If you want to be mean to a commentator, be mean to me. Photo: Peter Taras
I just watch it on mute. Those guys are clueless. Did he seriously just call that a 540? What a barn! Rosy Hodge is hot.
More likely than not, you’ve said something that mirrors one or more of those sentiments in regards to surf commentators. And you know what? So have I. I’ve said mean things. I’ve written mean things. One time, back when you were allowed to send messages to the commentators, I claimed to be Oliver Kurtz’s cousin from Florida and fooled someone into saying that an obscure porn site was Olli’s new blog — on the US Open broadcast, nonetheless*. I am guiltier than most.
But change is inevitable in life and I am a changed man. A new man, so to speak. I no longer drink 37 Miller Lites on Saturdays — haven’t drunkenly pissed the bed in years — and I am no longer mean to surf commentators. You shouldn’t be mean to them either.
I recently had the pleasure of commentating two of the finest events in amateur surfing: NSSA Nationals and Volcom’s TCT Championships. It was the first (and second) time that my voice has ever been the one that you listen to or despise or mute. And it was a learning experience. For example, I learned…
…that it’s impossible to avoid cliché.
Impossible. At the TCT, we publicly challenged each other to avoid the words “pocket” and “turn” for an entire heat. The result: I said turn within the first three minutes. Why? Because a kid did a fucking turn, that’s why. I hate hearing things like “IN-SANE PIT” as much as the next guy, but at least now I understand how they might occasionally sneak its way into a sentence. Still, I say we draw the line at the third use of “mega cavern” per event.
…that it’s more complex than you realize.
I mostly did beach interviews with heat winners. Simple, right? Nah. You’ve got a producer’s voice talking into your swanky little earbud thing. A trailer full of flesh and sweat, all flipping switches and punching buttons and getting the interview set up. The guys in the booth are smoothly trying to throw it down to you during a lull. It’s a whole process. You can’t just start talking whenever you feel like it. I often found myself standing next to a incredibly uncomfortable child, having no idea when we’ll go live. My nerves were wracked by it. Almost.
…that things go wrong. A lot.
Joh Azuchi, the pride and joy of the Japanese surfing community, won a heat at the TCT. I approached him on the beach to set up the interview, and he claimed he spoke English just fine. After five minutes of waiting, we get the green light on the interview and go live. I ask Joh a question, put the mic to his mouth and the little bastard stares at me, dead silent, terror exploding through his eyes. And did I mention we’re live? I tried salvaging it by pretending like I was interpreting the words that he wasn’t saying which, I’m sure, made me come off looking like a gigantic asshole. Fun!
…that you wouldn’t be better at it drunk.
Dead sober, I said that something sounded “like orangutans having sex” on air. What would have happened if I was drunk? Would I have said then? Would the orangutans have been doing anal? Who knows. Truth is, you think your better at everything when you’re drunk. And the truth is, you’re not. I learned that you can’t talk on a webcast like you’re talking to your best friend over a few beers. You need to actually make sense.
…that in conclusion:
Stop being mean to commentators. Their job ain’t easy, but they’re good at it. I’m sure the WSL producers encourage them to be vanilla too. You know, for the day when Minnesota starts caring about Margaret River.
Joe Turpel, I love you. Pottz, you can go right and I’ll go left. Strider, should we get a few beers later? Yeah? Sweet. Peter Mel, if you want to get apartment together just let me know. I do great smoothies. —Brendan Buckley
*Note: I still consider this an accolade.