Surfing's most prestigious prize turned into "TikTok circle jerk."
When the WSL’s self-confessed biggest fan, @surfads, partly described the WSL’s recent efforts as “Turning a deadshit, dumbcunt but still unique sports outfit into a generic, compliant, corporate glory hole”, I nodded in agreement and felt there wasn’t a lot more to say.
Especially coming in so hot on the heels of The Ultimate Surfer where a guy and gal got a place in WCT events by surfing in a pool and winning lifetime dream prizes like SUPs, I didn’t think the WSL could make itself any more tacky and tawdry, or cheapen its product even more.
On reflection, that’s bullshit.
It can, and it has.
When @surfads wrote his article, I commented that it’d take far too long to unpack all that’s wrong with the WSL right now, but that was a cop-out. I hate peanut gallery fuckwits who mock your efforts without offering any kind of explanation, thus, for that reason, I want to pinpoint a couple of glaring examples of the WSL clusterfuck sticking out like shit on Meghan Markle’s shoes.
This is part one.
@surfads bemoaned the lack of a Pipe contest to end the year, so what better place to start than Hawaii? Specifically, the Triple Crown of Surfing.
And, while the TCOS is run this year by Vans and Stab, the Vans TCOS official website says, “This competition is sanctioned by the WSL”, so that’s good enough for me.
Billed for decades as the most prestigious title to win outside of being anointed surfing’s world champ, the Triple Crown of Surfing was always something that mattered in the surfing world.
Especially to the Hawaiians.
A list of Triple Crown winners since its inception in 1983 shows a who’s who of surfing royalty.
Michael Ho, Derek Ho, Kong, Tom Carroll, Sunny, Kelly, Andy, Parko, John John, Gabe.
It’s a mighty impressive list.
And why wouldn’t it be, when you look at the historical format of the TCOS itself? Three contests, all in prime, big-wave spots where heavy waves explode on shallow reefs.
You had to be a fucking good surfer to win the whole shebang.
If we use a starting point in the contests as Round 64 for the top guys, to win a contest you gotta get through five heats against all the best surfers in the world, in some of the scariest, most intimidating waves in the world. No-one has ever won all three contests of the TCOS in a single year (I think), so let’s just play a little game of averages for the fuck of it.
Let’s say a surfer’s results over the three contests were final, quarters, quarters. That’d get ‘em pretty close to the gong most years. Starting from R64, that means our surfer would have got through eight or nine heats or so across three contests. Getting through that many heats in Hawaii against all the best guys in the world in big, dangerous, powerful conditions, including the locals who love nothing more than shitting on the outta town blow-ins, is fucking hard.
And that’s why the list of TCOS champions includes eight world champions and multiple top three finishers like Julian Wilson and Gary Elkerton.
You win the TCOS and it’s a big fucking deal. Something that earns the respect of everyone in the surfing community, among them even the grumpiest, most begrudging old naysayers.
Well, it was.
‘Cause now, what used to be the prestigious TCOS is no more. Nuked, nixed, and fucking gutted. There are no contests involved anymore. None. No four-man heats. No two-man heats. No paddle battles. No local intimidation. No Wolfpak or Black Shorts. No interference calls. No Hawaiian underdogs. No buzzer beaters. No scoreboard pressure or commentator’s curses.
Why? Because The Triple Crown of Surfing is now a fully online digital contest.
(No relation to doctors sticking their fingers up your asshole.)
To compete in and win the Triple Crown of Surfing now you just gotta take a few videos of your surfing and then submit them online (don’t forget to tag @vanstriplecrownofsurfing) and hope that the judges like your “content”. I ain’t making this up.
Out with the old, in with the hip and the new.
More than just a bit confused by this new turn of events, I tried to make some sense of it all. Big failure.
When I first went through the rules format the first thing that popped into my stupefied, spinning gogglehead revolved around the videos surfers have to submit. Half the tour surfers don’t even have major sponsors, so I don’t think it’s too much of a stretch to say that most of ‘em don’t have dedicated filmers following them around with the new $80,000 RED 8K video camera.
