It was so easy to hate the Surf Ranch Pro. All around me, online and among fellow surfers, I heard the same gripes—it’s repetitive, it lacks drama, it’s as boring as bat shit. And there was truth in those calls. But there were other truths too. Truths like: in that strange new playing field, with that strange new format, the mettle of the world’s best were tested in ways they haven’t really been tested.

Think about it—with an equal and finite amount of rides on offer, with a right and a left that reproduced themselves in ways that even the most mechanical breaks around the world could never match, it came down to each surfer’s ability to deliver when asked, without the safety net of a wave behind or a last minute gift from Huey. Gabriel Medina rose to the top, confirming what’s been apparent but never proved over the last five or so years—that competitively he’s the best surfer on tour. Filipe finished second. Kelly finished third. It’s hard to argue with those results because the usual arguments—the ocean went flat, the waves sucked, the judges got drawn into the drama of the moment—were so comprehensively removed from the equation.

Of course there are larger arguments against the validity of the Surf Ranch Pro, and in all of them there are elements of truth. What has and always will make surfing beautiful is the unpredictable nature of the ocean. True. A three-foot down-the-line wave with a compressed barrel and an unrelenting pace is going to suit some surfers better than others. Correct. A three-minute wait between each ride only gives Pottz and Joe more time to bore us all stupid. I’m right there with you. But in terms of wave-riding as a measurable and quantifiable sport, the event gave us something that no other surf contest has given us—a winner based purely on ability and execution, with luck playing no part in it.

It might not be your cup of tea, but it’s worth thinking about.

Now excuse me while I wax-up and get back in the ocean.