Safety surfing so dull it will break the World Surf League!
I am a very big baseball fan. I love everything about America’s pastime and especially in America’s finest city. The smell of freshly cut grass, hot dogs, the way the sun sets over Petco Park, spiked root beer, the crack of the bat, the languid pace which allows for mindless conversations etc. It is a beautiful game with a beautiful history which, for the past few decades, has pitted traditionalists against statisticians.
You may have watched the film Moneyball. It followed the Oakland As general manager Billy Beane (played by Brad Pitt) as he infused statistics into his decision making process. A walk, for example, is praised. A steal is not valuable. Making consistent contact beats swinging for the fences. On and on. Players are encouraged to do the statistically correct thing at the statistically correct time instead of going with their gut. Scouts, out observing the next generation of players, are devalued as statistics will tell managers, general managers and owners everything they need to know.
There have been a backlashes to what is called sabermetrics with recently retired player Jayson Werth saying, for example, “They’ve got all these super nerds, as I call them, in the front office that know nothing about baseball but they like to project numbers and project players.”
Super nerds indeed but I do wonder if the super nerd principles were applied to surfing could a middle of the pack pro win a title?
I would imagine there are statistics on which moves done when score the highest. Like, if you catch three waves within the first ten minutes, no matter how bad those waves are, and do three little jams and two little squirts you are guaranteed a 12.4 heat total. Or, like, if it is big and barreling forego the biggest set wave as the statistical chance of failure increases and instead aim for the second wave in each set.
Super nerds could parse everything and create computer programs that would ensure heat wins. Safety surfing to the extreme and terribly dull but I do wonder if, say, Ace Buchan was to employ a team of super nerds and surf exactly how they told him to surf, based on waves and competition, catching the exact waves, doing the exact moves, if he could easily win a world title.
What do you think?
Day Two, Tahiti Pro: “Ultimate fun! A dream day for a recreational surfer to dodge the tube!”
For the world's best a nightmare of sitting with dreams evaporating into long lulls without meaning and or end.
Round two completed in listless head-high surf. A dream day for a puffy middled recreational surfer to dodge the tube on some fluffy runners without witnesses. Ultimate fun.
For the world’s best a nightmare of sitting with dreams evaporating into long lulls without meaning and seemingly without end. I imagine Ziff, if he were watching, would find it vexatious (“Waiting for the ocean to deliver exciting conditions has been an obvious issue”) and confusing.
Now that Sophie has gone from red-hot to lukewarm on the wave system as the ultimate answer squaring that circle whilst maintaining the fantasy that Pro Surfing can take its rightful place among the great and elite competitive sports will take some wrangling, billionaire or not behind the wheel.
You wonder whether he has fully thought through the risk in dismantling the architecture of a Tour that has weathered ownership changes, name changes, convulsions in format and location and yet has remained stable in its core mission: to produce a credible World Champion delivered through a year long tour. Once it lies in pieces on the floor all the kings horses and men won’t be able to put it back together. It seems like the last CEO to properly understand and enhance that was ten-year CEO Wayne Bartholomew.
Innovation brings risk. Ziff is quite right there.
I speak as someone who has innovated, flown into the sun scattering my own dime like chicken feed into the cosmos and taken a cold bath, losing everything.
But you wonder whether he has fully thought through the risk in dismantling the architecture of a Tour that has weathered ownership changes, name changes, convulsions in format and location and yet has remained stable in its core mission: to produce a credible World Champion delivered through a year long tour.
Once it lies in pieces on the floor all the kings horses and men won’t be able to put it back together. It seems like the last CEO to properly understand and enhance that was ten-year CEO Wayne Bartholomew.
Owen Wright threaded some user friendly but technical tubes to take down Joan Duru in heat six.
Ian Gouveia had broken a losing streak in the heat prior to best Griffin Colapinto.