Exhibit A. Connor O’Leary, ex WQS overall winner, WCT Rookie of the Year, and winner of the most recent Challenger Series event, who just requalified for next year’s CT tour. Riding a pure white, stickerless board.
You reckon the video editors at Quiksilver are just putting the finishing touches on his signature movie as we speak? What’s that? They dropped him?
Taking it a step further, what happens if poor old 86 ranked, unsponno surfer gets the wave of the winter out Pipe in the dark, dying light of an evening and all he’s got to show for it is his girlfriend’s grainy iPhone vid where he looks like an ant on a piece of bread?
Is the poor bloke then forced into an extortionate bidding war with rival beach videographers for half-decent footage, if they’ve got it? Or take your chances, send in your cheap ass iPhone vid and hope it gets viewed favourably against John John’s HD, technicolour, close-up screamer dreamer?
Shit outta luck if you don’t have the tech or mates who have the tech.
This is “moving forward”, and “aligning” with the fans.
And, what about the judging system? Four in number. Three official WSL judges and one wild, exciting, new type of judge thrown into the mix. What could it be, I hear you wonder?
No more suspense. One of the official judges is the online punter, you, me, and every other digital “fan”.
How cool, eh? Now we get to make or break a surfer’s livelihood just by pushing buttons on our phones.
Inclusivity at its best from Vans and the Wozzle.
Alas, I’m confounded again, however.
If the “fans” vote, is this just going to be a sad, pathetic numbers game of “I’m more popular than you are na na na na na naaaa”? For example, JJF has 1.4 million Instagram followers. If he gets 10% of his fans to tap the app and clap clap clap for JJF. Plus five 5% on top of that for non John-fans. 210,000 votes.
On the other hand, Callum Robson, currently #12 in the Challenger Series rankings, only has 7,250 Insta followers. Just for the fuck of it, let’s go all in and say he magically gets 100% of his followers to vote for him and they all get a mate each to do the same (wishful thinking but indulge me). 14,500 votes.
Who the fuck gets the choccies there? Confused much?
Not content with reducing one of surfing’s most esteemed prizes to a TikTok circle jerk, there’s an extra layer of incomprehensible doolally with the inclusion of a “progressive craft” element.
Yep, one of a surfer’s six vids has to be on a “progressive craft”. Slight problem though. According to their own rules published on their website, the “progressive craft” must be a craft (their terminology, not mine) that’s not quite as progressive as what the current kids ride.
In fact, some of the “progressive crafts” recommended are over 100 years old. No fucking shit.
I bring to you our “progressive craft” suggestion list, as per the contest guidelines:
Fuck me, where do I kick off on this? The alaia, 100s of years old, if not a thousand. Longboards? Close to 100 years now. Twinnies? MR won titles on ‘em in the ‘70s. Bonzers? Campbell Brothers, 1970. You get the drift.
Surely it can’t be just me to wonder how the fuck riding a board from 100 years ago can be called a “progressive craft”? And why the fuck is it a compulsory component in the Triple Crown of Surfing?
Can they be any more ludicrously pretentious?
High-performance surfing has progressed beyond all of the “progressive” crafts listed to the toothpicks we have today. Granted, toothpicks are not for everyone, but the pros are riding the most “progressive craft” every fucking day. And, doing shit on them now that was pretty much impossible on any of the “craft” listed above.
There’s a reason they’re riding what they’re riding. It’s ’cause they’re the most progressive boards available.
Do they even know what progressive means? A five-second search on the Googlenet shows it’s favouring progress and improvement as opposed to maintaining the status quo.
Newsflash: High-performance surfers “progressed” beyond logs half a century ago. Fuck me.
Who comes up with this shit? And who rubber stamps it?
The WSL, that’s who. Remember, “This competition is sanctioned by the WSL”.
You reckon other sports are looking on enviously at the WSL, wondering how they can copy such genius?
Maybe right about now the bigwigs of Formula 1 admin are telling drivers like Lewis Hamilton they can only win the F1 title this year if they’ve driven a “progressive mobile” like, say, the Reliant Regal three-wheeler during one of the remaining Grand Prix races?
Or the Tour de France organisers sending out a memo telling riders they must complete a stage in The Pyrenees on a penny fucking farthing?
You can’t script this etc,