This morning I read a complete evisceration of the film director Quintin Tarantino by the very sharp writer Jim Goad and it gave me quite a pause.There I sat, at my desk, pausing then wondering if I should re-order my general outlook and let’s chew on some choice bits together before discussing.
And that’s Tarantino’s main problem—he’s empty. Hopelessly postmodern. Incurably ironic. And entirely safe. He’s a slobbering, drooling, film-school nerd who stuffs his movies full of bloodshed and curse words, apparently hoping no one will notice the Uber-geek behind the camera who’s likely wearing either panties or diapers. He bears the unmistakably soft air of someone who’s never been punched in the face. For all of his films’ alleged danger and violence, it’s always seemed barkingly obvious to me that he’s a twerpy fake who’d burst into tears if he chipped a fingernail. He’s an emblem of a generation which truly knows nothing beyond pop culture and gets nearly all of its “life experiences” from a screen.
Oof! A punch maybe not to the face but right into the guts of a whole generation but which generation, I wondered? Is this a terrible mirror held to the face of Gen X? The Millennials? Both? It seems mostly millennial with the knowing “nothing beyond pop culture” and “getting nearly all of its life experiences from a screen” but that could be my pride speaking.
But surfing. There are three generations in the water right now. Baby Boomers, Generation X and the Millennials but which is the worst? I used to think the Greatest Generation (pre-Baby Boom) would never be topped for sheer arrogance and shit candy but that was before the Millennials matured. Their safe space, pudgy misguided social justice rage, limp leftism lack of self-awareness is very painful.
But, and here is why I paused, I like Quentin Tarantino films. I like almost all of them and love Pulp Fiction so…. does this make the Millennials ok? Does this mean Gen X is the worst? Or the Boomers?
Which sport should surfing mirror to reach maximum Olympic success? Ice prancing!
This week, while dipping in to the spectacle that is the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, I had an epiphany. Between back-to-back-fourteens, Luge moose-knuckles and Australian disappointment, my mind invariably wandered back to surfing; what will ‘Olympic Surfing’ even look like?
How will the world see our sport?
Personally, I maintain two simultaneous and opposing beliefs regarding surfing at the Olympics:
1. Surfers understand that surfing is more than the sum of its parts. Those post-NDA articles that flooded the surfing world on Feb. 1st were almost universally scrambling to point out that surfing is not merely a product that can be replicated in a man-made pool. Wavepools are a shit-ton of fun, but they aren’t ‘surfing’.
2. Most of us secretly want Olympic Surfing to do well. Not necessarily as well as the WSL aspires, with prime-time network spots and a growing inland fan base, but well enough to not make us look like complete fuckwits on the world stage. Modestly well. Face-savingly well.
So we’re stuck. The harsh reality of a flat waiting period during July in Japan means that Olympic surfing will almost definitely require a wavepool to succeed. For the purpose of this article, I’m buying the rumours and taking the pool as a given.
Maybe it would appease the core surf fans if we called wave pool surfing by another name? Skateboarding has street, ramp and freestyle living side-by-side within the shade of their cultural umbrella. Why can’t we have surfing, pool surfing and fucking-foil-boarders?
I looked to established Olympic sports to see what works; finding an effective format here, discovering a fair-but-subjective scoring system there, and building a Frankenstein’s Monster that could make Olympic Surfing palatable for the villagers and scientists alike.
The obvious starting point is snowboarding; it’s a board sport that has successfully become an Olympic staple. They use a subjective judging system with the highest and lowest scores dropped. They focus on areas such as difficulty, variety, progression and execution. They even have a refreshing honesty about their judging process:
There is no true universal consensus on “deductions” or how to determine an exact score. More than anything, scores are a means to an end – a way for judges to accurately position athletes on the leaderboard.
For example, the very first athlete to compete might sometimes receive what’s deemed to be a “low” score, relatively speaking. This is simply because judges, who have to evaluate the run they just witnessed against theoretical runs they think might occur later on, need to leave themselves cushioning to account for other competitors. (In other words, you will likely never see a rider score a perfect 100 unless they are the final athlete to take a run.)
The WSL could learn a thing or two about transparency from our snowboarding pals.
Unfortunately, snowboarding is almost entirely about what’s happening in the air, with little room in its judging criteria for the balance between surfing in and above the water. We need more nuance in our judging.
So, I cast the net wider. I looked at other judged Olympic sports and tried to find the set of criteria that best suited our sport. Then, when I was losing hope, an unlikely saviour arrived.
