Why has professional surfing so far passed on Saudi Arabia’s $1.5 billion Vision 2030 sports washing masterplan?
Snooker, Formula 1, golf, boxing, football – all mentioned in a report by human rights organisation Grant Liberty on Saudi Arabia’s $1.5 “Vision 2030” sports washing “masterplan”.
Sports washing is a geopolitical quid pro quo whereby a heinous Islamic monarchy hosts a big boxing match or horse race with lots of lights and famous people and broadcasting rights and in return the so-called civilised world ignores aforementioned plutocrat fascist hell-hole’s cutting up of dissident journalists.
Wait, cutting up? Fascist? Hell-hole? Horse race?
Legitimate concerns, but forget those things for a second and focus on the pertinent question: why is the most glamourous and aspirational of sports (surfing) conspicuously absent from the aforementioned report?
Why has professional surfing thus far seemingly passed on this 1.5 billion petro-buck bonanza?
If the WSL really wants to reap the VAL dollar and bring surfing into the sporting mainstream they need to get on this bandwagon ASAP.
Lennox Head be damned, Riyadh to the rescue.
Happily, surfing’s GOAT and unofficial global ambassador Ke11y Slater already has connections with friends in the Middle East, in the form of his new best pal Lewis Hamilton.
Hamilton knows all about sports washing because his sport of Formula 1 reeks of the stuff.
There’s been a Grand Prix in similarly autocratic Bahrain since 2004.
Later this year, Saudi Arabia will host its first ever Grand Prix. Rather cleverly, Hamilton rides both sides of the sports-washing debate by offsetting his complicity in state violence by taking the knee before races and also being vegan. Canny operator.
What’s stopping Lewis “surfing is my fave sport!” Hamilton from asking his colleagues in the Middle East to give his newly discovered passion the same boost it gives F1?
Fair enough, there’re no waves in Saudi Arabia.
But that’s where Kelly comes in, more specifically his 30-million-dollar wave pool. Even better, he already has experience planning surf resorts for the super-rich in the middle of a desert.
With the £1.4 billion Saudi Arabia spent on arms from the UK in just one financial quarter last year (predominantly to drop on Yemeni civilians) they could build 46.6 Kelly Slater Wave Company wave pools.
Even less of an issue should Saudi Arabia look to their Qatari neighbours for inspiration. There are currently an estimated 1.7 million migrant workers from Bangladesh, India and Nepal working on constructing stadiums and facilities for the 2022 World Cup.
“Some are being subjected to forced labour. They can’t change jobs, they can’t leave the country and they often wait months to get paid.”
I mean a job’s a job right?
Plus, imagine it, fields of wave pools.
A city of wavepools. 46.6 oases in the desert. Boardshort and (if we really push our luck) bikini-clad surfers under the hot desert sun competing in multiple heats on multiple channels all at the same time. It could be like Wimbledon.
Who hasn’t watched a pro-surfing event and thought “I wish this was a bit more like Wimbledon?”
Meanwhile, newly baptised VALs and their kids are initiated into the sport of kings in the “try it for yourself” grass-roots-nurturing outer pools sponsored by Red Bull.
There will of course be the inevitable push-back from extremist groups who refuse to understand that by shining a light on Saudi Arabia we’re actually encouraging them not to torture people, like we did with China and the Olympics.
For this there exists PR companies, and advertisements in enlightened British broadsheets.
Take us Saudi Arabia, take us and cleanse yourself in the borrowed credibility of the sexiest, hippest, most radical of all sports!
Golf? Lame. Snooker?
Not even a sport.
Bathe yourself in our chlorinated goodness!
Wash the guilt away!
Hell is murky.