Which surfing bouts would you really like to see?
Remember when Kelly and John John dueled in the semis at Teahupoo in 2014?
After 40 years of pro surfing it has a case for being the best heat ever. Kelly the greatest; past his prime, but still capable of obliterating opponents in the barrel, pitted against John John, the most gifted surfer in the world. At the time JJ’s ordination as surfing’s modern ‘chosen one’ was somehow not fully complete without surpassing Slater in waves of consequence. In the end Slater, who was 42 at the time, claimed one of his most heroic victories with a win on a count-back after both surfers scored a19.77 heat total.
Not forgetting the third star in this dramatic, aquatic stage show – 10 foot, velvet-clean Teahupoo. An enchanting mix of beauty and terror rolled into a hissing tube that needs less than fifteen seconds of fame to have fans on their feet and screaming in front of their screens.
Ok, I’m getting a little carried away, but imagine you could produce this kind of hyperbolic hype in advance? Knowing full well that the above scenario is a definite – the waves and the surfers – and not just a fluke of the draw and a whim of swell and history.
Sure, we all want to see surfing test matches where competitors have to employ cunning, guile, consistency and cut throat tactics to survive multiple heats and preserve enough strength to hoist the winner’s trophy high after all that toiling, but wouldn’t it also be compelling to see the WSL host a couple of one day specialty events where two surfers who are synonymous with a particular wave battle it out over three to five rounds to eliminate the luck factor.
A bout (or several bouts) could run in one day with a one-month waiting period almost guaranteeing epic conditions. Who do we really want to see? Slater and John John go barrel for barrel one more time at Teahupoo? Mick and Parko at Snapper for old time’s sake? Julian and Jordy at pumping J-Bay? Filipe and Medina at five foot, crumbly-lipped Trestles? Bring back Dane for a cameo or John John Vs Jamie O’ at Banzai to decide who really is the Pipe Master? Steph Vs Carissa at Backdoor?
These bouts would be highly anticipated and more than likely deliver quality competition. Ideally the pre-contest rituals would be teased out in much the same way as boxing and UFC bouts, where the personalities and their preparation are put under scrutiny. Throw in a pre-tournament press conference and some surfer-to-surfer banter just to make it a little more interesting.
In theory it would be possible to host two or three, three-five round bouts on a single day – like a fight card with different match ups. If exhaustion is a problem then two surfers can rest a heat while another pair competes in an alternating heat system. The main point is that the whole multi-bout drama would be played out within an eight-hour window (or less). All the despair, euphoria, tension and glory associated with competition would be amplified by the narrow contest window.
There are different ways to approach the concept and certainly there are some finer details that need to be worked out – the selection criteria for the surfers who are chosen for the specialty events, who sponsors the events and puts up the prize money and the scheduling. However, these are all easy enough to resolve once you commit to the concept. The WSL could do well by adding even just one such specialty event to its calendar year. If scheduling a specialty event outside the regular contest windows proves too difficult the WSL could hypothetically host one in conjunction with a regular event. The main question is; would fans like to see it happen? I know this one would. Let’s get ready to rumble!