On 31 July our man Seabird Brookes penned a great piece on why we really should bother to watch the Vans US Open Of Surfing, and I read it and dived in to the WSL that night. The webcast dovetailed nicely with my most bored night time hours, and I rigged up the TV and the WSL App to get stuck in to some great small-wave ripping. It was a hard ask. I made an hour of viewing time, on the iPhone. The family was over it and wanted to watch some real TV, and I was relegated to the study with my phone. Here’s why I didn't make it past the first hour.

Average surf.

We get a lot of content pushed our way these days, and we have all had an overdose of surf lately. The JBay contest was all time, Indo has had one of the greatest swells ever, Nias rewrote all sorts of record books and all of it was beamed to our eyeballs via our chosen favourite screen. Nokanduis 10-foot backed with giant Rifles, Filipe whipping it at Supertubes, Steph gliding to victory and Uluwatu peeling for a sea mile or longer

It all came our way recently, and as a result it’s now difficult to stay interested when the waves are 50 centimeters high and slightly onshore. At least the WSL app was working smoothly, so there is that.    

Festival as surf contest.

There has always been a vibe permeating from the US Open of Surfing that the surf competition is a sideline, that it isn’t the most important thing happening at Huntington. There are so many people doing crazy things, overflowing girls in tiny bikinis, so many other good times and booze flowing, and arbitrary people trying to be important, that the surfers and the surfing seems like it is almost tagged-on to make everything cool and legitimate. In Jeffreys Bay, the JBay Winterfest was the main festival during that period, but the surfing event – the Corona Open JBay – was the shining flagship event and everything else was secondary.

The masses descend on Huntington, but are they there for the surfing?

The surfers know it’s average.

It might have a full entry, but there is very little tangible excitement from the surfers while riding the waves in their heats at the US Open. They just seem less interested, and there is very little energy evident from surfers trying to make inside connections and sneak an extra move or two. No one seems to be desperately hungry to win. It could be because it is early rounds, but hunger is hunger and it should start from round 1. The juniors however, did show a bit of oomph, which bodes well…

It feels awkward at times.

The commentators trying too hard to elevate the mood, surfers sitting on their boards or standing around in the shallows, waves not breaking on the sandbar and more endless beefing from previously mentioned commentators. It’s an impossible task to make really small and onshore waves look sexy, and even harder to glorify grown men and women riding these waves. It’s all a little uncomfortable and no one should have to do it, but the commentators continue trying their best, bless them.

It’s not ‘world’s best surfers, world’s best waves’.

It is a great tag line, but in this context it is pure fiction. Granted, this tournament is a QS 10,000 and not part of what Rabbit’s vision was of the Dream Tour, but there are enough Dream Tour surfers at the event to make one wonder about the ‘best surfers best waves’ ideology. Round three will see a De Souza and a Mendes competing, a Jadsen and a Joan, as well as an Ewing, Freestone, Igarashi and a February enter the fray. It’s the real deal. It has a prize of $100k and 10,000 points. It has everything going for it, all the excitement of pro surfing and the sport we love, except for the surf quality.

Filipe Toledo executes a benign lip belt in the Huntington shorey. Photo: WSL

Either way, it’s still worth a watch, just in case the crowd goes mad and decides to burn shit down again.

Webcast here http://www.worldsurfleague.com/events/2018/mqs/2764/vans-us-open-of-surfing-mens-qs