Surf’s most prestigious award has turned into “TikTok circle jerk”.
When WSL’s biggest avowed fan, @surfads, in part described WSL’s recent efforts as “Turning a silly, silly but still unique athletic outfit into a generic, compliant, corporate glory hole,” I nodded in agreement and felt there was not much more to say.
Especially coming in so hot on my heels The ultimate surfer where a guy and a girl got a spot in WCT events by surfing in a pool and winning lifelong dream prizes like SUPs, I didn’t think the WSL could make itself more nerdy and vulgar, or even more down his product.
On second thought, that’s crap.
He can, and he did.
When @surfads wrote their post, I commented that it would take way too long to unbox everything that’s wrong with WSL right now, but it was a loophole. I hate peanut gallery assholes who laugh at your efforts without offering any explanation, so for that reason I want to identify a few blatant examples of the WSL clusterfuck sticking out like crap on Meghan Markle’s shoes.
This is the first part.
@surfads lamented the lack of a pipe contest to end the year, so what better place to start than Hawaii? Specifically, the Triple Crown of Surf.
And, while TCOS is hosted this year by Vans and Stab, the official Vans TCOS website says, “This competition is WSL sanctioned”, so that’s good enough for me.
Presented for decades as the most prestigious title to win in addition to being crowned world champion of surfing, the Triple Crown of Surfing has always been something that matters in the world of surfing.
Especially for Hawaiians.
A list of Triple Crown winners since its inception in 1983 shows a who’s who of surf royalty.
Michael Ho, Derek Ho, Kong, Tom Carroll, Sunny, Kelly, Andy, Parko, John John, Gabe.
It’s a very impressive list.
And why wouldn’t it be, when you look at the historical format of TCOS itself? Three competitions, all in big wave spots where big waves explode on shallow reefs.
You had to be a fucking good surfer to make all the shebang.
If we use a starting point in competitions like Round 64 for the best guys, to win a competition you have to go five rounds against all the best surfers in the world, in some of the scariest and most intimidating waves in the world. No one has ever won all three TCOS contests in a single year (I think), so let’s just play a little game of averages for fun.
Let’s say that the results of a surfer on the three contests were final, quarters, quarters. It would bring them closer to the gong most years. From R64, that means our surfer would have spent about eight or nine rounds out of three races. Going through so many rounds in Hawaii against all of the best guys in the world in huge, dangerous and powerful conditions, including the locals who love nothing more than shitting on out of town blows, is really tough.
And that’s why the TCOS Champions List includes eight world champions and several top three like Julian Wilson and Gary Elkerton.
You win the TCOS and that’s a big deal. Something that earns the respect of everyone in the surfing community, among them even the most grumpy and reluctant old naysayers.
Well, it was.
Because now what was the prestigious TCOS is gone. Nuked, denied, and fucking gutting. There are no more contests. Nothing. No four-man round. No two-man round. No paddle battles. No local intimidation. No Wolfpak or black shorts. No interference calls. No Hawaiian outsiders. No buzzer beaters. No dashboard pressure or commentator curses.
Why? Because The Triple Crown of Surfing is now a fully online digital competition.
(Not related to doctors sticking their fingers in your asshole.)
To enter and win the Triple Crown of Surfing, you now just need to take a few videos of your surfing, then submit them online (don’t forget to tag @vanstriplecrownofsurfing) and hope the judges like your “content” . I am not making this up.
Outside with the old, with the hip and the new.
More than a little confused by this new turn of events, I tried to make sense of it all. Big failure.
When I first looked through the rules format, the first thing that popped into my stunned, spinning glasses head revolved around the videos that surfers have to submit. Half of the surfers on the tour don’t even have major sponsors, so I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that most of them don’t have dedicated filmers following them with the new video camera. RED 8K at $ 80,000.
Exhibit A. Connor O’Leary, former WQS overall winner, WCT Rookie of the Year and winner of the most recent Challenger Series event, who just requalified for next year’s CT tour. Ride on a board without a pure white sticker.
