Niggling boredom, jarring resentment…
The Rumble at the Ranch: it’s not an ideal moniker, let’s be honest.
There wasn’t much heat in the first WSL comp for 148 days, since Leo Fioravanti took the W in late afternoon onshore two-foot surf at Manly on pro surfing’s darkest day.
There was much potential for some sly sexiness, beautiful bodies doing beautiful things will always draw the eye no matter where you are on the sexual spectrum. But the Wozzle bobbled the potentially most dramatic moment: when the couples are revealed. By going prematurely on that announcement they robbed the beginning of the day of any kind of anticipation which might natively belong to it.
As for the rest?
The wave and the surfing it has now produced for four competitions spanning many hundreds of rides has changed very little.
Filipe Toledo produced the best ride with a pigeon pair of alley-oops during the Final, same as he did in 2018.
I swore off watching after last years snooze-fest.
A comp rescued only by the imperiousness of Gabriel Medina and, in retrospect, by the bone-deep weird combination of Kelly Slater and his Australian “friend” Charlie Goldsmith. That was compelling viewing in a way that was not touched by anything that went down today.
God knows why I expected anything else.
“This time it’ll be different” is the thought of anyone in an unhealthy relationship.
And it never is.
We’re five years into this thing now.
Five long years.
The gap between the rhetoric, that tubs were going to loose a tsunami of radical innovative surfing, and the reality, conservative surfing, is becoming clearer every day. It’s become what Orwell termed the “inadmissible fact.” It’s put us in upside down world, where Chris Cote, when he hears the train says, “ This never gets old” means “there’s something deeply wrong here but I can’t dare acknowledge it”.
Can someone on the pro wavepool side of the argument explain to me why, given the basic repeatability of the wave, some new trick is not conceived, mastered and then executed to a stunned judging panel ala vert skating or snowboard half-pipe?
Wasn’t that the whole point?
That with the randomness of the ocean taken out of the equation we would see moreoreless choreographed “runs”?
Not the same two alley-oops that we saw two years ago.
The same combinations of turns for the same sevens that we were promised salvation from?
My admittedly tiny straw poll of the sexiest couple, ala Olympic Figure Skating, dubbed Filipe and Coco the clear winners.
OK, that was Derek Rielly, but a finer judge of sexy couples, would be hard to find.
I think we can agree on that.
Sage and Kelly also cut a very fine couple in the Steinbeckian heat shimmer.
Was anyone watching?
I couldn’t find a heartbeat amongst the surfers at my local for it. Facebook registered 11, 700 viewers during Kelly’s semi-final runs.
Pretty respectable numbers for live pro surfing. Especially on a Monday morning in Aus.
My viewing experience was unpleasant.
Site crashed every second wave, app no better. I watched more Sally Fitz shilling Boost Mobile than live surfing. It was a test of endurance, despite the whole thing being run and done in four hours. That has to be the future of the Basin game: novelty events, mixed doubles.
It don’t hold up as a full scale CT venue.
A QS would feel like a jail sentence.
Any highlights worth a re-watch?
Check out Filipes double twirlybird in the Final, for completeness. Kanoa’s Nine was the most technically well surfed wave. Tatiana-Weston Webb’s 7.93 was a little herky-jerky but siphoned off a very fine tube ride. The Derek Ho tribute wave which opened proceedings where Kelly muscled people off the wave and then pulled in will confirm all your impressions of the King circa 2020, for good or ill.
I thought, a little more grace from the GOAT on his home-turf would have been appropriate.
When you strip out the ocean and the possibility of anything that adds unexpected drama to pro surfing, a Medina brain explosion, lulls, a heat-winning ride in the final seconds, sharks, coral etc etc, it boils down to a bland formula.
For the viewer, a dull ache of unrealised desire at the deathless sight of that impossibly perfect wave that fades with each wave to be replaced with niggling boredom and a jarring resentment.
Watch the four-hour replay here.