is our deal here and I swear this will be my last WSL-related web entry before I crack and write a mid-season breakdown with little to no factual analysis, support, or sensibility just because I want to see where I even go with it. Anyways, the truth is, if I’m being honest, I really don’t think it’s that bad.
I mean you’re not going to catch me hooked into the live YouTube stream Matrix-style and with an ice cold Michelob Ultra[TM] (swap this with a Corona with a lime [TM] if you’re reading in Australia) in hand anytime soon. But I will flip it on here and there on my own accord. So if I’m missing it it’s not because I don’t care. It’s just I forget it was even going on in the first place. And that actually happens to me quite often. The thing is it creeps up on us. Well, it creeps on me. And I’m reminded of it all at pretty inopportune times like when I’m busy being a social hand grenade while picking up my morning coffee.
So, the lesson I’ve learned: nothing. Well, nothing other than the fact that I’m an uncomfortable presence that should avoid larger parts of the general public at certain hours. But that isn’t some big fucking form of news for people who know me personally. No. Not at all. But anyways, what this whole coffee incident did do was motivate me to catch up on all my WSL-reading. And the timing of all this happening is perfect because, would you look at that, the Quiksilver Pro is supposed to start in three days. Yes, the waves have been pumping on the Gold Coast for the better part of the past month and now they’ve gone to shit. And yes, because of this, the actual start date will be pushed further and further back until the last possible minute as is tradition. Regardless of all those details though I still caught up on all my reading and while it wasn’t exactly the most piss-yourself exciting stuff I do have some questions:
I’m certain they will, yes. If you think about it the WSL in itself is a very strange program. It’s basically just several blocks of three-to-eight hour broadcasts of half-naked dudes hanging out at the beach. The exotic locale may change but the formula stays the same. Sun goes up, wave check, heat, interview with heat winner, interview with heat loser, a few more heats, a few more interviews, sun goes down. Sure, yes, it is occasionally interspersed with a harrowing wipeout or some sort of maneuver or combination of maneuvers or whatever else gets you going. But the chances of something like that happening are quite rare. In short: it approaches a level of banality that is almost art. And when does that art start to lose its fresh, out-of-the-box sheen? The Oi Rio Pro, that’s when.
Seriously, imagine being at home. Imagine being at home on your sofa. You’re enjoying a day off work perhaps, or maybe a period of unemployment. Either or, you’re nuzzled right into that comfy spot in the corner of your big, red, couch. Imagine doing that and flipping on the Oi Rio Pro. You have a finite number of minutes on this planet and that’s what you watch. You should try to be living each of them at a thousand miles an hour. But you won’t. At least not now. No. You’re going to flip on the Oi Rio Pro instead. You’re going to watch Gabriel Medina raise his fist to a hometown crowd. And you’re going to do this until the morning looms again. There it is, the early sun. It’s casting rays of light onto your little TV and it’s ruining the picture. How did you get here? How did you come to this? You, watching Filipe Toledo freak out at judges for a bit. Can you see yourself going through this sort of scenario? Yeah, no, I can’t either.
Plus, Mick will be retired after the Aussie leg so I bet you’ll shoot it all a bit of a shrug and pick things up again when J-Bay comes about.
Everyone is just going to irrationally hate on the Oi Rio Pro for no reason other than the fact it simply exists, yeah?
Oh yes. Without a doubt, yes. I am starting to suspect that hating on the Brazilian World Tour stop is a deep and under-appreciated facet of a surfer’s psyche. Yes, everyone loves to have a go at it because they believe the waves are wonky and the fans are rabid. Yes, making the conscious decision to flip it on is the ultimate form of altruism. Yes, people will bitch and moan about the whole thing despite the fact Brazil is one of the most entertaining stops from a high-performance standpoint. Yes, yes, yes. Yes to all of it. And, oh yes, none of this will change because that’s just the way things are. Yes, boys, it’s cool to hate on Brazil. Those lads can keep can keep all their young, world-class talent. We don’t care. We’re purists. We like frontside hacks and riding something with a bit more rocker to it. We don’t need your fancy, flying, twirly boys. We’ll tune into that sort of nonsense when Trestles — wait. Shit.
They did. They really, really, really did that. Ah fuck, I can’t believe they did that.
This Lemoore event is all about making surfing more appealing for all viewers so it performs well with Olympic audiences, right?
Oh, lads, best dust off those tin foil hats because I have a conspiracy for you. Now, it’s quite obvious that Kelly’s pool hasn’t received the best reception since it was unveiled. Loads of mental pitchforks have been sharpened when it comes up in conversation anywhere from web ledes to lineups. Is this just a reflection of humanities’ engrained tendency to hate and fear all things it doesn’t understand? Hard to say and aside from my point.
See, what if the Lemoore event wasn’t created with the intention to spice up the World Tour? What if, and please hear me out, it was being implemented to make surfing more approachable. Approachable as in: the wave pool dumbs down surfing so the general public can get frothed on it. It eliminates all those esoteric nuances that haunt our collective psyche. We surfers think we’re a straightforward bunch: we enjoy putting our feet on fiberglass, saying, “Well, it won’t be working well on a low now, will it?” Complaining about the wind and spending a frankly horrible amount of time in the sun. Stuff that makes perfect sense to us but sounds like pure lunacy to anyone else. But think, no need to worry about any of that at the wave pool except the whole sun thing. Nope, just the same perfect wave breaking over and over and over.
It turns our elaborate, little caper into something poor, sad, land-locked boys and girls can understand. And for anyone who loves to watch things like running, swimming, and tennis this is perfect. This is wonderful. This is the most splendid news. Now surfing makes sense. “Oh, Susan, you must come look at this,” says a large, pasty man whose last interaction with a beach was a ten-day spring break bender in Panama City, Florida that happened, if we’re being generous, something like 30-years prior. “Susan, look,” he huffs. “See, the wave breaks here and finishes there every time. And every surfer gets two lefts and two rights. Oh look how fun this is.” I can see this conversation happening. You can see this conversation happening. This conversation is going to happen in every inland living room tuning in from September 5th to the 9th. And I imagine this is what will be echoing in the security line in Tokyo after it has two years to sink in. Imagine all those excited fans coming from the track stadium to see some surfing. Some actual surfing. They’ve only seen something like this through Facebook live stream when it was in a pool. The anticipation will be buzzing. Surfing will be feeling the mainstreams warm, suffocating embrace. And it’ll drive a lot of us to complete insanity.
I’m going to complain and complain about the WSL but I’m still going to watch every single contest from start to finish this year, aren’t I?
Yes. Yes, without uncertainty, yes. I’ve been doing this every year since I can remember. Clearly this is all some sort of punishment for all the heinous sins I do not remember committing in a past life. Every CT season is Groundhog Day and I am Bill Murray swan diving off the top of a building.–James Royce