The number 23,000,000 gets kicked around but how many of us are there really?
So I was poking around Stab yesterday for giggles and found the story Only 0.0000014 Percent Of Surfers Will Qualify For The Tourwhich asserted that there are 23 million surfers worldwide as its baseline. Since it was Stab no source was credited but I’ve seen this figure before and total bullshit right?
And let’s finally get to the bottom of this once and for all. We can do it!
Now, before we begin, self-identifying surfers don’t count. Those who like the image, look, feel but don’t actually get in the water. A “surfer” as far as it matters to us must surf. Also not boogie or SUP primarily.
We don’t need to put a hard number on how many times a week makes a surfer a surfer but let us suggest that at least once every ten days on average barring horrific injury or death. Once every fourteen days tops. On average.
No way are there more than 1.5 million surfers in the United States. Let’s say Europe and Australia have the same amount, 750k each and that is generous for Australia basically implying that 5% of that whole population surfs but Snapper Rocks. And Bondi.
Let’s say Brazil has another 750k and the rest of the world another million. This all seems totally fair yeah?
That is 4.75 million surfers.
Where in hell did this 23,000,000 number come from?
4.75 million is the number we will use from now on unless you have a better idea.
I’m packing my bags and cleaning my house. Off to Oahu for two weeks this Thursday. Running away to join the circus.
Playing surf journo sans cell phone may prove challenging. Maybe I’ll grab a burner at Walmart before I go. Maybe I won’t. We’ll see. Time will tell.
Am I looking forward to the trip? I don’t know. Maybe? I don’t exactly play well with others. I enjoy my hermit life. But no one really knows what I look like. I’ve been trying to wrangle Pyzel onto my podcast, it’s pretty clear he doesn’t know we’ve met. Multiple times. Lurking on the fringes should come easy.
Or maybe I’ll embark on a drunken rampage, get my ass kicked over words I don’t remember writing, fly home early with my tail between my legs. That’s a definite possibility. Though Derek probably wouldn’t be too pleased, since he’s footing the bill for this little adventure.
Won’t make to it the Surfer Poll awards. That shit’s tonight. Also, I wasn’t invited.
I loved reading who won when I was younger. Don’t know why I cared about them so much, but I did. Are they still relevant? Certainly is a big to-do. Hosting stuff at the Turtle Bay don’t come cheap. Maybe they get a break on rates because of the cross-branding bar deal?
Speaking of branding, the Poll awards are sponsored by a company that makes aluminum skateboards, a tire company, and that one gig that sells expensive flavored coconut water. Makes sense to add some sort of spice to the water. Pre-packaged coconut water tastes fucking foul. But I’m not the market. When I get a hankering for some coco juice I just go pick one. It tastes better, don’t cost nothin’, and I get to open it with a machete. Pour some rum in there and you’ve got a truly tasty beverage.
You know what I watched yesterday? Surfing World‘s take on Skateline. They’re calling it Weak Wrap, which is a clever play on words.
I wasn’t expecting much, it being a Skateline ripoff and all. Which is why I’ve been aware of it for a bit, but never took the time to hit play.
I’ll admit, my initial reaction was unfair. It’s actually good. Danny Johnson’s got a great delivery, I’ve truly enjoyed the few episodes I’ve watched so far.
And it’s not like Gary Rogers invented the faux talk show format. Though Weak Wrap does give a brief nod to their inspiration in the first installment.
The Ultimate Fighting Championships began without weight classes. Martial Artists, brawlers, wrestlers and boxers fought without gloves, matching different specialists against one another to see what fighting style reigned supreme. A new sport was born out of the bare knuckled bloodshed. Championed by Brazilian Royce Gracie, who showed the effectiveness of choking people.
The World Surf League is like the early days of the UFC in the sense that athletes of all statures surf against one another. But for the most part, size don’t mean a thing.
Or does it?
Intrigued by the far-fetched idea of weight divisions in surfing, I used the WSL profile stats of each athlete and divided the tour by height and weight, then ranked them into light, middle, and heavyweight divisions.
