Should women compete alongside men in big-wave events? Big-wave gals say no!
I watched, and wrote about, the entirety of this weekend’s 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race.
It was an odd job. I know absolutely fuck all about racing. Don’t know shit about cars in general. I can change my oil, swap out a flat. That’s about it.
But I’m not in the habit of turning down paid work. Especially when it pays well. Which this did. The auto industry has deep pockets. Not some penny ante shit show like surf. Audi spent $242,000,000 on their prototype program in 2014, the year they won Le Mans.
And that doesn’t come close to the amount companies dump into their F1 programs. Nearly US$3 billion dollars spent among ten teams. Mercedes alone dumps nearly half-a-billion bucks into their racing team.
While I’m not running out to buy a new home with the paycheck I’ve certainly done a hell of a lot more for a hell of a lot less. And I was given total control to write whatever I want. Which I warned them was a terrible idea, but in the end worked out okay.
Le Mans puts on a stunning show. Rather than deal with the hassle of finding a pirate stream I shelled out ten bucks for the official site. And it was worth every penny. Constant updates on placement, running stream on the sidebar regarding which team was pitting, struggling with malfunctions, being handed penalties for various infractions. And the commentary! Oh my god!
Two man talking teams doing six hours shifts over a twenty-four hour period. You’d think they’d run out of shit to yammer about. But the guys did their research. Constant delivery of analysis of tactics, explanations of equipment, interesting stories regarding drivers and teams and the history of the sport. During the overnight slow moments they answered questions from viewers, explained the more confusing aspects of the competition.
Managed to keep me engaged nearly the entire race, even though I’m definitely not a real fan of the sport. Even towards the end when I was running on three hours of sleep over 48 I kept watching. Kept listening to what they had to say. Things I’d’ve found mind-numbingly boring sans context held my interest because they told me why it should.
They made the surf guys look like chumps. Like half-ass talking heads. Shameful, shameful, in a sport that’s purportedly looking to pull in a non-surfing audience.
Two women in the race. Christina Nielsen and Inès Taittinger, both of whom are smoking hot. Neither came close to winning, but merely finishing Le Mans is a victory in itself. Simply trying is a triumph.
Check out an onboard video of a single lap. Keep in mind the drivers do this for up to four hours straight while dodging cars from slower divisions the entire time.
I mention women in racing because it came up in a failing email exchange I’ve been trying to do with Paige Alms over the past month. She hasn’t responded in ten days, I’m giving it up for dead.
Our back and forth has been going poorly. Largely due to Paige’s refusal to answer questions with anything other than vague fluff responses and my somewhat combative approach. I’m not into the idea of promoting someone who won’t actually engage me.
Don’t feel like playing PR stooge.
Both Paige and Keala Kennelly don’t believe women should compete alongside men in big wave contests. Mainly due to physical differences. I think that’s bullshit, a true competitor is always about trying to win against the best, not looking for a lower level where life is easier.
Paige challenged me to name a single sport where both sexes compete side by side.
Sailing, auto racing, and equestrian events came to mind. Which she thinks don’t count. “Ya but those are all sports that rely on a vehicle, boat, horse. Surfing strictly relies on you, your ocean knowledge, wave selection, board, and Mother Nature.”
That logic falls far short of truth. A surfboard is a vehicle. Sailing and auto racing both depend on dialing in equipment, knowledge of and reaction to shifting conditions. I don’t know shit about horses, other than that I don’t care for the stupid animals.
Her stance also possesses a fatal flaw. If she doesn’t want to compete with men, then she really doesn’t want to compete at all. WSL is only running a single BWT event for ladies, and their sanctioning policy will bar invitees from giving it a shot elsewhere.
A truly shitty arrangement. One I’d never find acceptable, if it were applied to me.
By the end of the race I was ruined. Twenty-four hours awake, the entire time spend trying to make sense of what was going on.
But the final moments were magic. After leading nearly the entire race, a full day spent hammer down balls to the wall, Toyota had it sewn up. Win was in the bag. Second Japanese team to claim victory, first was Mazda in 1991. Three minutes left in the race, on the home stretch.
Then failure. The leading Toyota broke down, couldn’t finish the lap. Porsche blew by, took the win. Toyota pit crew went from joy to despair. Porsche went from second place happy to first place joy. It was an amazing moment, one that reached into my exhausted and by that point kind of disinterested mind.
I don’t know if I’ve turned into a racing fan. Probably not. Got some appreciation for it now, but I’ve put too much into this surf gig. Don’t relish the idea of relearning a new sport. The arcane details of prototype racing are better suited to an engineer than weirdo creative type.
But I’ll probably pay attention next year. Watch some parts, if not the whole thing. And if someone offers me money to write about races again I’ll happily jump at the chance. It’s a grind, sure, but way fucking better than a square job.
I passed out around four am Sunday morning. Eyes burning from staring at various computer screens for twenty four hours straight. Fingers sore from typing out the long rambling screeds I produce when given free rein. Got a phone call from a dear friend two hours later.
Dearest Ryan, I live in a different time zone. If you ever forget that again I’m gonna fly to LA and fucking murder you in your bed.