It was about midway through John John’s Quarterfinal with Kolohe Andino that my mind started to wander. John John hadn’t done a turn in 16 minutes and Kolohe had done one. The lineup was more ripped than the Helmsworth brothers, and a dying swell and whooshing out tide wasn’t going to make life any better, for anyone. 

Kolohe with one of the few highlight moments from finals day in Portugal. WSL/Poullenot

With Facebook just an open tab away, it wasn’t difficult to drag myself away from Pottz and Joe’s one note double act. Yes, I was aware Pottz had ridden quite a big wave at Pipe when he was 16, and hearing, “Wow, that John John kid sure is talented,” wasn’t going to keep my mind on the job. 

With a click my internet damaged attention span, currently hovering around 850 zeptoseconds (or one Plank ie 850 × 10−21 seconds) had found a CK Louis skit where he appears on Fox TV defending masturbation against a Christian evangelical. By the time Louis finishes a rant with the line, “Masturbation is important to me. It keeps me sane. I’m a good citizen, I’m a good father, I recycle and I masturbate and it makes God happy,” I’d actually forgotten that one of the most important heats of the year was still happening in the adjacent cyber window. 

It turns out, I hadn’t missed much. John John had upped his heat total to 3.80 and couldn’t buy a wave. Although his early exit had blown the title race wide open, the fact that I had spent the latter part of it thoroughly engrossed in a fictitious masturbation defense showed just how much the webcast relies on good waves to make it in any way compelling. Now of course the weekend had featured 10 foot slabs and serious heavy water, but the final day, when it was all on the line, was borderline unwatchable. 

John John buried in the Supertubes soup. WSL/Poullenot

It probably didn’t help that Kelly’s Wave Pool had come three weeks before, further highlighting the randomness of the mother ocean. “I just sat and waited for something that was never going to come,” said Seabass after his quarterfinal loss, and we all knew exactly how he felt. 

It probably also doesn’t help that the Pe’ahi Challenge was called on the very next day. Given the choice between watching 50-foot Jaws and sitting through Gabriel Medina attempting a dozen forehand rotors in three foot closeouts, I’m pretty sure most fans, even Gabby diehards, would choose the later. 

By the end of course we had a Pipe showdown to look forward too. If the conditions come good (and they rarely do, December’s sand build up is Pipe’s worst month) when the world’s best surfers battle for a World Title in one of the world’s heaviest waves, surfing as a spectator sport becomes as compelling as any sport anywhere. 

However the finals day at Portugal showed the inherent flaws in the webcast model. It’s bloody hard to make it palatable and that’s with the WSL currently doing a good a job as has ever been done before. It’s days like that when the conditions totally dictate the enjoyment levels that you understand why they have decided to rip the model up, put Kelly’s Wave pool at the heart of the business plan, and start again. If that means me spending less time watching skits about wanking, I’m all for it.