Lady and gentlemen... place your bets!
Oooooee, I caught cracks for delivering a singularly underwhelming performance during yesterday’s much anticipated podcast interview with the World Surf League’s President of Content, Media, Etc. Erik “ELo” Logan.
“Do better next time!”
All completely honest, true and well-deserved. The only problem, and it’s a small one, is that is probably the best I can do.
I may have forgotten to mention, at the outset, that I’m not an investigative surf journalist… I’m a tabloid gossip column surf journalist and sorry for the confusion.
But here’s really the thing. My point in going to meet with Mr. President Etc. was, number one, because it was funny and, number two, to begin the process of nudging the World Surf League off the path it chartered when Dirk Ziff purchased it for free those four years ago.
The well-trod ground of manufactured respectability and politically correct charm.
The bland common area.
Surfing’s revered historian Matt Warshaw wrote, more poetically than I ever could, in the forward to Cocaine + Surfing (subscribe to the Encyclopedia of Surfing here!)
The blandness, yes, but mostly the hypocrisy. The sport’s own self-betrayal. We should know better – we used to know better – than to try and reshape surfing into a sport that fits into a Mutual of Omaha ad campaign, or at Olympic telecast. Selling the sport isn’t a crime. But sell it on our own terms, the way Bruce Brown did with Endless Summer. Make them come to us. And if they don’t, so what? But no, we continue slicing off our legacy of cool, of independence, piece by piece, in exchange for a seat in the nosebleed section of mainstream culture. Then we compound the error (not “we” actually, but the World Surf League, the NYSE-traded surfwear companies, and whoever convinced the IOC to make surfing an Olympic sport for the 2020 games in Tokyo) by passing off this auto-swindle as growth and progress.
Now, did yesterday’s chat do anything other than make me complicit in this auto-swindle? Certainly not but by the time I’m finished dancing through the High Castle we’ll have Longtom calling heats from the booth, Joe Turpel Michelob Ultra drunk underneath the WSL coffee table, Jed Smith and Vaughn Dead ushering the losers out on a rail while interviewing, a flat screen television in the judges’ tower that allows viewers to heckle directly, proper betting tied directly into the broadcast and the professional surfers brought out like racehorses where punters can can feel their thighs and look at their teeth before placing bets.
Aside from cutting the draw down, the action in the water has never been better.
I want to break the action on the land.