A quandary wrapped in a short john.
The WSL longboard tour kicked off at Manly yesterday as an addendum to the Challenger Series event.
The old Jayco pop-top caravan hitched to the back of a late-series Landcruiser. Impractical. Outdated. But undeniably cool, or at least the WSL hoped.
It was a day for it. Beautiful autumn conditions. A weak twofoot swell lolling into the Manly bay. Light offshore winds. Just enough angle to offer the peaks and rincons so coveted by the plus-sized crew.
Twenty men and twenty women from across the globe. Each out to taste success under (now former) Tour Commissioner Devon Howard’s revamped, old-is-new criteria.
Longboarding can be beautiful, too. But it is also subjective.
Subtle shifts of weight, almost imperceptible nuances in movements are often seemingly the only discernable difference in scoring rides.
Brazil’s Chloe Calmon was one stand out. She would cut back, stalk the pocket. Set her rail. Cross step to the nose. Her toes splayed out like breadsticks on a charcuterie. She would hold it. Hold it. Then shuffle back down as the wave imploded. A nine point three.
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Competitive longboarding is topical, too. Relevant. Not just because the incumbent world champion is banned from competition. Or because the tour commissioner has become deposed before the tour even started.
It is topical because it is a champion of gender equality and transgender rights. Readers of libertine surf media like BeachGrit, men amongst other men, mainly, ponder the moral implications of a Manly logger transitioning to women’s competition and wiping the floor with her opponents.
It’s a quandary wrapped in a short john. One made even more topical by the local Manly conservative candidate Katherine Deves in the lead up to this weekend’s federal election.
It seems less of an issue in real life, though.
It was definitely not an issue for the surfers down there on the fine-grained Manly beach.
Harrison Roach moved with the sleekness of a Navy destroyer. Parted the water like it was scripture. The jerky, spasmodic shortboarder would quiver in pathetic fear as this majestic vision of steeze slid past. He would cut into the pocket. Set his rail with a subtle upwards inflection. Cross step to the nose. His toes flopped over the edge like indolent teens hanging out the side of a pool on a summer’s afternoon. He would hold it. Hold it. Hold it. Then shuffle back down the board as the wave imploded. A seven.
One question I did have about the transgender thing, though. If somebody transitioned, could they then travel back in time to fuck their younger self? It would be just like the grandfather paradox, but the other way around. Obviously they can’t self-impregnate, but then again Michael J Fox almost fucked his mum in Back to the Future.
What sort of havoc would that cause? Has anybody asked Katherine Deves or the BeachGrit commentariat about that?
These are the important questions.
Phil Rajzman was another famous name in the water. He was more aggressive in his approach than the others. He would shoot up and grip his toes to the nose like a marine grips his M16. He would hold it. Hold it. Hold. Shoot back down the board as the wave imploded. But he was unable to throw his patented chop-hops now the tour has taken its own Back to the Future path. Four point seven.
And that was about it.
Some won their heats. Others did not. There was no real discernible difference to the naked eye. Despite its social progressiveness, despite its undeniable sense of cool, how will professional competitive longboarding ever achieve the WSL’s stated goal of mainstream crossover success when it is so impenetrable, so inscrutable? So hard to read?
Not like our shortboarders, thankfully.
The competition will now continue, intermixed with the Challenger series event.