A good use of public funds or the selling of our sport?
Now nothing screams high performance surfing like this photo here does it? Of course there is Bede Durbidge at the end, looking dapper in the brown cords and his best “going out" shirt. You’ll see another surfer, grom wunderkid Zahli Kelly next to him, as well as seven-times world champion Layne Beachley wedged in the middle, laughing with all the suits.
But just what the flip is going on? Is this, finally, a rebrand to make surfing look cool again? Cause nothing screams cool like seven 50+ men standing around a shovel in ill-fitting suits.
If you look beyond the smug smiles and sweaty dials though, the logos might be a giveaway. These men and women were on hand this week to announce a six million dollar expansion of The Hurley Surfing Australia High Performance Centre (HPC). The new facility will be four times the size of the current one located at Casuarina and will be opened in mid 2018.
In effect the six million bucks is the first firehose of funds aimed at the sport resulting from surfing’s inclusion in the Olympics. The centre now becomes an Australian Olympic Committee (AOC) Recognised Training Facility, as well as a New South Wales Institute of Sport (NSWIS) National Training Centre. Hence all those Sports Administrative CEO’s lined up behind a shovel.
You might be asking just what does the six million bucks get for surfing in the modern era. Well, crucially, it allows for underground parking for 18 vehicles and a couple of 100-seat auditoriums, which is essential if any of our “athletes” are to stride on the podium in Japan in 2020. After all, we couldn’t have prospective bronze medalists parking their sponsor provided 4X4s out in the salt lash winds of Casuarina could we?
Now of course, we are being slightly cynical. Another way of looking at it is that the six million bucks is just five per cent of what the government has paid to ask the public what their views are on two adults getting married. I for one would rather see that money going into foam pits rather than used to create a platform for bigots and fuckwits to spread their hate. And apart from car parks the money will also be used for a bigger and better AIS Aerial Surf Skate Training Facility, an improved and expanded world-class gymnasium, expanded treatment facilities and 11 new accommodation rooms.
Now we always knew that surfing’s Olympics inclusion would come with extra funding. The IOC is after all one of the most corrupt and money-driven entities on the planet. The games though are also the pinnacle of all sport, well, except for golf, tennis, basketball and football. Funding comes with the territory and in surfing the powers that be know it can boost one of the sports where we have realistic chance of winning medals. Who would you rather back? Julian Wilson in three-foot wind chop, or a skinny, white fella from Ballarat trying to run around a bend faster than a Jamaican? Historically we've dominated surfing in the professional ranks. If success is the criteria for funding then surfing certainly has a strong case. Wouldn't all Australian surfers like to scream 'Go for Gold Fanning!' as Mick completes his tenth snap on the Chiba shorey?
Whether this six million is a sensible allocation of government funds can be debated, but the increased funding is inevitable. Surfing is in the Olympics, and as a sport and a culture, we have yet again hitched our wagon to the men in the suits who get the government to pay for the shovels. We’d like to ask whether you think this is a good thing or not?