by Corky Carroll
I was just doing my morning scan of my Facebook page and saw that my pal, world renown big wave charger Jeff Clark, posted this, “WSL calls off Mavericks to focus on becoming a Media Company. Looks like surfing Mavericks because you really want it, and because you love it will hopefully become the norm again.” At first I just kinda went, “oh well, good for the hard-core locals at Mavericks, bad for the guys trying to make a living on the WSL Big Wave Tour.” Two sides to every story. But then I thought about it and some legit questions sort of found their way into my waterlogged and barely functioning little mind. Here are my thoughts on this as I sit here with my coffee looking out the window at some good waves that will require my attention as soon as I finish with this.
The World Surfing League (WSL) is the governing body of pro surfing events all over the world. This includes the Championship Pro Tour, the Big Wave Tour and various Longboard events. The reasoning, as I understand it from the media reports, for dropping the Mavericks event was the logistics involved. Mavericks is located at Half Moon Bay, just south of San Francisco, and breaks pretty far from shore. Not an easy place to watch a surf event and not in an area that is going to get a whole lot of media attention, other than hard core surf press. So, it looks like a business decision. Let’s look deeper.
Last year the WSL took the “Trestles” pro event off the World Championship Tour schedule in favor of holding one at Kelly Slaters “Surf Ranch.” This was not received all that well, especially here in Orange County where “Trestles” is located. It turns out that the WSL actually purchased the Surf Ranch and has plans of building a second one in Florida, possibly more after that. So, what we are seeing here is that the WSL is not only the governing body of professional surfing, but is also a functioning business. And, as so, is, as all businesses are, committed to the good old bottom line. So, looking at it from that perspective, holding an event in your own arena over holding one at one of the California’s best surf spots, one that is right here in San Clemente, would appear to make more business sense.
As my thoughts wander on, what do these things mean looking down the road for the future of pro surfing competition? Does it mean more events in artificial wave pools? With the WSL itself owning this technology, and having the control, it could certainly make you think that this could be a strong possibility. And, the real burning question here is, “is this a good or bad thing?” This is a huge question with two sides to it, pros and cons each way.
Those who are against the competition in wave pools say that it takes away the skill of reading the surf, judging when and where the waves are going to come and the talent it takes to deal with the unpredictability of each and every wave as it unravels. To many this is the very essence of surfing. Surfer, board and nature. It’s spontaneous and exciting.
The argument for competition in wave pools is that everybody has a totally equal chance. Every wave is the same and so it comes down to who rides the wave the best and not who gets the best wave. There is also the fact that there is arena viewing, concessions and all that stuff. They can charge people to get in to see it, sell them food, drinks and souvenir items in the gift shops. Also, you know that the surf is gonna be there on any given day. At real surf spots you never know, there has to be a waiting period, and even then it can be hit or miss.
Oh yeah, there is one more side. And this goes back to Jeff Clarks comment that led me on this rant. The part about this leaving Mavericks to those who really want it and love it. Believe me when I say that there are a lot of surfers who would love to NOT have surfing contests held at their favorite spots for a number of reasons. I have been on both sides of that conversation.
So anyway, that is my little wandering into what may or may not come about in the world of surfing competition. Remember when all the stuff on Star Trek was total fiction?