It doesn't always go to script.
It’s hard to call the lowlights on a year of surfing that was very positive, for the sport, for the surfers, and for the viewing public. Everything about pro surfing seemed to gain momentum in 2016, and it looks like it’s going to be the best ever 2017 for the world of surfing. Here are a few of the things that weren’t ideal, but all played their bit in the year of surfing.
Wilko Loses Momentum
After his sterling start to the year and the two-event wins banked, it seemed there were all sorts of ‘what-if’ conversations going on. The tour joker looked set to become a world champion and wouldn't that just turn the tour on its head? Party hard, have as much fun as possible, and still win a world title by beating all the athletes and professionally trained young hopefuls. It was an interesting line of thought, and there were people who believed that he would be able to wrap up a world title by JBay. Despite not winning that world title he ended up an extremely proficient 5th on the Jeep Leaderboard, and won the award for the biggest bar tab of the year after winning Bells.
Slater And The 12th
There are very few people who want to see Slater walk away from the tour, and the majority of surf fans would love for him to win another world title. While it is going to be hard for him to walk away from the tour after 2017, it is a decision he has to make. He either walks away regardless after the season with his head held high, or he runs the risk of falling off the tour in a nondescript manner at a spectator-less beach on a windy, rainy afternoon somewhere like Cheyne Horan did all those years ago.
The Pipe Final
It was a cracker of a tube fest up to that moment that the final started, when the ocean decided to give up the ghost, give a big old middle finger to the world, and stop sending pulses of any type whatsoever. That final proved to showcase so many things that are problematic with professional surfing on any level, as the world beamed in and watched two surfers sitting quietly and doing nothing in a somewhat lifeless ocean. Luckily the WSL does have a crack team of web commentators who keep the story alive when the ocean fails to deliver, but it still was an agonizingly slow heat to watch despite the best work from Pottz and Joey Turpel. Worked in the favour of The Spartan however, who snuck one sick barrel to win and become a Pipe Master over Kanoa Igarashi.
The Owen Wright Saga
After suffering that vicious Pipe blow to the head, subsequent concussion and minor bleeding on the brain, Owen has had a torrid year undergoing massive rehabilitation and trying to get onto his feet again. Owen and his family kept it tight throughout the year, and we were allowed little glimpses of his recovery throughout. It wasn't much though, and it wasn't all positive, including his non-belief in what had transpired, the fact that he went surfing but couldn't get to his feet, and people spotting him throughout the year not looking all that good. He’s looking strong for a 2017 return, but his injury wildcard will only be activated if he passes a full medical evaluation.
The Abating Brazilian Storm
We have loved the rise and rise of the Brazilian contingent, and the way in which the nation is focusing on taking over the world tour, but this year saw somewhat less of a storm than what was expected. Without wishing to detract from their incredible surfing advances as a nation, they only managed one Championship Tour victory this year, being Gabriel at the Fiji Pro, (6 victories in 2015) and at year-end they only had two surfers in the top 10 in Gabriel and Filipe (4 surfers in 2015, including a world champ). With a few more Brazilian surfers coming through The Grind it’s likely that 2017 could be another massive year for the contingent, but 2016 was not their best
There was much talk about the Wave Pool revolution, and when WSL Holdings bought the Kelly Slater Wave Company, there were many conversations about possible wave pool tour events, the Olympics to be held at a man-made wave, and all sorts of wild synergistic possibilities. There were other wave pools out there, and it seemed like it was all on track for a brave new world. Then Snowdonia started having technical shut downs, Wave Garden technology remained physically as a tiny wave no matter what size was promised, and the NLand Pool in Texas flooded local houses during drainage, and was subsequently shut down. At this stage it seems that there is no tie-in between the Championship Tour and wave pool surfing, despite the hype, and it’s possibly a good thing.