Major bummer as the big wave tour wipes out.
As a fan of big wave surfing, the end of the road for the big wave tour can only be seen as a real setback. While the finer details are not readily available, the very fact that the WSL no longer will crown world champions, that they will no longer crown a man and a woman as the best big wave surfers in the world, is a death knell for the sport. Gary Linden’s dream of a big wave tour spanning the globe is over.
It has been a long and arduous road for many surfers to get onto the big wave tour, and while some managed to get on and stay on from inception, it was clearly designed to introduce fresh blood to the tour every year. It worked, and there were new faces on tour, and we were stoked for them, as well as a bit nervous for them at places like Nazaré.
It was the hunt for the world title that kept fans stoked. Between months of small surf, and between contests forever on hold, there was still enough in there to keep us enthralled, to keep us hoping for a big day, for the world’s best to give it a go.
There were some legendary events. Jaws came to the party more than once and delivered some of the best big wave moments on the planet. Nazaré provided a horror show that we all wanted to see, the slow-motion car crash of big wave wipeouts and hideous caught inside dramas that allowed us to live vicariously through these big wave legends.
Jamie Mitchell and Twiggy Baker charging to wins at Nazaré by taking on deathly left hand wedges; contestants pulling into giant caverns at Puerto; the monstrous right-handers and the chaos of the safety team when Pico Alto ran; the fact that Nic lamb airdropped a set wave left at the right-hander of Punta Galea for the win in Basque Country.
All these were moments of big wave wonder and grandeur, but all made that much more special by the fact that they were all part of a world title hunt. Without that, they might have been classic moments, but not really that special in the scale of worldwide big wave surfing exploits.
Some people might be optimistic about the new big wave spectacle on offer by the World Surf League, but the idea that we need more ‘storytelling’ from the WSL is a strange and confusing justification for cancelling the tour.
There has been storytelling from the start of the big wave tour. There has been an archived history and there have been hilarious interviews, monstrous wipeouts, cruel injuries, and new faces coming through. There have been clutch moments, there has been dramatic big wave imagery as hungry surfers chasing that elusive title put their lives on the line and forced themselves over the ledges of waves that no man should really attempt – the unridden realm as Mark Foo famously called it – in order to gain the honour, the pride and the glory of a World Title.
When Twiggy Baker won his world titles he made sure that he had a South African flag draped around him. He mentioned his country and all of those surfers back home who had motivated him and kept him going in every one of his speeches. It was an incredible moment for our embattled nation, and the fact that he did it three times ‘for our country’ is an amazing feat.
That’s now finished. The honour of winning a tow-in event in Nazaré will be different, and the glory bestowed upon a surfer who dominates a strike mission to Shipstern will also be different. Winning the ‘Big Wave Championship’ at Jaws will also possibly ring a little tinny compared to winning a World Title.
The girls are the worst hit. From the high of pay parity and their own tour in the space of two years, they are now left to fight it out on strike missions among the big wave brotherhood, scrapping for crowded set waves in front of the cameras in their bid for a share, however small, of WSL glory. There might be a heat at Jaws dedicated to the girls, but that’s about it.
It's a bummer. Those two World Titles are all that the big wave tour really had.