The Machine exposes the weaknesses of the top 34 professional surfers. And that's something that deserves to stay.
The WSL is in full social media promotional mode for the Freshwater Pro this weekend and if you scroll down you will see the comments, probably left by some of you.
“Bring back Trestles.”
“Worst Event Ever.”
There’s very little variation to these comments. It’s overwhelmingly negative.
And, yes, the marketing screams VAL-Kook. The overall feel seems to be inspired by Slater’s Pottery Barn Teen collection.
But, is The Freshwater Pro that bad?
It deserves its spot on the Championship Tour. It is the necessary thorn in every professional surfers side. A surfer can get lucky in France, not in Lemoore. The Machine exposes the weaknesses of the top 34 professional surfers. And that’s something that deserves to stay.
Last year, the best surfers made it to finals day: Medina, Felipe, Slater, Wilson, Igarashi, Wright.
Out after the first day? Wiggoly, Mikey Febs, Jesse Mendes, Willian Cardoso, etc.
They hate it because it’s difficult to surf.
They hate it because it’s different than the other waves on tour.
They hate it because it’s ruthlessly perfect. The machine pulls no punches and has even the world’s best fumbling through the owner’s manual with furrowed brows.
Should it be easy because it’s man-made? Nay, for Slater created it in his image. And even he sometimes bogs a turn or gets caught in the foam.
I’m sure the complaints were cast by those whose weaknesses are most magnified in the pool. The best waves on tour humanize professional surfers. They instill fear and inspire greatness. They get thumbs caught in door jams. They expose weaknesses. This is exactly what The Machine does. When those absurdly loud engines start chortling coal and that train screams down those tracks bringing with it a force of human will, it’s do or die.
We’re also assuming most of the online hate comes from people who have never been to Lemoore. Yes, it’s a methy backwater of a town, and a little depressing. But that’s what makes it great.
Romanticize with us for a moment…
It’s a waterless, droughty day in Lemoore, California. You’ve just driven in from Los Angeles. Your first stop: The Tachi Palace and Casino. As you walk into the lobby, you’re hit with that sterile, hand-sanitizer scent of casino dreams crushed. You saddle up to the bar and order yourself a two-dollar Bud. You glance to your left. There’s a rancher and his girlfriend canoodling, engulfing an armada of cigarettes after a long week of wrassling cows and tending crops. You note the dried dirt beneath their fingertips and the tobacco staining their gums. Then to your right. There’s a duo of Slater fans (you can tell by their merch) suckin’ on Mickey Ultras.
You smile to yourself and wander to the tables, where you are soon gambling with every Australian on tour. Last year, this became reality when we gambled for hours with Parko, Kerr, Gilmore and watched Medina and his posse lay down some heavy vibes at the bar.
Kerrzy refused to place another chip on the felt until drinks were served. And demanding all in attendance join him on this worthy demonstration.
The pit boss was not pleased, but that did not deter Sir Kerrzy.
“Flip a chip, win a chip!” he bellowed as he catapulted a token in the air with his thumb.
The thing nearly nicked the pitty’s nose before dropping down into his open palm. “Another one for me, ya cunt!” he said, cackling as he did. NOT until the drinks were brought would we relinquish our hold on the casino floor and continue our staking.
Where else on tour can you go hang with surfing’s elite and play some cards while blasting cigs inside? It’s a throwback to the punk rock days of the ASP, and we can’t get enough.
As you arrive to the Surf Ranch Gates with a Tachi hangover, you begin to feel the earth rumble beneath you. The preliminary tests are underway. After winding your way through the dry-dirt parking lot, you finally lay eyes on The Machine. It roars to life and you watch the world’s best surfer’s attempt to tame it. It’s a fucking water-logged nightmare, and I love everything about it.
As far as the broadcast and the live viewing event go, they’re too long and static. There’s no music to it, at all. That’s on the WSL. There are so many opportunities to spice up the day.
Why not pick a random person in between heats to surf a wave?
Why not have a band play during the competition?
Why does it have to be two days?
Let’s mix up the scoring! We can all agree the current contest formula does not work at The Machine of Lemoore. It’s too perfect. It’s too consistent to be judged like other waves.
One bright spot of last years broadcast that ELO should, in Santa Monica corporate speak, “lean into” is give us more Strider. That guy is the kid at the pool party who ate too much cake and is rocking a glorious sugar high to the hall of mirrors. He was in full froth mode in the tub while commentating himself weaving through a wave. Strides pulled into a barrel with a clunky backpack weighing him down, shot out and screamed upon exit, before levying two nooner snaps! Each one was adorned with a screeching “BANGO!”. Weighty and potent.
The people demand more Strides. Unleash him!
With this year being possibly the last year before the VAL Corporate Takeover, let’s appreciate The Freshwater Pro for hosting an event that rewards the best surfers with points, and hope the WSL delivers on the production side.
Give it a chance.
Get lost in the majesty of the cow shit.
The novelty of the man-made wave.
The power of its grip.
The exposing of weaknesses of the world’s best surfers.