"What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly..." says Thomas Paine. I respond, "$25? For this?"
I never meant to go to the Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach. Its chunky, cold thing right on the heels of the glorious Gold Coast never got me. The tour is fresh at Snapper. Anything is possible. By Bells we know anything is not possible. That the same names, give or take a few, make it to the quarters, semis and finals year in and year out. It is both way to early to care and just too late to care. The perfect blah.
One year I was cooling my heels in Bondi, having just returned from Coolangatta and happy that I did not have to go to Victoria. Then a little exchange that I had had with Mick Fanning on the North Shore, a few months earlier, erupted onto the front pages of Australia’s papers. “Damn all…” I thought “…now I have to go to Blahs because if I don’t, everyone will think I’m chicken.”
So I went.
My first night I loitered in and around the pub, or whatever it was, where Rip Curl was holding a party. “I can’t believe you are here…” surf industry acquaintences would gasp, and I felt warm inside while responding, “What do you mean? I didn’t do anything.”
Nobody punched me.
The next day, the event was called on and I wandered to the event site. There was some semi-truck trailer operating as a …I couldn’t tell what until I got close. A ticket window. I looked at the board and saw it would cost me $25 dollars to go to the beach and watch professional surfing.
I had never been so incensed in my life.
Usually I would have found some media pass or industry hook-up or something, but I think my media privileges had been revoked at Rip Curl. So I just stood there staring at the ticket board. I literally could not believe they had the audacity to charge money to go to the beach and watch professional surfing. Charge money! To go to the beach! And watch professional surfing! And on Easter of all weeks. I threw a cup at a poster of Mick Fanning and stormed out of the area. I didn’t care if people thought I was a chicken or not. I refused, on principle, to pay money to go the beach and watch professional surfing. I am not a cheap man. I glorify in spending money as quickly as I can on pointless extravagances. Going to the beach and watching professional surfing is not one of those pointless extravagances.
I sometimes think back on that day. Was I in the knee-jerk wrong? Should all surf events charge an entrance fee? Would professional surfing be in a better place if it cost money to see? And then I think “No.”
Also, the aboriginal face painting tradition seems off.