Why the WSL should get its jungle boogie on
While the disappointing forecast for Teahupoo dribbles through and the world’s best warm up in ankle snappers, surf sites indicate G-land is still six foot and firing.
The mythical, jungle-fringed, east Java left has been pumping for almost three months straight. Any beachside carpark in Aus’ has at least one wide-eyed local regaling envious colleagues with tales of how good G-land has been. Search the net and it’s not hard to work out that some of the top 34 have also been spending their long tour break hunting pits on G-land’s gloriously long stretch of reef.
Those who were old enough to have ridden their first barrel by the mid 90s will have fond memories of the Pro Tour’s brief flirtation with G-land. Under the ASP banner, three monumental events ran at Grajagan between 1995 and 1997. The bold move to host events at G-land basically kick-started the whole concept of a Dream Tour, replacing a bums on beach approach with a focus on putting the world’s best surfers in the world’s best waves. For surf fans more accustomed to seeing the pros do battle in beachie close-outs, the G-land comps were a revelation – even if you had to wait for the mag stories and the chunky, Quiksilver Pro VHS tapes to hit surf stores.
Political unrest and the threat of terrorism are usually sited as the major reasons why no one has been game to host a major event at Grajagan since 1997. The G-land event was already expensive to run but the bombings in Bali in 2002 and 2005 apparently made the costs to insure a major event in Indonesia astronomical. In the last five or six years the prospect of returning the tour to G-land has been hinted at on several occasions but we are yet to see a serious pledge from the WSL. Putting political and financial concerns aside there is undeniably a number of good reasons why surfers and fans would love to see competition return to G-land.
Firstly, the wave quality and consistency; G-land is not only one of the world’s best lefts on its day, it’s also a swell magnet of almost unfathomable proportions. During the long May to October season it has good waves almost every day and even when the rest of Indonesia is dead flat there is usually quality, head high runners on a section of the G-land reef. And while a barrel at the famed Speedies section will always be the biggest prize, G-land is a genuinely rippable wave. Unlike Pipe and Teahupoo, where anything other than a gaping cavern looks somewhat futile, G-land is a versatile enough set-up to add a serious performance dimension to scoring points – the focus is not exclusively on the barrel.
Secondly, the WSL needs a contest where there is a certain romance. The notion of taking some of the world’s best athletes to a jungle setting where wild-life roams free, the foliage swallows the camp and big cats still make cameo appearances, is an unquestionably cool idea. Some of the girls on tour may vote against any suggestion of a return to Teahupoo, but G-land has an allure that they couldn’t resist and it’s fantastic to see the girls compete in waves of consequence.
However great the logistical, financial and social obstacles may be, it seems like the WSL need to at least reconsider the prospect of a contest at Grajagan. The recently returned G-land veteran said it best when he leaned into my driver’s seat window as I checked the surf this morning.
“Mate, they’ve got to have a contest there, it’s a no-brainer.”
Main Photo: Kelly Slater salutes Luke Egan as he stands tall in the pit during the final of the 1997, Quiksilver Pro, G-land. Photo Joli