Taste this small sample and tell me we haven’t found our shining beacon of Olympic success:
Defined by overall cleanness and sureness, rail control and flow over the wave surface demonstrated by a command of the surfing vocabulary (barrels, airs, turns etc.), the clarity of technique and the use of effortless power to accelerate and vary speed.
In evaluating the Surfing Skills, the following must be considered:
•Use of deep barrels, big airs, critical turns;
•Balance, rhythmic action and precision of board placement;
•Flow and glide;
•Varied use of power, speed and acceleration;
•Use of multi directional surfing (lefts and rights);
•Use of progression.
And they continue:
The varied and purposeful use of intricate manoeuvres, body positions, and style that links all elements.
In evaluating the Transitions, the following must be considered:
•Continuity of movements from one element to another;
Sounds perfect, right?
And to which noble Olympic sport do we owe such complementary criteria? Diving? Synchronised swimming? Trampoline?
All I had to do was swap ‘skate’ for ‘surf’ and ‘blade’ for ‘board’ and voilà: I had the blueprint for Olympic surfing.
Figure Skating possesses a set of judging criteria so beautifully suited to pool surfing that you’d think it was scribed by Richie Porta Pritamo Ahrendt himself. More so, it celebrates a new opportunity that traditional surfing contests have overlooked for far too long, something that could launch Olympic surfing beyond the briny backwaters of coastal towns and into the hearts and malls of the American mid-west:
Interpretation of the Music / Timing
The personal, creative, and genuine translation of the rhythm, character and content of music to movement on water.
In evaluating the Interpretation of the Music (/Timing), the following must be considered:
•Movement and manoeuvres in time to the music (Timing);
•Expression of the music’s character / feeling and rhythm, when clearly identifiable;
•Use of finesse to reflect the details and nuances of the music;
• Surfers reflecting the character and rhythm of the music;
•Keeping a good balance between surfing to the beat and melody.
Music! Finesse! Routines!
If surfing in a wavepool for an Olympic medal doesn’t represent surfing, then it sure as hell needs to represent the Olympics. A consistent and reliable wave source allows for the type of planned routines that are otherwise impossible. And with that comes the opportunity for music, for routines, for costumes. For spectacle.
Just imagine the glorious vision of Filipe Toledo, sporting a decorative-yet-masculine lycra bodysuit as he waits for the pulsing drums of Motörhead’s Overkill to signal the start of his wave. He’d stroke his way into a flawless right-hander and run through a manic-yet-well-rehearsed wave dancing routine while fans lap up every delicious second from the bleachers. Filipe would deliver a genuine translation of the rhythm, character and content of music to movement on water. And Lemmy would, for one brief moment, return to us, resurrected through the violent poetry of Filipe’s surfing.
And Slater? Oh, he would defy both his age and retirement to produce a perfect physical duet to a live, side-of-pool performance from Eddy Vedder. Eddy’s music and lyrics would have been honed through hours of secret rehearsals alongside the King of the wavepool, providing such a seamless union between surfing and music that Jack Johnson would slit his wrists with puka shells in shame.
Medina could dirty things up to pumping UK grime beats on one wave, before showing the world his softer side with a smooth-as-armpit interpretation of Lembra on the next.
Would Jordy blast Darude’s Sandstorm while throwing down superman airs and new-school claims with abandon? Or would he fly stealth? It’s so hard to know until we see it.
Try the game yourself: What would Adriano have as his music? Which hat would Conner Coffin wear to accentuate his costume? Who could synchronise with the fastest bpm?
With Ice Dancing as our Olympic guide, the possibilities are endless.
Oh, and for the purists I have a new name by which my Frankenstein’s Monster can be differentiated from our original sport: wave dancing.
I am very excited about this 2018 running of the World Surf League’s Championship Tour and mostly because this year we can win vast wealth through betting real money on the pros. Oh I know that you’ve been able to do this in Australia for years and have wonderful friends who have financed obscene lifestyles through their winnings and I know that the nascent UK surf betting scene is ripe as well but this year we can do in the United States too.
We can stop pretending that there is any dignity in playing fantasy sport and do what true degenerates have done for decades, centuries even.