Think Quiksilver’s video editors are just putting the finishing touches on his signature film as we speak? What is that? Did they let him go?
To take it a step further, what if the poor reckless old 86-rated surfer pulls out the Pipe winter wave in the dark, the dying evening light and all he has to show, is that his girlfriend’s grainy iPhone video where he looks like an ant on a piece of bread?
Is the poor guy then forced into an exorbitant bidding war with rival beach videographers for half-decent footage, if they have it? Or take your chances, upload your cheap iPhone video and hope it gets viewed favorably over John John’s HD, technicolor, close-up howler dreamer?
Damn no luck if you don’t have the tech or friends who have the tech.
It’s “moving forward” and “aligning” with the fans.
And what about the judgment system? Four in number. Three official WSL judges and a wild and exciting new type of judge have been added to the mix. What could it be, I hear you ask?
No more suspense. One of the official judges is the online bettor, you, me and all the other digital “fans”.
How cool is it? Now we can make or break a surfer’s livelihood just by pushing the buttons on our phones.
Inclusiveness at its best with Vans and the Wozzle.
Alas, I am confused again, however.
If the “fans” vote, is it going to be a sad and pathetic numbers game of “I’m more popular than you na na na na na naaaa”? For example, JJF has 1.4 million followers on Instagram. If he gets 10% of his fans to press the app and clap clap clap for JJF. Plus five 5% more for non John fans. 210,000 votes.
In contrast, Callum Robson, currently No. 12 in the Challenger Series chart, has only 7,250 Insta subscribers. Just for the fun of it, let’s go all out and say he magically gets 100% of his followers to vote for him and they all get a mate each to do the same (wishful thinking but please me ). 14,500 votes.
Who the fuck has the chocolates in there? Much confused?
Not content with reducing one of surfing’s most esteemed prices to a TikTok circle jerk, there’s an extra layer of incomprehensible doolly with the inclusion of a “progressive craft” element.
Yes, one of the six videos of a surfer must be on a “progressive apparatus”. Small problem however. According to their own rules posted on their website, progressive crafting must be a craft (their terminology, not mine) that is not as progressive as what today’s kids are riding.
In fact, some of the recommended “progressive trades” are over 100 years old. No fucking shit.
I bring you our list of “progressive craft” suggestions, as per the contest guidelines:
Fuck me where do i start? L’alaia, a hundred years old, if not a thousand. Longboard? Almost 100 years now. Twins? MR won titles over them in the 70s. Bonzers? Campbell Brothers, 1970. You understand the drift.
Surely I’m not the one wondering how this mess of a board from 100 years ago can be called a “progressive profession”? And why the hell is this a mandatory component of the Triple Crown of Surfing?
Can they be more ridiculously pretentious?
High performance surfing has progressed beyond all of the “progressive” trades listed to the toothpicks we have today. Admittedly, toothpicks are not for everyone, but the pros ride on the most “progressive” machine every day. And, doing shit on them now, that was pretty much impossible on any of the “gear” listed above.
There’s a reason they roll on what they roll. This is because these are the most progressive boards available.
Do they even know what progressive means? Five-second research on Googlenet shows that it promotes progress and improvement as opposed to maintaining the status quo.
Flash info: top surfers “progressed” beyond newspapers half a century ago. Fuck me.
Who comes with this shit? And who stamps it?
Who is the WSL? Remember: “This competition is sanctioned by the WSL”.
Do you think other sports are watching the WSL with envy, wondering how they can copy such a genius?
Maybe right now the bigwigs in the Formula 1 administration are telling drivers like Lewis Hamilton that they can only win the F1 title this year if they’ve driven a “rover.” progressive ‘like, say, the Reliant Regal three wheeler during one of the remaining races of the Grand Prix?
Or the organizers of the Tour de France sending out a memo telling riders they have to finish a stage in the Pyrenees with a goddamn penny?
You can’t script this, etc.