Jeremy Flores at Rip Curl Pro Bells
Jeremy Flores not-wins at the Rip Curl Pro, Bells Beach. The Madagascan lion tries hard, but conditions too difficult! | Photo: WSL

Just in: What Happened to Surfing’s Great Rebel Tour?

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How well do you remember 2010? If you’re like me the answer is, due to a probably too heavy indulgence in various illicit substances, “vaguely.”

You may, however, have a dim recollection of something called the “Rebel Tour.”

For a minute it was all anyone was talking about. Slater, the biggest swinging dick around, was on board and singing its praises to anyone who would listen. Lurking in the long grass were Terry Hardy, Slater’s manager, and Mat Tinley, a former boxing promoter and nephew of cable television billionaire, Bill Daniels.

The ASP was blowing it, they said, splitting the broadcast rights among event sponsors was killing its chances at scoring lucrative non endemic sponsors. The tour needed an umbrella owner and a slimmed down schedule. Sixteen surfers over eight events. Only the best riders, only the best waves.

The prize money would increase, exposure would explode. ESPN was going to partner with them and display surfing to the world. Or so the rumors went. For all the interest and attention there was never anything concrete laid out.

Back room discussions were had while public statements were largely sound and fury, signifying nothing. Except for the idea that the Rebel Tour, itself, would own broadcast rights. That was repeatedly made very clear.

It was a perfect time to shake things up. The ASP was hemorrhaging money and the introduction, quickly rescinded, of the mid-tour cutoff had the surfers approaching revolt. Event streams were a hit-or-miss proposition, with feeds constantly failing as sponsors struggled to figure out how to broadcast from remote locations. There was a feeling that pro surfing was on the verge of something big, finally gaining the mainstream stage that the money-makers had been chasing for decades, but that it was being held back by the widespread incompetence of the endemic old guard.

So what happened to the Rebel Tour? The short answer is: you’re looking at it.

Tinley was replaced in his role as media mogul by Paul Speaker and Dirk Ziff was tapped to play the billionaire financier. But Hardy got his wish, and now surfing has a sole proprietor. One which can, at least theoretically, use its position as sole owner of surfing’s competitive imagery to reap a colossal financial windfall.

Of course, there’s always a difference between talking and doing.

Those big TV deals have, as yet, eluded the new bosses, excepting the new arrangement with Globosat, a Brazilian broadcaster. Which could pay off. If any country is possessed of enough patriotic fervor to tune in en masse to its country’s finest being reduced to three-to-the-beaching-it in onshore wind slop it’s those brown-skinned South American dance machines.

As for the rest of it?

If you’re of a cynical bent, like this journalist (and I can finally call myself that since The Australian recently called me one in print, despite my never having actually taken a journalism class) you might say the rhetoric about restructuring the tour was nothing but a bunch of empty politician’s promises, meant only to weaken the resolve of a struggling industry so they could swoop in and take over.

Revealed: Ross Williams made me a cuckold!

Or why I won't be downloading the WSL app… 

“Did you know there is a WSL app?” my girl mockingly said to me as we walked home from work in the pouring rain. Then, mimicking the ad, “Get live updates to your phone.”

I replied somewhat defensively, “Yes, and don’t think that I’m going to get it.”

She just laughed and we walked on stoically in the pouring rain.

I know she wasn’t insinuating that I would get it, but I meant what I said. I won’t be getting the app. I’m sure it is great. It seems to offer me a one-stop-shop for professional surfing at my fingertips… just like the WSL website! It even looks like I can stalk the world’s best… bonus!

But no, not for me.

I admit that I’m slow to embrace new technology. It’s not because I mistrust it. I don’t think that the Government is slyly using it to monitor me (after all, I am the Government), or that it’s the Devil’s work. I’m lazy, and just that if it ain’t going to dramatically improve my life, or it doesn’t interest me or involve my job, then I am not going to engage with it. I like not being chained to a device and I like disappearing. That isn’t why I won’t be getting the app though.

Nor is it my current disdain for the state of the WT that means I won’t be getting the app. Snapper was disappointing and Bells is just Bells: a shitty, fat, cold right. True as that may be, it’s not influencing my decision.

The real reason is that my girl is unemployed, and with her new found enthusiasm for the WT, I get regular updates.

I don’t need an app when I get blow by blow accounts of the action with her own dark, comical analysis thrown in to the reports. I get all the vital information I need: the claim size to quality of wave ratio, the prayer-rate, and how many mentions that chief match-fixer God gets, and what dumb things were said by who. She even does a brilliant Ross Williams impersonation. It is remarkably creepy. Subsequently, it’s banned from the bedroom.

So that is why I won’t be getting the new WSL app. And even though it means that I won’t be able to get any new boards made for some time, I hope that she stays unemployed… at least until after Teahupoo.

But do tell me if the app is worthy as I suspect I won’t be able to successfully sabotage her career chances for much longer.

Joel Parkinson loses to Josh Kerr, round five, at unrecognisable Bells.
Joel Parkinson loses to Josh Kerr, round five, at unrecognisable Bells.

