Maybe we’re in the wrong country. The thought crossed my mind while reading news of oil spills, corporate corruption, and immigration disputes straining the fabric of American democracy, especially as our doppelgangers in the Southern Hemisphere have focused their resources on more important projects…like building the world’s first multi-million dollar surfing facility to, as Andrew Stark, the CEO of Surfing Australia, put it: “ensure [Australia's] continued domination of international surfing into the future.”
First, it might be a useful exercise to qualify Australia’s “world (surfing) domination,” considering they have accumulated just one more ASP Men’s World Title (14) than the United States has (13) since Peter Townend won the first ASP World Championship in 1976. Bear in mind that the United States’ title count excludes five Hawaiian World titles, which may or may not deserve the staunch international distinction widely accepted by the surf community.
But that’s a different story altogether.
Of greater significance is the support the Australian government has shown its surfers. According to Surfing Australia, the Australian federal government pledged $2 million towards the project, which will be located in Causarina Beach, New South Wales. Situated near the Gold Coast’s famous pointbreaks, Causarina is “enough distance away to allow training and coaching in idyllic conditions with uncrowded waves.” Sounds perfect, right? It’s almost impossible to imagine a similar situation (both logistically and geographically) in America.
The Australians, who have admittedly dominated worldwide ISA competition since 1996 (they’ve won 88 medals, while U.S.A. has won only 32), recognize surfing as a part of their national identity, and seem committed to preserving that heritage by finding an unlikely alliance in the government.
“Surfing is a healthy, whole of life national sport and a part of the Australian ethos and culture,” said Stark. “It is vitally important we continue to produce Australian world champions for our sport’s development and success into the future. The strength of our sport development pathway and massive participation numbers of 2.5 million per year are affected by international success. This is evident in many Australian sports and this new facility will ensure we continue our international success into the future.”
“Along with a new national training facility, we will be working closely with the Australian Sports Commission to build a stronger national high performance system and culture that will see our elite surfers supported and serviced at all levels of the event and athlete pathway,” added Stark. ” I think the future of surfing development is about a structured pathway that includes specifically designed training facilities. This is truly an exciting time for our sport and will ensure many podium results into the future for Australian surfers.”
While the prospect of government subsidized surfing facilities may have sounded absurd just a few years ago, Australia could have initiated a new trend as the world embraces the intrinsic and economic benefits of competitive surfing. And until the U.S. introduces tax breaks for surfers or (preferably) more effective regulations to keep our oceans hepatitis free, I welcome lineups from Maine to Southern California to join me in congratulating Oz on setting its priorities straight: “Aussie! Aussie! Aussie!”