John John is your Heavyweight World Champion! Adriano and Wilko hold the light and middleweight belts heading into Pipeline.
Let’s examine who’s where.
Lightweight 60- 70 kg
Adriano 167 cm 62 kg
Filipe 173 cm 64 kg
Italo 167 cm 68 kg
Caio 170 cm 69 kg
Kerr 173 cm 70 kg
Miguel 175 cm 68 kg
Keanu 163 cm 66 kg
Kanoa 175 cm 67 kg
Jadson 170 cm 66 kg
Davey 172 cm 67 k
Flores 173 cm 68 kg
Middleweight 70-75 kg
Wilko 180 cm 75 kg
Kolohe 180 cm 74 kg
Slater 175 cm 73 kg
Mick 177 cm 73 kg
Stu 175 cm 72 kg
Conner 173 cm 74 kg
Nat 180 cm 73 kg
Matt B. 180 cm 69 kg
Alejo 173 cm 70 kg
Taj 175 cm 72 kg
Heavyweight: 75 kg+
JJF 183 cm 76 kg
Gabby 180 cm 80 kg
Jordy 190 cm 80 kg
Julian 183 cm 79 kg
Parko 183 cm 84 kg
Sebastian 185 cm 79 kg
Ace 174 cm 77 kg
Michel 176 cm 76 kg
Wiggolly 175 cm 75 kg
Dusty 178 cm 75 kg
Jack 183 cm 75 kg
Alex R. 178 cm 77 kg
Ryan 178 cm 78 kg
As kinky an idea as it is, weight divisions in surf would suck. You’d lose match-ups like JJF x Slater, Parko and Mick, or Gabriel vs Filipe.
No longer convinced that weight divisions are the answer, I went through every man-on-man heat this year and tallied if the larger or smaller surfer won that heat to see if there was a clear advantage.
What I learned: Over the course of the season, weight don’t mean shit although larger surfers had a higher winning percentage at Gold Coast, Bells, Margaret’s, Rio, Fiji, Trestles and Portugal.
Smaller opponents won more often at J-Bay, Tahiti, and France.
As vastly different as these venues are, one could argue that speed is more important than power at these locations. Possibly explaining why the lighter opponent had a higher winning percentage.
Interestingly, apart from Adriano, Filipe and Italo who are sitting comfortably on the rankings, the lightweight class is struggling. Kanoa, Pupo, Davey, Jeremy, and Keanu are all on the bubble of re-qualification.
The events on tour that are thought to cater to light-footed surfers, didn’t.
Gold Coast: 1st Matt Wilkinson, 2nd Kolohe Andino
Brazil: 1st John John, 2nd Jack Freestone
Lowers: 1st Jordy Smith, 2nd Joel Parkinson
Waves that favour heavier and taller competitors… did.
Margaret River: 1. Sebastian Zietz, 2. Julian Wilson
Bells Beach: 1. Matt Wilkinson 2. Jordy Smith
CloudBreak: 1. Gabriel Medina 2. Matt Wilkinson
The place where larger surfers had the most advantage was Margaret River; winning 25 of 35 in the man-on-man heats.
Size doesn’t mean a smaller surfer can’t thrive in waves of consequence (Flores at Pipe or Teahupoo for instance) or a larger fella can’t grovel (Jordy Smith and Parko’s final appearance at two-foot Trestles).
Size could only be a factor in turns. Right?
See, there are a few questions that go through a judge’s head when they see a turn.
How critical was it? Was the turn on the open face or did the surfer attack the lip?
Speed: Did the surfer come out of the turn with more or less forward momentum?
Flow: Did the surfer link the maneuver? Or did the turn put the surfer behind the pace of the wave?
Power: Was there a large displacement of water coming off the rail of the surfers board?
This last question, The spray factor, outweighs the rest. Judges love when a surfer sends a fan of water to the horizon. Spray shows how clean the carve was through the face of the wave. It is indicator of how much weight was being driven through the heels or toe edge. A forehand turn done timidly, produces less spray. A gouge done with gritted teeth sends buckets out the back.
