Ain't gonna happen etc.
When I saw the WSL announcement about the new plan for the 2021 season and beyond I thought, “looks good, makes sense, long time coming.”
Inshallah literally translated is “God willing” in Arabic, but it’s got layers of meaning.
I first came across it in a George Packer essay in The New Yorker about the chaos following the American invasion of Iraq. Pakistani-American writer Wajahat Ali calls it the Middle Eastern version of “fuggedaboutit.”
“It transports both the speaker and the listener to a fantastical place where promises, dreams and realistic goals are replaced by delusional hope and earnest yearning,” writes Ali.
As in, want the WSL 2021 season to happen, would be great if it did, but it’s a fantasy to imagine it will go off as planned.
Let’s start with the season opening Triple Crown contests. If you’re an American, you’re welcome to fly to Hawaii anytime, but you’ll have to quarantine for two weeks in an airport hotel at your expense before you can go to the North Shore.
The mandatory confinement order was supposed to be lifted on August 1. It just got moved to September.
The Hawaiian Islands have been spared so far from the ravages of the pandemic because of the restrictions.
In New York State, where the virus was seeded by travellers arriving from Europe, 33,000 people have died from the virus; in Hawaii that number is 26.
Say Hawaii governor David Ige decrees that the islands can’t survive without tourism and he ends the quarantine.
How fast does that 26 death toll go to 100, then a 1000?
Does it reach the seven-thousand mark as Florida, another tourist destination, is about to?
Shit, so the quarantine likely stays.
The WSL surfers and staff all arrive at HNL, hang out for a couple weeks in a hotel, then get to work. All good except the majority of the surfers are from Brazil. Brazilians are currently barred from entering the USA, as are Europeans. South Africans aren’t going anywhere either. Australians are allowed, but try getting an overseas flight. Qantas cancelled all of theirs until 2021.
So, here comes the season opening Billabong Pipeline Masters starring Hawaiians, mainland Americans and Australians –maybe. Everyone’s six feet away from each other on the beach. Following the lead of the NBA, the WSL puts the surfers and staff in a hotel bubble. Travel and Leisure is reporting that Hawaii is thinking about requiring visitors to stay inside of their resort’s “geofence” for the duration of their stay.
Sweet, so now it’s the Turtle Bay Masters.
Point is, barring a blitzkrieg deployment of a miracle vaccine across the world that makes this virus thing “magically go away” by November, Hawaii’s not looking good.
Onto 2021. Here’s how it’s looking at the moment…
Portugal in February: Portugal is currently closed to anyone from outside the EU who is traveling for non-essential purposes. Surf contests are essential, right?
Australia in March/April: No one can go to Australia except Aussies and Kiwis.
Brazil in May: No foreigners can enter Brazil without government authorization. Maybe Medina and Neymar can hook everyone up.
Surf Ranch in June: Same as Hawaii minus the quarantine.
G-Land in June: No non-Indonesians allowed except those “working on strategic national interests?” Does a surf contest in the jungle apply?
J Bay in July: No commercial flights into South Africa. Shot bru.
Tahiti in August: Closed to everyone except travelers from a handful of European countries. Entrants must fill out a “sanitary entry form” and agree to pay for their expenses if they get sick.
September, WSL Finals: I’m thinking Maldives. Tropical perfection and It’s open to all! Pass a medical inspection at customs and you’re in. Good luck finding a way to fly there though that transits through a country that will let you step off the plane.
It’s a shit start of affairs, innit? Anybody out there know of a way to pull off a world tour if the Covid conditions stay the way they are?
What happens if they get worse?
More than half of the events are scheduled in countries that haven’t yet faced a full-scale outbreak.
The WSL has a tall mountain to climb.
Maybe they have incredible contingencies in place for staging events that involve charter flights, international diplomacy, rapid results testing and sophisticated medical protocols. But what happens when a sport like Major League Baseball, which has all of those things, and an annual revenue of $10.7 billion, now finds itself in a situation where seventeen players on a single team have tested positive?
The WSL is going glass half full on this one. They’re living on a prayer and just hoping, like all of us are, that next year is better than the horror show of 2020.
The sad irony is that professional surfing is one of the only sports that is socially distant by nature.
Put a couple people in the water, man a few cameras, turn on the internet switch and it’s on. Then of course there’s the permitting, the scaffolding, the crowd control, the catering, the accommodation, the transportation, and that’s where the virus stuffs it all up.
But we’re in the midst of a month-long flat spell here in California.
My expectations are low. My delusional hopes and earnest yearnings are high. I’ll watch anything live. I’m calling it now. Griffin versus Kolohe tomorrow at 9am at T-Street. Streamed live on instagram from Jacob Vanderwork’s phone. Loser buys lunch.