by Corky Carroll
I get asked a lot about what I think of the current state of professional surfing. This normally will come along with a “did you see the latest event online?” Over the years I have followed the current pro events, sort of with an on and off approach. I watch some of them, or part of some of them, but not all of them or all of any of them. It’s hard for me to stay engaged due to the fact I have a huge difference of opinion on how they score rides these days.
Let me explain, but first I wanna clear up that we are only talking about pro surfing competition. Not the current state of surfing itself, which I think is over the moon fantastic. It’s the competition I have issues with. This might seem weird as I was definitely a competing pro surfer during my time and I should be more supportive of it. And it’s not the competition aspect of it that I am really talking about either, I am all good with that. It is the way they score that I don’t agree with.
I will say that the contests have come a long way and are much better today than back when I was doing it. We had 6 people in a heat and the heats were short, sometimes only 12 mins. And they counted your best 5 rides. These days they have 30 mins and it’s only 2 of them at a time, plus they have people on jet skis to give them rides back to the lineup after each ride. And on top of that they only count your best 2 rides. How cool is that? Amazing upgrade from my time.
Now, to finally get to the point of this weeks rambling, what’s my beef? It started many years ago when I was watching one of the U.S. Open events at the Huntington Beach Pier. There were two surfers in the heat I was watching. The first one took off on a huge bomb set wave and came screaming down the line from way deep in the wave, he took a high line and got an enormous amount of speed. As he came close to the pier he got covered up and entered the pier at full speed inside the curl, he somehow made it thru the pier while totally inside the barrel of the wave and got spit out on the other side. Amazing ride.
The other guy took off on a smaller wave, which was kind of mushy, and did a whole bunch of turns on it. He was actually just turning back and forth for no reason other than to just keep turning. When the scores came in the first guy got a 4 and the second guy got an 8. I was dumbfounded. I would have called that totally the other way around.
Just recently I was watching one of the events this year and a similar thing happened. Surfer one took a great wave and rode it from beginning to end going full speed and riding right in the pocket. He did some nice turning and his style was excellent. Expert surfing. Surfer two took off on a close out wave and popped a big ariel move. But as the wave had no shape he just ended up going straight off in the white water. Same deal. Surfer one got a 4 and surfer two got an 8. In my eyes that was completely wrong, it was the other way around.
Sooo, obviously I am an old school dinosaur who just doesn’t get it when it comes to modern competitive surfing. I still think style should count.
The saving grace is that some of the events are held in big enough surf that the “one move” thing doesn’t factor in. Like the Pipeline Master or the Eddie Aikau Invitational at Waimea Bay.
I do appreciate the amazing talent of todays pro surfers though, they are doing the things we only dreamed of a half century ago. And we did dream of this stuff. I can remember talking with Mickey Munoz when boards were first going short and saying that soon people would be able to get enough speed to get air. Now it’s air and beyond. Which is great, but I still feel that it’s the total ride, beginning to end, that is what should be taken into account for the scoring. Not just one big move.
And so speaks a surfing cave dude.