How will the WSL ensure we don’t get bored halfway through the Surf Ranch Open in September?
With the dust still settling into the artificial waters of the Kelly Slater Surf Ranch following the Founders Cup, a question remains: How are things going to work come ‘CT time in September?
Judging by the reactions of many surf fans, the format is going to need to be innovative and engaging to keep viewer’s from tuning out while getting through a field of thirty-four men and eighteen women.
Some of the criticism being levelled at the weekend’s oh so historic wave pool event is just Internet-age cynicism. Some of it’s legitimate. The four most common gripes seem to be: the format was hard to follow; the judging was erratic; the surfing was safe and monotonous; and, well, the whole thing was fucking boring.
Of these rebukes, the first two can foreseeably be improved upon. Yes, the format seemed a little long-winded and hard to follow. Truth is, even in the natural realm of the ocean a team event can be guilty of this. But we won’t be watching a team event come September. We’ll be watching a Championship Tour event with real world title points on the line, not just Kelly Slater’s ego and patriotic bragging rights.
So the judges will want to up their game. In a year when excellent rides have been surprisingly hard to come by, the high scores did seem a little gratuitous at Lemoore. Part of me thinks this was tied up in the WSL’s ploy to sell the Surf Ranch event as high-drama, edge-of-the-seat type stuff. Part of it was probably just the judges trying to work out what was what on a forty-five second mechanical wave. Either way, you’d imagine there’ll be some pretty serious discussions going down among Pritamo and the boys next time about how to set the scale.
As fun as it might look, the consensus among those who’ve surfed it is that the Surf Ranch is not an easy wave to ride. Even the world’s best, it seems, need time to get the place dialled. Speed turns and bum-to-the-board tube rides were the order of the weekend, and it got old pretty quick. Only Slater, by far the most experienced of the field out there, seemed capable of drawing different lines, often driving out of the first tube section (on the right) and setting it on rail. So the surfers need to get creative. Nothing bores like seeing the same thing over and over, thus it’ll be up to the individual to envision a unique approach to a uniform wave, otherwise the Surf Ranch Pro will soon be replacing Rio as the most loathed event on the schedule.
The WSL has set a three-day event window for the contest in September. Hopefully, with man-on-man-style competition no longer a possibility, it isn’t going to follow the typical event format. Here’s where the WSL needs to apply some innovation. Here’s where they need to grab our pitiful attentions. Things have got to be high stakes. No room for error, no second chances. Give each surfer a left and a right, add their combined total and halve the field in one fell swoop, I reckon. Rinse and repeat until we have ourselves our winner. May the steeliest, most innovative motherfuckers win.
Otherwise take us back to Trestles.