What next for competitive surfing? Can it continue?
There have been several ideas postulated around the next step (or termination) of pro surfing. As we wait expectantly for a message or a word from the WSL in their pregnant pause stage, here are a few more facts and figures. Take these and put them into your pipe, or whatever apparatus you’re using, and smoke it.
Australia is not going to let outbound flights happen for a long time, and the assumption is that it’ll only occur deep into next year. By then, more airlines will have floundered, and things are going to get pretty complicated when it comes to travelling on airplanes. Melbourne is locked down, and anyone who left the joint within the last few days has to go into isolation for 14 days. No need to panic, but domestic travel has just buttoned-down again. This could happen, on-and-off, for months on end.
In the USA, things are going from bad to worse. The infected cases have raced past the 3 million mark and are not slowing down. While there are also vast tracts of The States that are relatively untouched, travel is severely affected. It is going to get worse before it gets better. Both international and domestic flights are going to be fairly dysfunctional for a long time, and to try and set a date for a contest within the next few months, even at a spot like the Surf Ranch, would be utterly pointless.
To make matters worse, in a world full of unknowns, America now also has to face the possibility that Kanye West might actually run for president.
In Brazil, a lot is going on. They are nudging 2 million infected, and edging onto 70k dead, and are not looking like there is any flattening of any curve there. President Bolsonaro has tested positive, and the infection rates are soaring. There is no one coming into Brazil or leaving, except under exceptional circumstances.
South Africa is still locked down on Level Three, and there are not going to be any professional sports events until the country is on Level one. The domestic tour is improbable. There is much happening behind the scenes to enable the surfers to get into the water without threat, for free surfing purposes, as the beaches are currently still officially closed.
So, yes, the chances are ripe for something new, for some new tour and some new blood, but we have to examine the realities.
Energy drink companies, for example, make the majority of their sales at bars and night clubs around the world. They make sales as a drink mixer, and for people who want to party all night. They sell drinks at events. Thing is, bars and night clubs are closed the world over except for a few pubs in England. There are also no events, and there are no all-night parties unless they’re illegal raves or LSD book club evenings at your house.
So the energy drinks companies are hemorrhaging money right now, along with everyone. It’s an easy cop-out to say that they are so wealthy that they can afford fewer profits for a month or three, but they have many employees the world over who have to be paid salaries. If there is minimal turnover and no profit, it’s not going to be smooth all the way.
The money they are saving on not having events is being funnelled towards job security. You can’t be retrenching people and sponsoring a new tour at the same time. That won’t be a good look.
While the surf brands are experiencing some positivity in their retail results, it is surfboards and wetsuits that are selling the most. Apparel still isn’t shifting much at all. No one has money to buy expensive surf gear right now, and if you’re a surf brand and you’re not selling tee shirts by the bucket-load, then you’re no longer in the game of being able to sponsor a surf event or even some alternative tour.
On top of these travails, The World Surf League website’s MOR output is clearly indicative of a non-surfing media team. They are just churning out content with no core values, with no core surf ethos behind it. Their endless small wave reruns have become tedious, and their Lawn Patrol and Brilliant Corners with smiling faces are a grind.
There are no wild stories of crazy events, of big wave dramas, of lifeguard rescues, of drugs, of crazy surfer characters, bashing each other with surfboards, of charging massive waves, of surfers dying, having sex, getting drunk, surfing naked, smuggling drugs, hitting reefs the world over. Our sport has a history and a spit-the-winkle style culture (world record 10.4m) that will not be swept aside or rewritten by mother grundies. The more that the WSL ignore this segment, the further they will drift from this segment.
A few months ago, at the end of February actually, we at Tracks made a call that COVID-19 was going to fuck us, properly. At that stage, people thought it preposterous that we even suggest the possibility that G-land would be cancelled/postponed. Well, we’re in the thick of the JBay event’s waiting period, there has not even been an announcement about JBay yet. The last statement being on June 3.
There have been retrenchments at WSL along with some significant salary cuts, no more announcements, and not even any press releases coming out of the juggernaut media machine. It’s straightforward to make an assumption that they’re either royally fucked, or poised for greatness.
Which do you think?
Feel free to vote with #royallyfucked or #poisedforgreatness.