Erik Logan, are you watching?
The Billabong Pro Pipeline née Masters is but hours away and as much as we may want to excite, thrill, at our heroes back in singlets, a certain exhaustion looms. Oh, professional organized surfing is a fun-adjacent way to kill a work day but, let’s be honest with each other, how many heats are actually worth watching?
How many surfers, themselves, are (a fact made truly clear with Karl Von Fanningstadt’s brilliant Power Rankings)?
Does Leonardo Fioravanti vs. Deivid Silva vs. Nat Young (heat 12) get your heart pumping? What about Frederico Morais vs. Miguel Pupo vs. Jackson Baker (heat 8)?
Morgan Cibilic vs. Connor O’Leary vs. Caio Ibelli (heat 3)?
Italo Ferreira vs. Callum Robson vs. Miguel Tudela (heat 5)?
No because rarely do we get to see the surfers we want battling each other or the surfers we want full stop.
The World Surf League tried to remedy by introducing the “Final’s Day” concept which works well enough (minus Lower Trestles) except why was it not pushed further? Why was the very idea of seeding based upon standing tossed into the trash and lit on fire?
Take snowboarding’s Natural Selection, currently underway in gorgeous Jackson Hole, Wyoming (watch day one here). Now I know that your eyes roll when I get to talking about snowboarding but the tour’s format is simply superior. There is, first, no qualifying series. The snowboarders are chosen and generally the ones fans want to see. There is, second, no seeding. The events begin with gathering of riders wherein one name is drawn. That man, or woman, then chooses whom she, or he, will go head to head against. Repeat until the bracket is finished.
But what utter joy. The selection of opponent is a fun bacchanal but just underneath the surface, tension reigns. The competitors whose names are drawn generally choose whom they think they can beat leading to lightly pricked egos leading to added fire on the first run day.
Each rider gets two laps, loser goes home.
As there are no Miguel Tudela equivalents, each heat is worth watching and imagine the glee we professional surf fans would experience if this was adopted by our WSL. Whom would tanned, rested and ready Kelly Slater select? What about young Ivan Florence? Mason Ho would certainly be invited and whom would he select?
Tell me this would not be much better than our current Griffin Colapinto vs. Liam O’Brien vs. Matthew McGillivray (heat 2).
Tell me this is not what you’d prefer.