Michael February sat out a lull for the back ten minutes of his heat with Connor Coffin needing a low two. He fumbled and bumbled his way to get the score with surfing that would not win a heat in the Junior Division of the local boardriders. The ecstacy of Rosie Hodge in her description of the buzzer beater was Homeric in its intensity. Later, Rosie asked Connor if he was looking forwards to Surf Ranch.
“Haven’t thought about it,” Coffin deadpanned in reply.
With Sophie’s walk back yesterday from the Surf Ranch and the impossible-to-imagine-eighteen-months-ago scenario of a blowback against Kelly’s pool it calls into question the strategic wisdom of the Founders Cup. Meant as a dry run and teaser for the main Surf Ranch CT Event it has had the unintended consequence of bleeding away interest so skilfully accumulated during the marketing campaign preceding it. Glimpses of the pool maintained our vampiric interest but like Shakespeare’s description of sexual desire in Antony and Cleopatra too much of the wavepool is like the other women who “cloy the appetites they feed”.
While watching the next heat a shocking thought came to me: Keanu Asing could win this contest if it’s held in head-high lefts. No one makes a head-high left look bigger and more dramatic than the diminutive Oahuan. It’s shameful and cynical to admit that scenario crushed my spirit.
What about our dreams Mr Ziff, do they count in your world view? Rodriguez delivered me from my personal torment to take the heat.
Of all the athletes on the World Tour it’s Matty Wilko I feel for most. Not just because he resides locally and I surf with him a fair bit, not just because of the hard scrabble life in a van upbringing with his old man. Not even because fate brought us together and I caddied for him in Tahiti in a clutch heat when he was on the cusp of getting axed in the mid-year cut (he survived). In a WSL world devoted the bland it feels like he has given up the most. Scrape away character and what remains is the diamond hard calculus of winning and losing, and Wilko is losing. After losing this heat against Japan’s Huntington Beach Kanoa Igarashi – is Huntington on Honshu or Kyushu?– he’s cooked. Like the guy who stole the plane in Seattle when they got him on the radio: “I’m OK, Just a broken guy”.
I went back through the heat analyser and watched, assiduously, every Matt Wilkinson wave in 2018 thus far. The same level of rippage as previous. Some truly staggering judging calls against him, particularly v M. February at Snapper. Incomprehensible.
This is the ball of confusion Mr Ziff. The fog of war that Pro Surfing will be eternally mired in. It is incomprehensible, even to the lifelong fan. To the casual observer, no matter how in thrall to the thrill, how much wide-eyed positivity they display when shown the video images, they will never understand.
One athlete in the history of pro surfing was understandable to the non surfing public, Mr Robert Slater, and he ironically, is the one leading you down the path away from the goal you seek, and from which there will be no return. The World is what it is and when the spectacle is gone from pro surfing it will be much diminished.
Did you notice that Billabong has dropped out of sponsoring Tahiti? I suspect Sophie made the trip to Tahiti to duchess officials and assure them that without the backing of Billabong the WSL is in for the long haul. Another Pipeline debacle on her watch would not be a good look for 2019. One thing I do know about Teahupoo is that the yearly contest is a vital part of the local economy.
Mendes squeaked past Zietz and Yago Dora went high to defeat Tomas Hermes in the last heat of the day.
It was, as Jeremy Flores described it, “still a beautiful day”.