Parko: “That was hideous!”

Watch the unparalleled adventure, competitive drama and athleticism of professional surfing, day seven, Rip Curl Pro!

Now that the heavy door of the Rip Curl Pro has closed behind us for the day, let’s attempt to compose a picture. No, wait, let’s employ the exuberant eloquence of the three-time Bells winner, three-times world champion, Mick Fanning.

“It was horrible, all the waves are six different waves in one. I was trying to figure out where to go. I was losing my mind.”

Kelly Slater, losing to Gabriel Medina said, “The ceiling was pretty low out there.”

Joel Parkinson, 2012’s world champion and also a multiple Bells winner, snapped at the shaper Maurice Cole mid-stairs, “That was hideous.” His 20-minute round elimination round five heat against Josh Kerr was half done and there hadn’t been a wave scored over 0.87.

Josh Kerr volunteered this observation, “It turned into the windsurfing league not the world surfing league.”

Ross Williams, meanwhile, was no victim of bashfulness. “Jadson nearly squeezed a ton of lemonade out of that lemon”

I should fancy that many criticisms will be made today of the Rip Curl Pro, yet today produced a wonderfully dramatic effect. Perhaps a little too fascinating. Earlier today, the WSL released a press release declaring it the “most exciting time in the history of surfing!” (Click here!). 

The press release came despite Snapper being run in two-foot waves and, now, unrecognisable Bells. There’s the possibility that the first four events will be held in the crummiest waves ever seen in pro surfing since 1985 or thereabouts.

But I understand the condition of the world. Slicing the tour back to a manageable 12 surfers and separating men’s and women’s events is too radical. And so we have these unwieldy events, these determined but ultimately doomed spectacles that require one week of waves to cut through the 34 men and 17 women, both with multiple losers rounds.

It’s a bloody muddle. But I like the bitter and I like the sweets.

Tell me you won’t be tuned in tomorrow in the drum-throbbing darkness, fidgeting, waiting for the call.

Mens quarter-final heats: (Editor’s note: Likely winners have been italicised.)

1. Adriano v Gabriel (Brazil v Brazil) 2. Owen v Josh (Australia v Australia) 3. Jordy v Mick (South Africa v Australia) 4. Filipe v Nat (Brazil v USA)

Women’s quarter-final heats: 
1. Sally Fitz v Lakey Peterson (Australia v USA) 2. Carissa v Johanne Defay (Hawaii v France)
3. Stephanie v Tyler (Australia v Australia) 4. Coco Ho v Courtney Conlogue (Hawaii v USA)

I just solved the WSL’s problem!

And all it took was three vodkas.

Three vodka and ginger beers in, I just solved professional surfing’s problem. Ok. Watch Bells, like right now. It looks kind of fun, right? But watch how many kind of fun waves go unridden. Tons! When the surf is ok, professional surfers become pickier than attractive women. They wait for juuuuuuust the right wave to pow all over. But what about all those pretty good looking waves? They go unridden. All of them.

What if the WSL allowed surfers in the water during these sorts of days to ride the pretty good looking waves? It would be amazing. Those sitting at home on webcast could watch and either laugh at the shit show or maybe ooooh and ahhh at the undiscovered talent. A WSL surfer knows the wave he wants miles out to sea. He waves everyone off and takes. And if anyone gets in his way? Pointed to the beach and jiu jitsu in the sand. It will be like MMA and surfing combined. Ratings through the roof! No more made up numbers that embarrass!

You’re welcome Dirk fucking Ziff.

Is the owner of WSL an ecological terrorist?

Even more frightening, is professional surfing becoming Scientology?

A new and disturbing article appeared yesterday in the FreeRide Voice. You can and should read it here, but seeing that you are a BeachGrit man, I will sum up. Dirk Ziff, the Floridian who effectively owns the World Surf League, also owns a shale oil concession in Queensland that will do massive damage to the Great Barrier Reef.

Shale oil extraction, as you already know because you are a BeachGrit Man, has a four times bigger carbon footprint than traditional drilling. Dioxins, silt, etc. all flow from the extraction site, down rivers and settle on the reef, killing corals and sea life.

It is a very big bummer and the FreeRide Voice points out the absurdity of owning a business that does such great damage to the ocean and one that requires the relative health of the ocean. Most surfers, be they far left or far right, understand the delicate nature of the sea and our connection to it. Apparently Mr. Ziff does not?

With such troublesome news circling, it would seem that either Ziff or WSL CEO Paul Speaker would address the media, dismissing the story as absurd or explaining how shale oil will free western democracies from the tyranny of the Middle East or that extra measures are being taken to insure the health of the reef because surfers love reefs or something. But there is only ever silence from the WSL.

You know who else there is only silence from? Scientology’s leader David Miscavige. Is professional surfing the new Scientology? Is Graham Stapelberg busily penning a follow up to Dianetics? Should all surfers be on the Bridge to Total Freedom?

What an even bigger bummer!