"I wonder if some of you get up every day and stir the milk into your coffee, thinking about what you can write that day that might humiliate the WSL."
A worse start to the 2024 World Surf League Championship Tour could not be imagined. Balky messaging beforehand led directly to a much-anticipated day one of the Lexus Pipe Pro. It was a moment that should have been applauded by those who toil on either side of the Wall of Positive Noise. Fine waves greeted the morning, crossed up and weird but crackling with the possibility of superlative.
As the sun set, though, only one storyline would dominate. The World Surf League’s twice, and sitting, champion, crowned at Lower Trestles both times due the introduction of “Finals Day,” was too afraid to paddle and got bumped out citing “food poisoning.”
The Filipe Toledo drama metastasized in the days that followed, called off thanks to unfavorable conditions, with the world’s best small wave surfer becoming extremely defensive and surly, his surrogates more defensive and more surly, the World Surf League maintaining its patented head-in-the-sand silence.
After days upon days of “Toledo Wouldn’t Go” headlines, nature gifted a swell large enough, exciting enough, to bury the Brazilian lede.
While surf fans sat at home watching bombs on Surfline, reeling as Italo Ferreira, Ethan Ewing and more threaded the glories, the World Surf League hemmed, hawed, delayed then finally called the day off with the narrative of it being “too big” baking in.
Surf fans lit fire to the World Surf League’s social medias while its twin acting, though non-surfing, CEOs kept hush hush alongside lower downs.
The World Surf League’s owner, billionaire Dirk Ziff, has only been forward-facing once in his stewardship of professional surfing. Back in 2018, when being crowned co-Waterperson of the Year alongside his wife, Ziff took to the stage and delivered a memorable speech including the passage:
Some of you are here in this canyon. Journalists, and other influential voices who unload on social media. I wonder if some of you get up every day and stir the milk into your coffee, thinking about what you can write that day that might humiliate the WSL. It goes way beyond constructive criticism, which we all need and which the WSL frequently deserves, and into the realm of foul spirited attack, which I think we can all agree we have enough of right now in this country.
I have a message to the haters, and it is simple. Be tough. Call us out. Keep us honest. Tell us what we need to improve.
But don’t pretend you don’t know that when you go beyond constructive criticism and cynically try to rally negative sentiment towards the WSL, when you try to take us down, you are not just going after us. You are going after Kelly Slater. You are trying to take down Lakey Peterson. You are going after the dreams of Caroline Marks and Griffin Colapinto. You are undermining the hopes of every kid who lives with salt in their hair, dreaming of being a world champion one day.
And I ask you: Why? It seems pretty obvious that if the WSL keeps growing in popularity, and surfing takes its rightful place among the great and elite competitive sports, everyone connected with our sport, and certainly all the members of SIMA, will prosper, except maybe a few grumpy locals who have to deal with some new faces in the lineup. So…why not work together?
Imagine how he feels now.
Foul-spirited attacks to the moon.
I think we also must assume the “why not work together?” is officially off the table.
What a complete tool.