Tahiti Pro Remaining Round 2 Results:
Heat 4: Mikey Wright (AUS) 10.83 def. Miguel Pupo (BRA) 8.33
Heat 5: Ian Gouveia (BRA) 12.27 def. Griffin Colapinto (USA) 11.06
Heat 6: Owen Wright (AUS) 14.27 def. Joan Duru (FRA) 6.00
Heat 7: Michael February (ZAF) 7.67 def. Conner Coffin (USA) 7.60
Heat 8: Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 12.90 def. Keanu Asing (HAW) 11.37
Heat 9: Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 12.17 def. Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 10.37
Heat 10: Jeremy Flores (FRA) 9.90 def. Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 9.70
Heat 11: Jesse Mendes (BRA) 10.03 def. Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 9.70
Heat 12: Yago Dora (BRA) 14.57 def. Tomas Hermes (BRA) 7.83
Tahiti Pro Round 3 Matchups:
Heat 1: Jordy Smith (ZAF) vs. Michael February (ZAF)
Heat 2: Michael Rodrigues (BRA) vs. Ezekiel Lau (HAW)
Heat 3: Wade Carmichael (AUS) vs. Jesse Mendes (BRA)
Heat 4: Owen Wright (AUS) vs. Joel Parkinson (AUS)
Heat 5: Adriano De Souza (BRA) vs. Kanoa Igarashi (JPN)
Heat 6: Filipe Toledo (BRA) vs. Tikanui Smith (PYF)
Heat 7: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. Wiggolly Dantas (BRA)
Heat 8: Kolohe Andino (USA) vs. Frederico Morais (PRT)
Heat 9: Mikey Wright (AUS) vs. Yago Dora (BRA)
Heat 10: Michel Bourez (PYF) vs. Connor O’Leary (AUS)
Heat 11: Adrian Buchan (AUS) vs. Jeremy Flores (FRA)
Heat 12: Italo Ferreira (BRA) vs. Ian Gouveia (BRA)
Devastating: “Some dopes from something called the World Surf League!”
It has been exactly one week, or thereabouts, since the owners of professional surfing Dirk and Natasha Ziff were feted at a grand Waterman’s Ball where they both received the coveted Waterman of the Year award. Mr. Dirk decided it was the perfect moment to stand up in front of his Surf Industry Manufacturers Association peers and really accept much praise for his World Surf League saving professional surfing from the slough of despond and also light into “hater surf journalists.”
Even though his mic was unplugged he felt it important enough to stand and shout (while Graham Stapelberg allegedly got into a verbal altercation with the event site manager behind him):
And I ask you: Why (the hate)? It seems pretty obvious that if the WSL keeps growing in popularity, and surfing takes its rightful place among the great and elite competitive sports, everyone connected with our sport, and certainly all the members of SIMA, will prosper, except maybe a few grumpy locals who have to deal with some new faces in the lineup. So…why not work together?
Ahhh the dream of taking our place among the great and elite competitive sports. So close now that Mr. Dirk is half in charge. Right?
Maybe not. For today on ESPN, home of great and elite competitive sports, the co-host of daytime programming introduced an older clip from Nazare thusly:
Happy trails to the previous record for the highest wave ever surfed. Yes some dopes from something called the World Surf League claim to keep track of junk like that. This story is nine months old but video obsessed millennial producers reminded somehow that this guy Rodrigo Koxa riding this 80 foot wave off the coast of Portugal…
Ohhh does that sound like a ringing endorsement? Some dopes from something called the World Surf League?
If you were Mr. Dirk and had been spending every ounce of your emotional capital rescuing professional surfing from the grip of a few grumpy locals in order to deliver it to the likes of ESPN except in its daytime programming, the lowest tier of any, a co-host had no idea the WSL existed but knew it was staffed by “dopes” would you feel bad?
Should Mr. Dirk feel bad?
I don’t think so. I think he should try on his grumpy pants and join us in the gutter. The water is 80 plus!
For the first time in recorded history the question arises.
In approximately four hours I will appear on the Sirius XM radio program The All Out Show hosted by “Rude” Jude Angelini. The program can be found on Eminem’s channel Shade 45, if you are in a rental car with Sirius XM, and I am much looking forward to it though must say my rap knowledge is entirely lacking. Thankfully, I will be chatting about cocaine and surfing so hope my near encyclopedic understanding of those matters covers my embarrassing rap void but thinking about it this morning has left me with a profound question.
What is surfing’s soundtrack in 2018?
As far as I’m aware there has never been a question. The Peruvian pan flute started us off in 3000 BC which gave way to the ukulele around 1000 AD which gave way to Dick Dale’s steely “surf guitar” in 1959 which gave way to Pennywise in 1991 which has given way to… what?