But from what I’ve gathered, it isn’t size that dictates spray, it’s strength and timing.
Kanoa Igarashi is often told he needs to fill out to be competitive on tour. However, he didn’t think he was at a disadvantage this year for being younger and lighter than some of his more physically developed competitors..
When I asked him if he thought size was an advantage on tour, he told me: “Honestly, I don’t think so. I think being strong has a bigger advantage than height and weight. Adriano is a prime example. Size only matters when you choose the wrong board for the conditions.”
After staring at this topic for too long, I concluded that it ain’t size that matters but conviction.
Surfers come in all shapes and sizes. Those that make it onto the Dream Tour do are there not because they’re physically superior to you and me. It is their conviction, a burning desire to improve on past expectations.
It is proper equipment, physical fitness and determination that makes a surfer WCT level. Hours of practice and perseverance through barriers that make one uncomfortable, has always, and will always, lead to success.
So what if you are six three, two-fifty and can’t grovel worth a damn! Add more volume under your chest and subtract a few cheeseburgers a week and you’ll be gliding where you once sank!
Five-five in socks and a hundred pounds dripping wet? Throw yourself over the ledge. Drown a little. You’ll only get better at handling the abuse.
Lack of performance due to size is an excuse only suitable in the bedroom.
I was surfing swampy high tide lulls in southern California this morning. The water was a bit chilly but not too bad. The sun was dancing in and out of clouds. A man paddled out with a neoprene swim cap covering his head. Since it was so swampy and high tide lully I had much time to ponder and my first thought was, “Wussy.” But my second thought was, “I wonder if his wussy swim cap is going to protect him from surfer’s ear?”
And my third thought was, “Pterygium (surfer’s eye) is so unattractive.”
And my final thought was, “Are surfers ugly freaks?”
Do we maybe think, after watching lots of surf movies and reading lots of surf magazines, that we look something like this?
Or fantastically rugged dispositions, jaws cut from granite, clear eyes gazing into a brave future like this?
But with surfer’s ear and surfer’s eye and sun damaged skin and paranoia born of fighting over swampy high tide lulls with a bunch of wusses do we really look something like this?
Crazy weather in our delightful archipelago this week. Rain rain rain. Post storm glass-offs are firing. I had my first surfing shark encounter of my life yesterday. Cracked wise to the wife before paddling out. “Yep, sunset session at a river mouth after heavy rain. Super smart idea.”
Decent-sized black tip, somewhere between six and eight feet long, surfaced and thrashed a few feet away. Spooky! Line up cleared immediately. I nearly booked for shore myself, but one courageous soul reminded me that’d be stupid. They’re always there. I see them when I dive. It’s a little scarier when there’s zero feet viz, but no reason to panic.
We got the line up to ourselves for half an hour. It was very fun. I’m glad he was there to lend me some balls.
Today wasn’t nearly as good, but still very fun. Got in a good session, came home to see that Sunset looking pretty good too.
Sunset’s an odd wave, in the contest of competitive surfing. It makes for killer still photos, often disappoints on video. It’s impossible to appreciate how difficult it is to surf from behind a computer screen. Usually looks like a semi-mushy closeout. Provides mostly low scores. Doesn’t really present a lip to hit, only occasionally offers a makeable barrel.
But it’s another story from the lineup. Grinding power, massive amounts of water moving around. The pros may paddle out on six sixes, but there’s a reason the guys who love the wave appreciate a lot of foam. Deep water scary spot. Easy to imagine under-the-lip takeoffs, but a normal human needs a plank that’ll get them in early.
I tuned in in time to catch Zeke Lau sneak though the first quarter final heat with a buzzer beater 5 point something. Good for the local kid. Replay shows that Frederico Morais was ripping.
Slater’s still in it? Crazy stuff. Billy Kemper’s gonna do well. He’s got the solid wave comp scene dialed these days. Might be because six foot Sunset ain’t shit compared to Jaws. More than enough to intimidate us normal folks, just a small fun day to a true charger.
