Cut it all down!
When I was a young boy, those brave souls who challenged the authority of East Germany’s State Security Service, or Stasi, fascinated me. There they were, walled into a metastasized communist garden, spies on their left, listening devices on their right, boldly defying the odds. Penalties for getting caught with forbidden literature or stating a contrary opinion were wildly stiff. Penalties for helping people escape over that wall included the very real possibility of death. Oh how scary, but thrilling, it must have been to be a rebel.
Today, I feel much the same about those who defy the authoritarian World Surf League and dare sail over the “Wall of Positive Noise” with anything resembling criticism. As you know, the WSL refuses any opposition, stuffing ears with Joe Turpel’s syrupy nothings and cotton candy. There was a press conference at Surf Ranch, yesterday, ahead of the Freshwater Pro and questions were not allowed.
No questions at all.
Surf journalists who speak out are forbidden to appear in any of the World Surf League’s new productions including, but not limited to, Surf Ranch Sessions and Transformed. I can’t even imagine the penalty for professional surfer dissent. These brave souls are even more rare than those 1980s East Germans and, therefore, more inspiring.
And let us turn our gaze on seven-time World Champion Steph Gilmore who recently let fly an amazing refutation of Santa Monica’s business model. She was being interviewed by Pablo Zanocchi of the wonderful Spanish-language dukesurf.com and, to the question, “Speaking of surfing equity, have you asked the authorities to have 32 women as there are 32 men?” answered:
I think we can get there one day, I don’t know if now that … To be honest, I think there should be fewer men. I think we spent so many days at the events waiting for swells that if we had fewer men, maybe 18 and 18 we could finish the events much faster, in a good swell, instead of waiting for two.
And I hope beyond hope that Ms. Gilmore is too high profile for the League to disappear. I hope beyond hope that she is not relegated to the WSL’s own gulag but I fear it might already be too late for that.
I saw her in line for the Tachi Palace’s Coyote Grille restaurant, two days ago, with Jake Patterson. She turned around, before being shown her table in the windowless space where the fluorescent lighting is turned down low to create “mood” and offered a very gracious hello. I looked deep into her eyes and saw life vanishing.