First, as usual, comes the Gold Coast but it is a little too far off still to make quality assessments and so let us first pick who will with the 2018 title. Now, the smart money says John John or Gabriel Medina but the smart money also doesn’t pay. John John’s odds are currently 3.5 – 1 while Gab is 4.4 – 1. You would have to spend a fortune to make a little and that’s not exciting. That’s not why we’re here. We need a dark horse, a work horse, and can you think of anyone who fits this bill more than the Li’l Plumber?
Of course you cannot.
Adriano de Souza, who already has one world title under the carry-all, is still young-ish (just recently turning 31) and, according to the World Surf League, carries great hope. From the League’s website:
…unlike some of the flashy scene-stealers who push the boundaries of what’s possible on a piece of foam, De Souza is all power and grit. Instead of jaw-dropping airs and innovation, he’s built his long and stable career (that’s 12 years and counting on the CT) with the kind of head-down work ethic that’s part of his DNA.
Other Brazilians from the the generation on his heels — think Gabriel Medina and Filipe Toledo — garner both awe and obsession, of the sort reserved for boy-bands and living geniuses. Instead, what De Souza inspires is less sporty showmanship than delight. Most of all, he stands for hope.
Yes, all power, BeachGrit and hope. A trifecta. And with the odds a current 31-1 how can you go wrong? Tell me this isn’t the best bet to make. Tell me with a straight face.
Click sidebar if you live in Australia or get ready for a Vegas roady if you live in the United States. I’m going soon and you can hitch a ride!
Listen, and now watch, The Grit with David Lee Scales and Charlie Smith.
Last Thursday, BeachGrit’s Charlie Smith joined the broadcaster David Lee Scales for their semi-regular show The Grit, once a podcast, now a video hybrid.
Charlie, who is forty-one years old and lives at Cardiff-by-the-Sea near San Diego, was dressed in proportion to his physique while David Lee threw all proportion into the wind with a haircut that reveals, I think, a man who is conservative by nature, checkered shirts rolled up to the elbows and so on, but who likes to join his “buddies” for motorcycle rides on the weekends.
“This was super lame, this was a joke, a non-altercation” David Lee says he told the investigating detective.
“It’s the final chapter in a tawdry book. It was embarrassing,” says Charlie. “But I had to write about it because I feel that BeachGrit is an open book. There’s no back room where things are getting thrashed out and no matter how tawdry or embarrassing it is to us, we embrace it.”
Also on the episode are sex-bots…
Kelly Slater the grammar teacher,
And, the Hawaiian-WSL imbroglio, rollerskating Tom Curren and more.
So I’ve had the best ever literary ideas since Friday. Works of Pulitzer-prize winning art dance upon the strangely creased blue pills but I can’t move fast enough to scribble them all down and they mostly disappear. There was something about the First Lady of the United States that I was going to write in the style of Beowulf. An epic olde world poem that is mostly unintelligible but in that good “unintelligible because it’s real smart” kinda way.
There was something else about John John Florence and Gabriel Medina’s competitive relationship done up as a musical. Like Hamilton. And the dancing favela scene will be a showstopper but the quiet moment when John John is on a sailboat singing to the moon and Gabriel is in the shower shaving his pits but singing to the same moon is going to make the audience weep.
Two different worlds
We live in two different worlds
For we’ve been told
That a love like ours could never be
So far apart
They say we’re so far apart
And that we haven’t the right
To change our destiny
When will they learn
That a heart doesn’t draw the line
Nothing matters if I am yours
And you are mine.
Then there was something else about a surfer who gets a hip replacement before ever getting barreled but makes it his mission, post-op, to experience. This coming of age tale would be masterful but then realized that I hadn’t actually thought it up but read it in the UK’s Spectator underneath the greatest Percocet title ever.
Surfing has come of age. Like rock and roll, it was once strictly for young people, edgy and alternative and physically way too demanding for anyone over the age of 27. But those young people grew up and they’re still at it. For millennials it’s hard to maintain a sense of cool when your parents are heaving their boards into the same breaks and when, according to the marketing people, there are upwards of 35 million surfers worldwide, in a sector that’s worth at least $10 billion per year.
Iain Gately has also reached a certain age; he has had a hip replacement. The Secret Surfer is the account of his hobbling progress back into action, back towards the head-high face of a breaking wave. He had always been a competent surfer, but had never gained access to the green room, the fabled space inside a barrelling wave where — if you time it just right, if you position yourself correctly between the crest and the base — you find yourself enveloped in a translucent tunnel of water, zooming towards the shrinking light. It is one of those places on earth where lives are changed, like the summit of certain mountains, after which nothing else comes close.