Bureaucracy does not produce champions. Money does not fix the problem. Money is the problem.
Two thousand and six seems a long time ago now, Kelly Slater being the only “surviving” link to that bygone era, but I remember it like yesterday.
Somewhere in Mexico, the first time I really connected with a pro surfing webcast. Maybe there were bits and pieces before that but Mexico was when I really tuned in.
Full-rez webcasts couldn’t have been going for much longer than that could they? Maybe three years tops, apart from Pipe.
The overwhelming impression after digesting pro surfing already “pre-chewed” by surf journalists, whatever tidbits were served up by mainstream media was “Wow, this is so different when you see it with your own eyes”.
I wonder how much of the history of this sport would have to be rewritten if the eyes of the world were on it, instead of handful of vested interests with the good of their clients the primary objective?
Imagine the paucity of your understanding of pro surfing if all you had was Turpel’s take on it. I don’t mean to be cruel, but as Chris Cote so eloquently explained, they are working for a client, and their interests are prime.
A subject for another day.
To Finals Day.
To be honest, I’ve never been less interested in the results of a Finals Day. Better surf was ahead in the waiting period, so that carrot was gone. There was zero consequence left in the outcomes. Top five decided. Jack already requalified, as had Silva. Leo was a solid mid-ranger, a genuine CT surfer with a win or two ahead of him, but no Title run. And Herdy had shown his credentials: easily a CT standard surfer, next cab off the rank from Brazil.
Why are we still here? Had no obvious answer.
The biggest takeaway is Jack Robbo prevented a clean sweep of this year’s tour by Brazil*. In lully dreamboat point surf he sat behind the rock in both semi and final, threading tubes and launching airs on the opening section.
Herdy had the nicest moment in their semi. An air reverse and with the front foot still locked forwards a neat and nifty tube-ride. It was as if the nineties and the seventies had been thrown into a blender. Jack’s much loftier alley oop was the determining factor in that heat.
The final could have gone either way. Silva rode three almost identical waves for a brace of high sixes and mid sevens Either of the sevens could have been juiced by a half point. Perhaps judges, like me, found Silva’s slightly wooden-legged stance a little unappetising served up three times in a row.
Or maybe they didn’t get the memo that Slater had identified Silva’s backhand as the best on tour. It did suit the tight transitions on the outside and shorebreak.
The crucial wave in the final was ridden with nine minutes to go. Silva ahead by a clear two-point spread. Jack speared a frothy, raggedy outside section and launched an equally scrappy air reverse. The ride lacked the power and flow of Silva but judges paid the repertoire, which had the full diversity quotient.
Lesson to upcoming Aussie pros: bring a full skillset or GTFO.
It seems deeply ironic to me that in this desperate state of Australian pro surfing where money is being pumped in via Surfing Australia and the HPC, our sole winner has rejected that system and chosen to run with Coach Leandro Dora.
A vindication likewise for Jack’s old man Trev who kept his boy away from the middle men.
Bureaucracy does not produce champions.
Money does not fix the problem. Money is the problem.
An Australian example.
Remember when Bondi was Scum Valley and had a huge pool of what my old boss Lester Brien, banged up in a Royal Commission into drugs for refusing to grass up clients, used to call “surf peasants”. Bondi produced an insane number of champion surfers out of that pool.
Could you imagine a pro surfer coming out of Bondi, now?
Not everyone shares this view but gentrification destroyed Sydney as a producer of surfing talent and it’s now working it’s way across the rest of the country. The single greatest factor in previous Aussie pro surfing dominance was what Camus termed a “sumptuous poverty”. Working class kids near the beach with fuck-all to do except surf and all the time in the world to do it.
That’s all gone.
As quaint as the Monterey Bay described by Steinbeck in Cannery Row. Which means Australia is now like California. A handful of pros will come via a dynastic process. Surf parents carefully grooming kids from a young age, or even in the womb, as in the case of Kanoa Igarashi. Spontaneous surf talent that can germinate out of nowhere like mushrooms in a cow paddock is over.
Breaking that line, the greatest advantage of Teahupoo’s cancellation accrues to women’s winner Stephanie Gilmore. The Queen of Australian Surfing is not of a temperament or skill set to huck South Pacific ledges at this stage of her career.
Head-high Mexico to Trestles is the perfect runway for her to stop a rampaging Carissa Moore, who suddenly and amazingly, looks beatable. Pro surfing is a very peculiar game and the League may rue the day they put the integrity of the World Champ in jeopardy by increasing the luck factor in a quixotic attempt to harvest American attention.
*Yeah I know JJF won Pipe. Last year.