Now, I’ve been entirely remiss in bringing the World Surf League’s newest programming here for discussion. If honest, I’m only vaguely aware of the new shows, concepts and episodes coming out of Santa Monica’s Studio division which is somewhat odd seeing that I peruse, read, watch and think about surf and surf content almost every minute of every day. Until today, the WSL’s slate of programming has not forced me to stop. Oh I understand, somewhat, that what they are producing is not for me and not for you but rather for the surf fan of the future. The non-grumpy un-local. And so I skip right over it in my email’s inbox and my Instagram feed exactly like I skip over served ads for Sofi fee-free personal loans.
Today, though, I not only stopped but watched the pilot episode in the WSL’s newest series Surf Ranch Sessions. I engaged partially because of the attached picture featuring DJ Steve Aoki and Kai Lenny jumping but also because I was emailed the three minute video eight or nine times, DM’d another ten or fifteen and texted twice.
Though there is no description, Surf Ranch Sessions seems like it will be a serial that features a celebrity surfing Surf Ranch for the first time paired with a professional surfer.
In this episode, DJ Steve Aoki declared that it is one of his three dreams to get barreled at Surf Ranch. The others were DJing in space and swimming cage-less with sharks. Kai shows him the ropes, there is a climax of sorts and then the two sit and discuss parallels between DJing and surfing. Pushing through boundaries, past fear, etc.
I insist you watch here before further discussion.
And I know the brass in Santa Monica believe we are only filled with bitterness and gall. That we love nothing more than sitting in our shit shack and throwing rocks at their fine glass tower but let’s really try to find things we like. Let’s focus on the positives.
I, for instance, find the color of Kai Lenny’s tan interesting. I also enjoyed his barrel advice, though I think it’s time to reclassify Surf Ranch’s barrel as something else. It’s a little bit unfair to all those who had to figure out shifty, weird, crowded, inconsistent barrels in the wild for Steve Aoki to claim “I got barreled.” In fact, he clearly didn’t as the camera cuts away very abruptly at the end. I understand the producers had to give the episode its seminal moment but even if he had shot out with the spit, we should call it something else. “Water parked” or “flushed” or something and uh oh…
….here comes the grumpies!
What the fuck was that? Who was it for? Steve Aoki fans? Kai Lenny fans? It certainly wasn’t for damned surf fans, I’ll tell you that right now. It was devoid of meaning, contrived and driving the shallowest, most manufactured narrative of “stoke” and surf as a conduit for conversation. I get that Surf Ranch is custom made for this sort of content but if the point is “bringing disparate folk together” then why not invite some crusty, WSL hating hick and try to convince her that pools are glorious? Or Wiggolly’s Paddling Style and WSL President of Content, Media, Studios and Applebee’s Loaded Fajitas Erik “ELo” Logan? Or Eddie Rothman and Ian Cairns who still have wonderful, simmering beef tracing its heritage all the way back to those “Bustin’ Down the Door days. I know that would be very “inside” very “small” but DJ Steve Aoki?
Trading on a celebrity culture that peaked eight years ago is not only tired and boring, it’s fucking embarrassing. I think, and I could be wrong, that the “surf fan of the future” might actually enjoy a view into what surf culture actually is as opposed to what Santa Monica is attempting to create and sell. Again, there are so many potential partners with whom the World Surf League could team to deliver these stories. The Surfing Heritage and Culture Center, The Surfer’s Journal, Jamie Brisick, Hardcore mag in Brazil, Jed Smith and Vaughn Blakey, Zigzag mag in South Africa to name but a tiny fraction.
Matt Warshaw, yet another glorious potential partner, gifted me with an introduction to Cocaine + Surfing (buy here) that I ponder regularly. He wrote:
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 an 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 this auto-swindle as growth and progress.
Fucking shit fucking fuck and… breathe.
I also watched a few episodes from the series Transformed feat. Shaun Tomson. Heartstring tugs, inspirational stories using surfing as a platform for overcoming obstacles etc.
Very cute though I do have MAJOR problems with the Afghanistan feature-ette but let’s save that for another day, shall we?