Quarterfinal two was all about Kemper and T. Gudauskas. Super committed turns. Kemper hammered that rail into the face, put every ounce of strength into some delightful gouges. Unfortunately for Kemper, while he dropped some beauts he couldn’t link them for the score. Jack Robinson, on the other hand, could. Kemper may be the better surfer at Sunset, but Jack’s the better competitor.
Meister and Slater slid into the semis during the next heat. I was distracted by Meister’s OAM sticker. I always forget that’s still a company.
Meister threw a frontside finner that came as a shock. You can’t do those at Sunset.
Who was it that did the reverse a few years back? I’m drawing a blank.
A wicked storm blew through during lunch, but it’s gone dead calm again here on Kauai. I’m having a hard time justifying watching surfing rather than going surfing.
Parko and Jordy spent most of the fourth quarterfinal putting on a rail clinic. Surfing so smooth, so pretty. But Ewing and Andre both found solid scores in the final five minutes. Ewing unleashed on a right, but with a 2 something back up he was done. But Andre got lucky. 8.17 for an out of control backhand off the top to carve to reo. I don’t know, I thought the score was a bit high. But I’ll give it to him. Andre needs the points to stay on tour, I think. Parko got knocked to third, Andre scraped into the semis.
Too bad that John John got knocked out in an early round. But he’s still got a shot at wrapping up the Eddie, the Title, and the Triple Crown in the same year. That’d be pretty sweet. Damn hard to repeat.
Though, as far as the Triple Crown goes, and I know I’m not the first to point this out, the fact that the final event is a ‘CT number does hand an unfair advantage to guys on Tour. Morais is on fire in Hawaii. Second at Haleiwa, looking like a win at Sunset is likely. But he’s gotta battle through the trials to get into Pipe. Just like Rick Kane!
I think that’s how it works. I’m never sure with the Pipe wildcards. Changes too often to be certain. I’ve got Eddie Rothman’s phone number written down somewhere. Maybe I should call him and ask.
I go back and forth with my feelings about Sunset. On one hand, it’s such a waterman wave that it would be great to see it on tour. It’d play spoiler every year, be a near guaranteed loss for all the beach break specialists. But there’s only so many comp days you can run, and it’s great that the less famous heads get multiple chances to shine. I guess I can take it either way. Change is good, but the current system works well enough.
Oowee! Gudauskas is playing tactics in the final minutes. Chasing Zeke Lau across the lineup, trying to keep him off a wave. I think there’s a lot of drama going on I don’t understand. Qualification points or something. Maybe one of our lovely readers can enlighten me in the comments.
It worked for Gardaflopulous. He and Morais are in the final.
Semi two is kind of dragging. Jordy got a smoker, not much else going on.
But Ross and Kaipo shared some knowledge that sheds light on the Triple Crown scenario. Apparently Morais gets a spot at Pipe because he’s leading the Triple Crown rankings. That’s good.
Kaipo’s good too. WSL needs to put him on desk duty more often.
I got stung by a bee a few nights ago. Inside my home, at around midnight. It was the second most unexpected sting I’ve ever got. The first was when I went hiking in Ojai and a wasp flew up out of a pit toilet and stung my ass while I was taking a shit.
I blame it on my landlady’s son. The bee, not the wasp. He keeps hives on the property, always leaves wax strewn around after he harvests. It’s kind of annoying. Not a huge deal, bees don’t bug me. The biggest problem is accidentally stepping on the gobs of wax and then having to scrape it off your shoe.
He always gives us free honey. Pretty nice of him. They sell the shit for ridiculous amounts of money. People claim the organic Wailua honey has all sorts of healing powers or something. I don’t really care for honey, honestly. But I like the idea of it so I’ve always got a few jars in the cabinet.
Fucking Slater. Never enters Sunset, gives it a shot and almost makes the final. Of course.
I thought he had it locked up, but Meister’s little snap to layback off the top combo was enough to sneak into second.
Slater almost got it back with an inside barrel, but no dice. Still…all hail the king.