"I’d be laughing if it weren’t so f*cking frustrating. I want to love you, pro surfing, but you definitely don’t seem to love me back."
I wanted to watch surfing at the Lexus Pipe Pro today. I did. The weather is shit here, and I had nothing but time.
Surfing! I like to watch surfing. What could be more fun than to watch the pro women’s progression at Pipe? All winter I’ve seen clips from Moana and Carissa, among others getting barreled in bigger and better Pipe.
How could the Lexus Pipe Pro not be fun to watch?
Joke’s on me.
The joke’s on me for imagining that pro surfing would get out of its own way, get it together, and run an interesting competition. The joke’s on me for hoping that the women would have the opportunity to surf in decent waves at the Lexus Pipe Pro and show their best surfing.
I’d be laughing if it weren’t so fucking frustrating. I want to love you, pro surfing, but you definitely don’t seem to love me back.
Each time I turned on the women’s round one, after sitting through the requisite ads, I saw a flat ocean with three girls staring at the horizon. I have spent enough time in this pose in my own life, that I hardly need to watch someone else do it. Whoa, look at the pro’s! They can sit on their boards and gaze out to sea just like I can! I am learning so much and feeling so excited here.
It made me sad to see Carissa, surfing her final competition on Tour, desperately trying to get barreled in shit small Backdoor. She refused to go to turns and lost her heat. Carissa deserved better. Moana squeaked through with a .77 and a 2.20 behind Caroline Marks, who had a heat total under six. They deserved better, too.
The one highlight came from Molly Picklum, which will surprise no one at all. That’s her super power, and she found a short barrel at Backdoor that she finished with a solid turn for an 8.50. Out of six heats, we saw not much more than one good wave.
I’ve had days like that, sure. Every surfer has. There’s always those days when we paddle out and the conditions are aggressively mediocre or the crowd is apocalyptic. We lower our expectations until there’s next to nothing left. If I get one wave, just one, I’ll call it a win, I say.
Surfing has never made any of us any smarter, so of course we will totally believe a wave will come out of nowhere. It’s so definitely going to happen.
I’m not sure there’s anything especially inspiring in that dumb stubbornness that leads us to stay out there against all reason in the hope that the wind will turn, the crowd will thin, and the waves will finally come to us. Sometimes, it actually works out, but more often than not, we might as well have stayed in bed. Certainly, I don’t want to watch the whole ordeal happen to someone else.
I guess what I’m saying is, I think professional surfing should look better than our worst nightmare sessions. It should make surfing look fun, and like something I might like to do sometimes. I don’t think I’m asking for all that much here.
Apparently, I am.
When the WSL contest team chose to call the Lexus Pipe Pro off on Monday, they doomed the women to a small-wave comp. There’s no sugarcoating it. If the men ran in big surf on Monday, the women had a shot at playful, but still legitimate Pipe on Tuesday. That setup would have made sense. It would have been fun to watch. Too bad that’s not how it went.
It’s still hard to fathom Monday’s decision to call it off.
Sure, we’ve received the official explanation: There weren’t enough scoring waves. Additionally, it was too unruly and too dangerous. But those explanations sound so empty in a sport where professional surfers routinely paddle out in big and dangerous surf, and contest heats often have few, truly good waves on offer.
In theory, the surfers on the CT have a say in the call. I would love to hear exactly what went on behind the scenes. Who had the clout to call it off? Were the surfers divided over competing? Was the decision made by the surfers or by the WSL’s team? It would nice to have some transparency on these questions. Also, I want a pony.
So, there we all were.
There were surfers in the lineup ahead of the call, getting shacked. Yes, it was a hunt to find the good ones. But, that’s surfing. Strider posted on Instagram that he was ready to go. Clips of sick pits from the likes of Italo and Ethan started showing up on Instagram, too.
Still, the Lexus Pipe Pro remained on hold.
One hour, then two.
When they finally called it off, there were four guys in the lineup, wearing jerseys, ready to surf. What happened between the time they paddled out and the time the WSL called the contest off? None of this confusion and misdirection looks like a professional sport.
Worse, the men who have put in the time to charge big, heaving Pipe paid for the decision to play it safe.
And the women paid, too.
During her years on Tour, Steph Gilmore made it a priority to push behind the scenes for the women’s contests to run in better surf. She wanted women to have the chance to showcase their best surfing. For a time, she made a difference and we’ve seen some women’s events held in solid waves. In her absence, the younger women will need to step up, if they want to secure the opportunities they deserve. It’s clear that no one is going to do it for them.
Today was a disappointing day of competition if you love surfing and you love watching contests. There’s no way around it.
It’s become fashionable to criticize media for not telling pretty stories, not making it all rainbows and unicorns. It was wonderful, these critics would like us to say.
But to tell a story like that is to ignore what’s happening right in front of our eyes. We’ve got nothing left to sell out for.
Why wouldn’t we tell the truth?
Tomorrow’s another day at the Lexus Pipe Prop, and maybe it’ll get better.
That’s the mantra of every surfer anywhere, and it applies no less to every day surfers than it does to the pro’s. I would like to see the women get just one good day to show us what they can do in proper barreling Pipe. They can do it. And when they do, it’ll be beautiful. I’m sure of it.
Maybe tomorrow, then.