Is there one sound that unites us all or does surfing mirror popular culture writ large with its ghettoization?
Oh I don’t mean “ghettoization” in an urban context, merely in its proper usage. There is so much for us to choose from in 2018 that folk are able to craft complete worlds around the most subtle nuance and never leave.
But what are surfers listening to more than anything else? Samba? The sweet sounds of Merle Haggard? Drake?
Help me before I get asked on air!
Day One, Tahiti Pro: “Facebook reveals 1700 people revelling in Filipe’s mastery of head-high Teahupoo
Filipe Toledo, looks spicy, maybe headed towards insurmountable title lead!
Greetings brothers and sisters of the eternal sun. Welcome to a drearyish little day at Teahupoo with a lackdaisical forecast graffitied over the Tahiti pro 2018.
I doubt a surfer alive wouldn’t straight away think: advantage Toledo.
And if he did take Tahiti, then became almost impossible to stop we’d all be balls deep in surfing’s most famous adult learner and pro surfing bankroller, as well as SIMA Waterman of the Year*, Dirk Ziff’s most-hated scenario. One, if I might add, that causes such confusion to the legions of new surf fans, that being an “insurmountable lead” in the World Title race.
The very real phenomenon of the confused new fan has its roots buried much deeper in the structure of surfing as sport. More on that later.For those short on time, the diamonds pulled out of the days South Pacific digging as follows. Italo, brilliant in heat three. Looking full strength. Biggest threat is injuring himself. Wildcard for this year’s Title, far more likely than Julian, Jordy or Owen for the next.
Gabriel Medina: scintillating. Very lofted tail-high punt with a greased landing in heat four. Typical superior selection of deep reef runners that grew down the line. Non-forecast dependent outcome.
Julian offered a shaky performance in heat five against Parko and Tahitian wildcard Hiquily.
Like you, I love propaganda wars and so am eternally grateful for SIMA for awarding the Ziffs the waterfolk awards and smoking them out of seclusion. Ever since I broke the news during Bells 2012 that it was billionaire heir to the Ziff publishing fortune, Dirk Ziff, who was the mysterious money man behind the ZoSea takeover of the ASP I have been itching to get an insight into his thoughts and conceptual understanding of pro surfing.
To use the kindest, most constructive and non-cynical word I can muster it was… queer.
I have to assume the speech was proofed but by who? How could fake news like this clanger make it onto the public record?
“We continue to have an antiquated system for determining world champions, in which all events count the same, and points are simply added up until someone has an insurmountable lead, regardless of when that happens.
This all too frequently results in confusing scenarios at the end of the season. Many times since we have become involved, the new world champion was sitting on the beach, not even at the last event of the year, hoping for someone else to lose. This is when many fans tune out.”
This just didn’t happen. Not even once, let alone many times.
Twelve hundred engaged fans on Facebook watched a very entertaining all goofy-foot heat eleven. Ice-blue tubes under steely grey skies were threaded by Ace, by Owen and by Jesse Mendes. Leads see-sawed until in the closing stanza of the heat Ace speared one expertly then carved back into the best high rebound hook of the day. That was the heat.
With a feeble South Pacific storm track in the offing Commissioner Perrow strode boldly into round two. Julian Wilson will rue that decision. The late-afternoon lineup had turned somnolent on the high tide. Wilson opened with a mid-ranger against injured Tahitian wildcard Tikanui Smith. Smith responded with a similar score. Time, and Wilson’s world title hopes, seemed to drip away from the heat in extravagant dollops. Smith caught a small wave and took the heat lead with a low two. The Facebook feed, as if it contained an algorithm that could sense Wilson’s humiliation, had frozen.
JW sat in the lineup twitching and fidgeting like a tweaker on a Friday night. He set his jaw into the maw of an uncaring Pacific. It made me twitch; drama a wavepool will never be able to match. The clocked ticked down and Julian Wilson lost having ridden one wave.
