Could an envelope in the mail be the answer to maximum surfing entertainment?
Those of us long enough in the tooth will fondly remember the Billabong Challenge. A series of events come VHS’s and articles in surf mags, whose premise was as simple as it was brilliant – pinpoint an epic location, wait for an inbound swell and invite a small crew of the world’s best surfers to ride it. J-Bay in ’95, Gnaraloo in ’96 (Psychadelic Desert Groove) and the South Coast in ’99 (Nine 9 Lives) – they truly were a celebration of surfing. No sweating on ratings points, titles or requalification, just the best surfers free to express themselves.
Is this a format the modern era of surfing needs to revisit? I think the answer is yes, as evidenced by the emerging trend of hashtag activism surrounding who people want to see surf specific events (#putclayinfiji being the latest). People simply want to see the best surfers in the best waves. How many times have you caught yourself watching an event (we’re talking Teahupoo, Cloudbreak and J-Bay here, not so much Brazil or Bells) and exclaimed, ‘Imagine seeing ‘xyz’ out there!’
Indulge my pie-in-the-sky attitude here if you will and picture a series of quarterly invitational events. The hypothetical stops include Nokandui, Greenbush, Skeleton Bay and G-Land. Invitees for the first event are Craig Anderson, JJF, Clay Marzo, Bruce Irons, Nate Behl and Kelly Slater. These surfers congregate at the chosen locale for one full day of live-streamed surfing madness. A format similar to the Eddie, our most treasured of all invitationals, could be implemented to determine a winner.
No drawn out format, no lay-days and none of the broken momentum the tour events seem so prone to. Don’t get me wrong; I’m a fan of the tour. It’s great sport. Athletes earning their way onto an elite circuit and fighting for glory and survival etc. but it’s also a grind to watch at times and I believe, if logistics and money allow, there is room for something more exciting and creative under the WSL banner.
Where would you hold your event, and who’d get a visit from the mailman?