A silence louder than bombs.
Surf jernalizm is a queer calling at the best of times in the best of circumstances, and I use the word queer in the oldest of oldest school ways.
Pro surfing jernalizm is an even weirder little corner of the “content creation” universe to inhabit.
You gots to pay close attention for a meaningful period of time to something that very few people give a fuck about. You have to adopt, consciously or unconsciously the edict of famed NFL coach Vince Lombardi who said, on the subject of football, “You have to be smart enough to figure it out and dumb enough to think that it matters”.
Or something like that.
So you forgive old Longtom for being in a state of tumid excitement for roughly the last month since a haggard and pale ELO dropped his latest clip with the huge news that a major, major restructure of the Tour was in the offing.
Pro surfing, as we knew it, was essentially dead and something almost entirely new was about to emerge from the ashes.
The sport has been ripe for change for years; really, since the 2011 mid-year cut that brought us both John John Florence and Gabriel Medina. That process of cutting numbers, changing the rotations of surfers in and out of the championship Tour was a beginning, not an end, but surfer dissatisfaction stopped it dead in its tracks.
On Hold until June 1, he said.
Great, I’ll be there June 1, stay up all night if I have to, to watch the unboxing. Four am Aussie time, I got the coffee, the new pen, the notebooks ready. The WSL website is devoid of announcement, no video presser of ELO dropping the new Tour in our lap, or at least a rough sketch with a few more details.
Nothing all day.
What other sport would promise fans a huge shake-up of the Tour and then just deliver radio silence?
A silence louder than bombs.
What happened to the timeline?
Did ELO forget?
There is a lot going on.
Was the Tour restructure delegated to an intern, maybe the same one who left on the Corona Bali Open VIP ticket experience despite the fact Bali is dropped from the Tour this year?
Were they too busy creating new engaging content to film ELO giving us the lowdown?
I can only speculate.
Not even a leak to a favourable media organisation was forthcoming.
June 3, seventy-two hours after the promised call about both this years Tour and the major restructure a simple social media tile was released.
On hold until early July.
What happened in that three days?
Did they not know?
Were they waiting for something?
For the average gal on the street, no news is good news.
For a global sports governing body, a delayed announcement and then an even fuzzier promise to update looks kooky. It doesn’t inspire confidence in the man from Oklahoma. ELO’s made a career out of the illusion of control, but when you let the narrative twist in the breeze for three long days that illusion starts looking very shaky.
So, what now?
Interest drips away.
We wait, I guess.
But can we be honest, amongst pals?
Pro surfing has never been an American thing. Never. It’s sputtered and fizzed out, occasionally flashes of interest light up the sporting landscape on the back of once in a generation talents like Curren or Dane, then long periods of torpor or outright hostility follow.
It’s an Australian thing. Has been since it’s inception, or since the southern-hemi upstarts stole it off Fred Hemmings and Randy Rarick, to be more precise.
No offence to my American colleagues but Australians have a talent and temperament for pro surfing that simply does not exist in the American soul.
The headquartering of WSL in Los Angeles will one day be registered as a grand failed experiment, precisely because it’s antithetical to attracting the best talent, which is Australian.
Run this thought experiment with me.
Posit a hypothetical, let’s say, Commissioner. Highly talented, highly intelligent, highly respected. Loves his surfing, loves his family, loves his quality of life.
Why would this hypothetical talent, who could be a grand bridge between American capital and the pro surfing fan base relocate to Los Angeles, when he could live, lets say, on the North Coast of NSW and enjoy the best of what life has to offer a man of his talents and proclivities?
Well, he wouldn’t would he.
Which means the WSL doesn’t have the calibre of his intellect in the room when the blue-sky thinking and implementation is taking place. The directional pull for global talent is generally considered to be towards the United States but in this case it’s the reverse.
You see what I’m saying, right?
ELO’s a great flimflam man.
But he’s not got the skill set, as they say, to restructure the sport.
Meanwhile, the clock ticks.
Injury, CoronaVirus and now administrative incompetence robs us of three years of John John Florence mastery.
The greatest Top Ten in the history of the sport languishes while Global Sport announces plans to get back to work.
Elo, where’s the motherfucking plan at?