There are so many things wrong with professional surfing. None of it really matters though, in the face of the one major thing that is so totally wrong: Professional surfing is IMPOSSIBLE to judge fairly. It can’t be done! How does one fairly judge things like speed, power, and flow? How does one fairly judge two surfers on two different waves in the same heat? In other sports, certain points are assigned to certain things. In snowboarding, the score doesn’t ever depend on the mountain. In skateboarding, the score doesn’t ever depend on the ramp. It doesn’t because that would be a terrible way to score something. But surfers, with all our reverence for waves, decided that because waves hold perhaps the biggest role in our production, they should also hold the most powerful sway over scores in events.
Let’s get back to the title of this piece. Rio sucks, wave-wise. Everyone knows it. I’m sure it’s fun for those that live in Brazil, and for surfers who travel there. My wave by my house is probably on par with the ones at Postinho and Grumari. It is fun enough for me, but if a Tour event ever showed up there, people would have a fit. It is not, by any means, one of the best waves in the world. Ever.
But like I’ve said many times before, though, Rio is kind of a necessary evil if you want to watch pro surfing–there is no where else that gets more feet on the beach and eyes on the webcast than Rio. Want to watch great events at Teahupoo? Well, you’ll have to sit through Rio. Brazil’s got a larger population that Tahiti, which means more money for advertisements, which means more money to run events in those far-flung places with really, really good waves. But wait! Kelly Slater made a wave smack in the middle of California, remember?
Here’s a rumor you might’ve heard: Dirk Ziff, the billionaire behind the WSL’s curtain, actually owns Kelly’s wave. How much sense does that make? It makes dollars and sense. Kelly Slater is the most well-known surfer on the planet. People who don’t surf know who he is, because he is handsome and has green or blue eyes and was on Baywatch and has dated Pamela Anderson. Clearly and understandably, the World Surf League wants to bring surfing to the masses, just like football and baseball. Not everyone who watches football plays it. You don’t have to live near a stadium to watch it. You can just watch it, pick a team, and follow them passionately, buying jerseys and getting shit-faced in parking lots, making the NFL/MLB billions of dollars. Here’s a simple fact, though: the way the tour is now, with all of Mother Nature’s hissy fits and flat spells, the only people that will ever consistently watch the average pro surfing event are surfers. Small, Rio-like waves hold almost zero interest for someone who can’t appreciate what the surfers are actually doing. But Kelly’s wave? It’s perfect. It’s exactly the same every time. A wave funnels through every five-or-so-minutes. There can be certain points for certain tricks. Maybe time bonuses for time spent in the barrel. Judging becomes about the surfing, the surfing is no longer completely dependent on the wave, and most of all, non-surfers watching can finally understand what the fuck in going on, then buy jerseys and place bets and try their hardest to surf in wave pools, leaving the ocean to the rest of us. Webcasts would be easy, there’s no need for a waiting period, and good Lord, if it takes some people out of the ocean, let’s have it!
Another great thing? It’d be possible to put a wave in every home country of every surfer on tour, making it possible for everyone to have the home field advantage. Or, conversely, put it in Russia or something, giving no one the home field advantage. Kelly’s wave is the only way to put pro surfing on a level playing field.
So I say let’s start off by kicking Rio off the tour and putting Kelly’s wave on it. And while we’re at it, let’s get rid of Bells, too. I love the history, I would love to surf the wave, but I do not love watching anyone surf on it. As much as I love the excitement of the Oi Rio Pro, it needs to go. For pro surfing to really work, it needs a stadium. Kelly’s wave is the future of competitive surfing. Surfing in the ocean is for video clips and us regular folk, not for judges and events. Surfing in a pool is for contests, and only for contests. If Ziff already owns Kelly’s wave, you can bet that’s what his grand design is… and I hope I’m right.