Why can't we just admit it?
What an absolute fine little mess the Australian leg ended in. The best of times or the worst of times? Too early to tell but if you are in audience growth mode the media coverage has been, as they say, total and global.
Problem is, of course, saturation media coverage for calling off the comp due to unacceptable risk of shark attack doesn’t gel too well with the WA Government’s stated reason to back the event.
From this year’s breathless presser released by the Tourism Minister Paul Papalia: Tens of thousands of spectators are expected to watch the 2018 Margaret River Pro at the world-class facilities at Surfers Point, and millions of viewers via global broadcasts, showcasing the stunning region to the world.
Y’got the showcase all right, Pauly. A stoner from Denmark showcased what a direct strike from a White looks like and didn’t even break a sweat. You can bet that played well on Frank Gallagher’s big screen in Manchester*, “Oi, fook that WA shite luv, fookin sharks eatin’ people on the fookin’ beach, lets go back to Lanzarote”
You can’t blame Sophie for swerving first in a game of international chicken with the world’s most ferocious click-bait generator. Maybe she knew, maybe she was told: there was no good outcome. No acceptable optics. No happy ending.
Pauly didn’t sound so chuffed this morning after the cancellation especially after he moved heaven and earth to tow the whale off the beach and bring in the heavy reinforcements in the form of a 20-metre fisheries vessel from the Abrolhos Islands (a 12-hour steam away, with a pretty fuel bill) to back up the WSL, as well as provide back up staff and constant aerial surveillance. He was pretty keen to let it be known it wasn’t the State Government who blinked.
But you can’t blame Sophie for swerving first in a game of international chicken with the world’s most ferocious click-bait generator. She heroically avoided corpo-speak in the statement announcing the cancellation and maybe she knew, maybe she was told: there was no good outcome. No acceptable optics. No happy ending.
The forecast was dire. A frothing pack of international media would have seen Margs set up like the Battle of the Coral Sea – helicopters, vessels circling, skis everywhere – each journalist praying in her blackest heart of hearts that the unthinkable might happen in real time on live broadcast.
What a story that would be. It would likely, as Gabe Medina said today, “Finish the sport”. Sophie would have to fall on her sword immediately, KP too. Probably the whole management team gone.
Nope. She had to bomb the village to save it.
Margs is gone. But it was probably gone already. Oh, they’ll honour the contract for next year, sans Medina who has already said he is never coming back, sans Italo too and probably a sizeable part of the Brazilian contingent, which is half the CT. It won’t be a good look, trying to promote tourism in the region when half the surfers on tour refuse to show and the dream of using pro surfing as a locomotive to pull the wagon of tourism promotion will be gone for good.
Only question is whether the contagion will spread to the other Australian events. Bells is solid, Snapper looks shaky.
“The Margaret River Pro will not only deliver significant national and international media coverage of the State throughout the global broadcast, it will also inject millions into the economy by attracting visitors to the State.” Phhhoooooooooo. Ashes in the wind now. Foxy liberal shadow minister for Tourism Libby Mettam said, “The damage of today’s cancellation to our economy and reputation will take years to rebuild”.
She called the cancellation of the event a “disaster for WA Tourism”. Not even Joe Turpel could spin fairy floss out of that lump of turd, although I would love to see him give it the old college try.
Terrible irony is, we are ghoulish, we do crave blood and the thought of wild animals tearing us apart thrills like no other concept. Why can’t we just admit it, to borrow the chorus of Tool’s Vicarious. We won’t give pause until the blood is flowing. That would give pro surfing the audience it craves. There’s already proof of concept. It would take a very, very brave CEO to move in that direction though and now Sophie has blinked once and put surfer safety as a non-negotiable it’s going to make backing Pro Surfing at any shark hot-spot a very risky commercial decision. What suits call “sovereign risk” will now weigh on the sport.
We’re halfway down the rabbit hole to Sophie’s beloved “wave systems” future and mother nature is kicking us up the arse to get there quicker. Maybe that is what has felt so strange about this Aussie leg: it’s like the future is huffing and puffing to blow the house down and everyone, surfers, judges fans seem caught in a kind of future shock.
Don’t it feel weird?
We’re halfway down the rabbit hole to Sophie’s beloved “wave systems” future and mother nature is kicking us up the arse to get there quicker. Maybe that is what has felt so strange about this Aussie leg: it’s like the future is huffing and puffing to blow the house down and everyone, surfers, judges fans seem caught in a kind of future shock. No one seems to know what to do. Kelly Slater said the contest should have gone on but he himself described a moment of existential panic when he first spied his wave pool dishing up perfect waves: “In some weird sense this is like a nuclear bomb, is this something we shouldn’t have?” He has created the conditions where a viable alternative to the ocean now exists, where an unthinkable option to turn away from the ocean like the WSL took today is feasible and even makes a kind of strategic sense.
I was going to offer some analysis of the Aus leg as a whole but it seems pointless. Italo was the form surfer and he wears the yellow jersey, so there is that. John has been mugged by reality and is caught in a world of weird that no-one in Team Florence would have anticipated in their worst nightmares. The rest seem like a bag of marbles flung across the floor. All you can say is that where they are now is not where they will be at the end of the year.
You could say the same thing about Pro Surfing.
* According to a WA Tourism fact sheet visitors from UK make up the largest contingent of OS visitors and they love bronzing the rig at the beach and are petrified of sharks (pers obs).