"Any remaining connection was obliterated when the WSL ran cover for Filipe Toledo, whose debilitating lack of fortitude should have precluded him from ever attaining a title…"
To whom it may concern at the World Surf League
Congratulations are in order. You’ve finally done it. You’ve finally driven me away from the World Surf Tour. As with the World’s end according to TS Elliot, my love for the World Tour ended not with a bang, but with a whimper.
There was no climactic moment of apoplectic disgust, I simply found myself completely uninterested in your entire enterprise .
I’ll hereby offer my reasons why I no longer tune in not as a courtesy to the World Surf League itself, but to the surfer athletes who’ve made the tour so enjoyable over the decades.
Firstly I think it’s fair to establish my credentials as a generic and anonymous example of the primary audience demographic. I’m in my early fifties, a life-long surfer whose passion, drive and commitment towards surfing has only gotten stronger as the years pass.
This is from a very strong base. I’ve set my life up to accomodate my love of surfing. I’ll travel extensively to find good surfing opportunities ie by the time I return to Oz on my current jaunt, I’ll have clocked up nearly five months in Indonesia over three trips since September last year.
I’ve got cash to spend on consumer items pushed by tour sponsors. I buy cars, ladders, beverages and trips to tourism regions.
I’m an avid, nearly compulsive consumer of surf media.
In short, I’m the proverbial fish-in-a-barrel as far as World Surf League target audiences go, yet you’ve lost me. Despite a thermonuclear level of momentum in your favour and exclusively as a direct result your own actions, I now have no desire to partake in anything you offer.
How did you so successfully snatch defeat from the jaws of victory? There’s a myriad of reasons but they all stem from your steadfast refusal to release your totalitarian corporate grip over the tour to even the slightest degree.
This trickle-down tyranny is upstream of every repellent facet of your product.
Relentless inauthenticity seemed to be the goal at every opportunity. From attempts to greenwash the most vacuous carbon generating pursuit on earth to the jaw-breaking phonetics meant to illustrate commitment to local culture whilst you simultaneously try to overwhelm the wishes of local host cultures from Torquay to Hawaii.
The corporate fabulist presenters and administration who offer up a dish of such blatantly transparent bullshit that it can only be interpreted as contempt for the audience. The insipid blandness of imagination that somehow managed to strip one of life’s most raw and widely romantic experiences of any genuine emotion.
The dead hand of non-surfing sporting administrators choking any spontaneous joy with their pre-scripted storylines. Smothering anything not preconceived in some suburban Southern Californian office block.
The Final’s Day at Trestles was the straw that broke this camel’s back.
I used to treat the final event with reverence and ritual. Usually staged in the inconvenient Hawaiian timezone, I would nonetheless set my alarm and crack a beer in the predawn and enthusiastically devote myself to complete immersion in the unfolding drama.
True champions duelling in ferocious waves. Waves that challenged them to reach beyond their own ability, courage and commitment to grab that world title. It meant something to the surfers and to the audience. People literally risking their lives for the title lends undeniable gravitas to the accomplishment and a captivating attraction to the spectator.
Last season, I was only half way out the door before the World Title was decided in sloppy head-high detritus in California. Points leaders robbed of their claim in a farcical pantomime. Any and all interest, emotion and spectacle choked from the moment through a clinically uncaring World Surf League decision-making process. A process which shows no apparent concern to either the best interests of the sport, the art or the global surf community which has existed for years before some non surfing kook billionaire took it upon himself to hitch his little wagon to the pro tour vehicle.
This cold spoon to my love of Tour surfing was so effective that I didn’t even realise this year’s Tour had commenced until I started seeing it mentioned during online chats on surf sites. That’s when I noticed that the tour held no interest to me whatsoever.
I’d had enough.
Any remaining connection was obliterated when I read that the World Surf League was once again running cover for a World Title holder whose debilitating lack of fortitude should rightfully have precluded him from ever attaining a title, that a day of competition at the ultimate world surfing arena was passed over due to “safety concerns” and that the commentators were once again earnestly applying lipstick to the ensuing pig of a situation.
When Laura Enever, a good surfer who prolonged her career by basically becoming a stuntwoman, is reading from a script that tells us surfing is dangerous and the World’s best should sit on the beach until the ocean assumes a benevolent calm, that’s when I knew the hideous corporate takeover no longer cared how obvious it’s stranglehold has become.
There was a sad little point of reflection that I acknowledged that I just don’t give a fuck anymore ’cause I’ve really enjoyed being in love with pro surfing over the years.
The inspirational performances, the drama. The pure surfing talent on display. I’m not angry that you’ve taken this once-loved pursuit of human endeavour and taken a giant steaming dump fair down its neck. That you’ve somehow managed to wring every scrap of authenticity from the theatre. That’s probably because the real draw card, the surfers who strive to be their best and THE best still, hold that authenticity deep within them and no amount of owner-manager shitfuckery will ever eradicate the true appeal during their temporary reign over the organised aspect of surfing.
So enjoy it while you can WSL.
Enjoy bestowing yourselves with ludicrous Waterman of the Year titles. Enjoy running your promotions for the World Surf League while live action unfolds off screen. Enjoy hand-picking a commentary team that censors itself into bland parody to avoid being thrown into the career abyss reserved for those who show the slightest hint of controversial opinion.
Because sooner or later you’ll be gone.
Just another dreary footnote in a historic hit parade of opportunistic parasites who leched onto the sport. If Pro Aurfing is the fundamental pimping of surfing then you’re running your stable of high-class hookers out of a public toilet block without even a courtesy wash between services.
Grubby, ugly and ordinary. You won’t last.
Fingers crossed for a happy rebirth of the Tour in the near future.
Something that works for everyone – the surfers, the audience, the location hosts and the tour organisers who might even hold an interest in surfing.
Until then it’s just another year of tepid blah.
Count me out, thanks.