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Beach Grit

Opinion: “Olympics like second-tier WQS contest!”

Derek Rielly

by Derek Rielly

No world title contender will touch the Games, says professional gadfly, Maurice Cole…

Obviously, you were as thrilled as I with the announcement of Australia’s Olympic team yesterday. The squad, which will be whittled down to one man and one woman in 2020, includes: Julian Wilson, Matt Wilkinson, Owen Wright, Connor O’Leary, Adrian Buchan, Wade Carmichael, Mikey Wright, Ethan Ewing, Stuart Kennedy, Tyler Wright, Stephanie Gilmore, Sally Fitzgibbons, Nikki van Dijk, Keely Andrew, Bronte Macaulay and Macy Callaghan.

The Australian government who, correctly, equates Olympic success with electoral popularity will spend over one hundred million dollars on “high-performance sports” in the next fiscal year alone. Surfing is…flush… right now, which perhaps explains the line-dancing at Surfing Australia headquarters.

Of course, not everyone is standing under the money shower, thrilled by the thrill of the Olympian ideal. The noted Victorian designer and surfer Maurice Cole, whose piece “Bureaucracy killing Australian Surfing pointed out that despite this government largesse Australian competitors were failing miserably at every level (twelfth at the ISA world titles, just clear of Germany) says the games are gonna be lamer than a second-tier QS event.

Think about it, says Moz.

“When I saw that photo of the Olympic team…you know what was missing? No juniors! Where’s our next 16, 17, 18-year-old who’ll be 20 and peaking in 2020? Not one there! Chiba is shitty beachbreaks. Everyone agrees. It ain’t a secret. Chiba isn’t even as good as the Brazilian beachbreaks. It’s really C-grade, maybe D-Grade. What sort of athlete is going to win in those conditions? A lightweight, someone in the 65-to-70 kilo range (140-to-150 pounds), who can do every air, who is competing on the QS, competing on the ISA, knows the system, the four-man heats, the 222 repechages, the six semi-finals. Australia’s best bet is have our best junior WQS athlete who should be qualifying in a year or two for the WCT.”

Which means.

“The coaches have made it clear to me that the WCT guys won’t really want to do the Olympics. At the moment we have the Dream Tour. No disrespect to the women, but it’s men in men waves doing men turns. And, in response, the athletes are bulking up. Julian Wilson, apparently, has put on four kilos. Everyone’s beefing up for Teahupoo, Pipe, J-Bay, to be strong enough to surf five heats at Snapper in one day. They won’t do well if they have to lose weight, go into four-man heats and develop different boards for the shitty conditions. If you’re a pro athlete, do you really want to sacrifice a year or two in your career to get a medal? Or do you train and look at the long game, a world title? Mikey Wright should be on tour at the end of the year. He could be going for a world title in two. Does he want to be in the ISA and disrupt his whole training program to surf four-man heats in shitty surf?”


“We should be pumping money into juniors and developing a junior series that produces a pathway to the QS and then the CT. It makes a lot more sense than hoping our WCT surfers are still young enough to beat the kids from other countries. However you look at it, the Olympics is more of an amateur style event.”

Who’s gonna come to the rescue of Australian surfing, to save the reputation of a once-great surf power? Mick Fanning, says Moz!

“This is a plea to Mick Fanning. Mick, I see your passion, I love your passion, I love how proud you’ll be to be part of an Olympic medal, in whatever form. You need to head up a taskforce to investigate what’s gone wrong, to talk to all the different people, all the creative people that’ve been put offside and get the conversation going. At the moment, the system is producing journeymen. We have to be able to attract all of our athletes. We saw what happened with Jack Robinson. What happens when our next 13-year-old prodigy doesn’t agree with the system and we lose them too? So, instead of having a system they don’t agree with, we need to create a framework where the kids are learning about surfboards, surfing big waves, getting nine-six guns and being terrified as fuck but can’t wait to use it. I was watching a boardriders contest the other day, and you know what struck me? That the Aussie mongrel is alive and well. That’s the energy level I know about Australian surfing, Mikey Wright, running over the line with a second to go. It’s in us. We love to compete, we love it when our backs are against the wall. What the fuck happened? Why no results in at any level? It’s a direct result of a broken coaching system at Surfing Australia. As one former head coach told me,

“‘We destroyed a generation of surfers.'”

(Listen to Maurice debate Victorian high-performance coach Cahill Bell-Warren here.)