"It's enough already."
The clear highlight of my last week was not a cancer diagnosis but rather a lovely 30 minute chat with Eddie Rothman. The North Shore legend and Da Hui co-founder is such a breath of fresh air. In this modern world where most people hedge opinion with many caveats or simply refuse to go on the record, Mr. Rothman lets fly without heed. He has the bonus of truly believing what he says and of being able to back it up come hell or high water.
The reason for the call was about contest permitting for Pipeline but like all good chats it bobbed and weaved, covering other topics as well. We spoke, for example, of professional surf judging and I thought he had an interesting point.
“Look at the judging ok?” Eddie said. “At our Pipeline event (the Backdoor Shootout) we have champions judging. Do you ever hear the ASP mention who their judges are… I mean the WSL?”
“Mmmmmm” I responded trying to think of the newly installed head judge’s name.
Eddie continued, “There’s Ritchie something but whatever. Those people have no clue. No clue. I watched some of the heats of the Volcom where… I watched somebody take off on the two biggest, meanest fuckin waves of the heat and almost come out. Just death defying waves and he didn’t make it, he didn’t conclude the wave, so he got a one point eight and a one point blah blah. Then there’s some kid sitting in the channel the whole time, caught a four foot wave, caught another four foot wave and he got a little tiny barrel, made it and got the score, won the heat. The guy who was charging the hardest, putting his life on the line, got fucked. It’s enough already.”
And how about that? I have thought, for years and especially at places like Pipeline, Teahupo’o and Fiji (RIP) that guts are entirely undervalued. It is, I think, a reason why so many “Pipeline specialists” get drummed out in the first few rounds of the Pipe Masters. They are conditioned to paddle for the biggest, the meanest waves. Seasoned WSL competitors know that the risk/reward paradigm is tilted heavily in favor of taking easier, smaller waves and making them look good.
But what of the thrill of watching somebody paddle as deep as they can on unruly monsters? Or really going for the last section as opposed to safely escaping? Can heart ever be figured in to the scoreline?
Also, should the WSL employ surf champs as judges for events where the wave is an equal star? Men and women who truly understand the complexities of the tour’s various all-star waves? I suppose it’s a shrinking list now with both Pipeline and Fiji disappeared but something to think about nonetheless.
How can safety surfing be forever rooted out of our game?