I woke early, yesterday morning, prepared a French press as the sun, crystal, danced upon palm fronds outside, logged on to the World Surf League’s lightly trafficked website and watched the numbers on the countdown clock tick down under an hour. Not my typical surf contest routine but JP Currie had been called to adventure and Derek Rielly figured he’d still be in bed when the hooter sounded so it was up to me to placehold, to not taint what has become high literary art.
The BeachGrit End of Day Surf Event Wrap.
I needed inspiration so reached toward the bookshelf, head still full of sleep, plucking Sense and Sensibility down and flipping to the opening line.
“It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains.”
Oh drat. Sense and Sensibility and Zombies. Longtom would never have cribbed from Sense and Sensibility and Zombies nor even have it upon his shelf at all and JP Currie would have smirked at my intellectual laziness but before I could properly curse my dim wits there burst into my cold living room the inspiring World Surf League rap song, something about body bags being delivered to the mortician, and then when finished, there popped onto my computer screen the World Surf League commissioner Jessi Miley-Dyer (née Cyrus), next to Rosie Hodge. who asked her, “Whaht is the rhan of bahzness today?”
Miley-Dyer smiled broadly, answering confidently, “We’re going to go for it today and crown champions in both the men’s and the women’s events. We have the men’s quarters in the water right now, we’re going to be following that up with the women’s semis and… you know… going through the two divisions to get to the end.”
It was the last time the word “women” was uttered for hours and hours and hours.
The women did not paddle out after the men’s quarters, no mention of them.
They did not paddle out after the men’s semis, no mention of them.
Finally, in the middle of the men’s finals, Miley-Dyer appeared again, looking as if she had seen a ghost, to claim the “wind” was making for “less optimal conditions” and that, at some unspecified future date, “hopefully we’ll have a final’s day for women.”
The World Surf League laughably bungles everything it touches, missing multiple waves per heat, producing Ultimate Surfer, but setting gender equality, worldwide, back by decades feels… serious.
Why wasn’t the commentating team of Chris, Rosie, Makua, Ross, Strider allowed to speak the word “women?”
Why was zero, absolutely zero, explanation proffered?
Only the sickest, most misogynistic, surf fan would have wanted the women fed to the reef at “the most dangerous wave in the world” and this, precisely, speaks to the World Surf League’s spew of false junk around the event.
Except it is not equal.
The men have cut their teeth on Pipeline’s boils and baubles for years and years and years. They go and fight and surf because Pipeline has been on tour for years and years and years, has been the “Proving Ground” for years and years and years. This has not been true for the women until this year. This first historic year. And if the League really cared about the women, was truly striving for “equality,” it would have paid the likes of Rochelle Ballard, Jamie O’Brien, Keala Kennelly herself to paddle out alongside its championship tour starlets and teach them.
Especially Rochelle Ballard.
It should have done this all winter long, starting with the eight weeks of non-stop surf leading up to the event, and should continue after the event window shuts too. Next year and next year and next year. It should have a plan, a program, a way forward for young championship tour hopefuls, learning them the ways, instead of using them like woke tokens, to paraphrase JP Currie.
And not to mention? Not to speak the word? To pretend, all day, the women didn’t exist, like the four remaining surfers Moana Jones Wong, Carissa Moore, Tyler Wright and Lakey Peterson, were embarrassments too grave for the world at large to behold?
To infantilize them?
Shameful and, at the end, I supposed Sense and Sensibility and Zombies rings true. It is a truth universally acknowledged that a zombie in possession of brains must be in want of more brains. The problem, here, is that our zombie World Surf League ain’t in possession of brains. It merely has a head full of empty, meaningless phrases.
Of performative nonsense.