Photo: Stu Gibson
Last night I stood in the Thalia Surf Shop in Laguna Beach and watched a bunch of dedicated surfers — professionals, media, industry types — giving firm handshakes and looking each other in the eyes. Most held a beer in one hand while the other hand was left to do as it pleased. Hang in a pocket. Scratch a nose. Gesticulate to really drive home a point. What the other hand was not doing was holding a phone, and the phone they weren’t holding was not displaying the live web cast of Fiji’s Code Red swell, even though a freesurfing session of historic proportions was unwinding. And while I wish that we could recode this swell — Code Green or Blue or Yellow or Orange or Purple — we have to stick with red, because red means stop, and they stopped the contest.
At Teahupo’o last year it was a no brainer. You couldn’t paddle it. But last year’s giant Fiji swell showed us that big Cloudbreak is very paddleable. Paddleable and perfect — Alex Gray and Bruce and Nathan Fletcher and Hippo and Dane Gudauskas all got terribly long and spacious barrels. The benchmark was set. We knew what was possible. Which is why three quarters of the big-wave world packed up their quivers and went to Fiji for this swell. They wanted a slice of that pie.
They went and they helped themselves to pie and they got so full, those big-wave surfers. “It was probably the best day of surfing ever,” Kohl Christensen texted me this morning. “Biggest paddle barrels ever ridden. Next level. We’re heading back out now.”
Why didn’t they run the contest? Saftey? Wind? Size? Insurance? Marketing? I decided to go straight to the source, the lovable media director for the ASP, Dave Prodan. He would never lead me astray. I emailed him this morning and asked him, “In one sentence, why didn’t you run the contest yesterday?” To which he promptly replied:
I’m not a good enough writer to convey that in one sentence, but feel free to poach from the following:
“The final call yesterday was at 2pm and the Contest Director, Head Judge and Surfer Reps opted to pull the pin due to the unfavorable winds that had plagued the lineup since they’d gone on hold following the completion of Round 2. Yesterday’s wind in the morning that postponed our start was the same wind that ultimately led to the event being called off for the day and was not on any of the forecast models; event organizers were unsure of how it would progress throughout the afternoon. As it turned out, the wind became more manageable after the event was called off and the conditions really came together. It’s unfortunate, but in dealing with Mother Nature, that comes with the territory. The positive we were able to draw from the afternoon was Volcom and the ASP bringing the free surf session live to the masses for a couple of hours. I think that was really special and, personally, I was pleased to see a dozen or so ASP Top 34 surfers out there mixing it up in those conditions. I have nothing but the greatest respect for all the guys who were out there yesterday – it was a phenomenal display of surfing.”
Sigh…let me know if you need anything else. Hope you’re well.
Chin up, Dave. It’s not your fault the winds changed. And we agree that Volcom deserves the kudos for airing the free surf.
Today is a new day and the waves are still big and there’s the opportunity to send the best 32 surfers in the world out into the best waves in the world, so that the the surfing community doesn’t contemplate putting an asterisk on the title of “best in the world*” (*in waves under 15 feet.)
Send ‘em out Volcom. Send ‘em out, Renato. Send them out, Kieren. This is how surfing, surfers and the tour grows — by taking risks and leaving their comfort zones. Send ‘em out, make us pull out our phones and be glued to the action. Give us what we want to see. —Taylor Paul