That wasn’t the highlight of the day. The high point was a hard hitting interview Rosie Hodge conducted with WSL CEO Sophie Goldschmidt. Did you see? Did your jaw drop to the floor like mine? Sophie said the focus for 2019 was iconic locations as long as the reality of commercial considerations was taken care of.
Ok. No drama.
Then she dropped a bombshell.
She let fly a riff on Kelly’s surf ranch and the upcoming CT event there. She said they would be monitoring the results and we’ll “see how that features in the future”.
Huh?! I thought Soph was all in up to her eyeballs with “wave systems”. That was the plan, to bet the house on the tub. Now we find out it’s only a provisional commitment and the future is not yet written.
Oh Soph!, you do know how to keep your adoring surf journalist fans (me) on a string. Please tell me the tub is merely a novelty, maybe a QS location. Maybe what it always was and should be: a toy for billionaire adult learners and showcase for those with a messiah complex.
I think more of the same for tomorrow surf fans. And I hope Filipe wins (the Title) and doesn’t show up for Pipe. Sits on the beach in another country sipping a rum cocktail while Ricardo hits up the buffet, just so we can interpret Ziff’s speech as prophecy.
*Not to forget Natasha Ziff as co-winner.
Tahiti Pro Round 1 Results:
Heat 1: Wade Carmichael (AUS) 12.23, Jeremy Flores (FRA) 10.00, Joan Duru (FRA) 8.20
Heat 2: Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 11.23, Ian Gouveia (BRA) 8.60, Jordy Smith (ZAF) 7.70
Heat 3: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 14.84, Sebastian Zietz (HAW) 12.17, Miguel Pupo (BRA) 9.63
Heat 4: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 15.16, Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 9.20, Tomas Hermes (BRA) 2.56
Heat 5: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 11.63, Julian Wilson (AUS) 10.67, Mateia Hiquily (PYF) 8.94
Heat 6: Filipe Toledo (BRA) 15.50, Yago Dora (BRA) 7.83, Tikanui Smith (PYF) 2.50
Heat 7: Frederico Morais (PRT) 11.16, Willian Cardoso (BRA) 10.84, Michael February (ZAF) 10.80
Heat 8: Michel Bourez (PYF) 12.40, Keanu Asing (HAW) 9.50, Kanoa Igarashi (JPN) 7.56
Heat 9: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 12.96, Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 12.17, Mikey Wright (AUS) 11.17
Heat 10: Kolohe Andino (USA) 12.83, Patrick Gudauskas (USA) 9.84, Griffin Colapinto (USA) 8.83
Heat 11: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 12.66, Owen Wright (AUS) 11.47, Jesse Mendes (BRA) 11.00
Heat 12: Connor O’Leary (AUS) 12.67, Michael Rodrigues (BRA) 8.76, Conner Coffin (USA) 8.53
Tahiti Pro Round 2 Results:
Heat 1: Tikanui Smith (PYF) 7.67 def. Julian Wilson (AUS) 5.83
Heat 2: Jordy Smith (ZAF) 14.10 def. Mateia Hiquily (PYF) 6.67
Heat 3: Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 13.00 def. Willian Cardoso (BRA) 12.94
Tahiti Pro Remaining Round 2 Matchups:
Heat 4: Mikey Wright (AUS) vs. Miguel Pupo (BRA)
Heat 5: Griffin Colapinto (USA) vs. Ian Gouveia (BRA)
Heat 6: Owen Wright (AUS) vs. Joan Duru (FRA)
Heat 7: Conner Coffin (USA) vs. Michael February (ZAF)
Heat 8: Michael Rodrigues (BRA) vs. Keanu Asing (HAW)
Heat 9: Kanoa Igarashi (USA) vs. Matt Wilkinson (AUS)
Heat 10: Jeremy Flores (FRA) vs. Patrick Gudauskas (USA)
Heat 11: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) vs. Jesse Mendes (BRA)
Heat 12: Tomas Hermes (BRA) vs. Yago Dora (BRA)