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PRODIGIOUS ABSENCE: Hawaii Should Play Larger Role In Title Race

| posted on July 22, 2010

With all the fires here in SoCal you’d think it was the end of the world. Luckily, for most of us, it is not the end. But let me tell you what should end: world surfing titles being decided anywhere but Hawaii.

Have these, ahem…surfing companies lost their edge in the never-ending quest for double digit growth? It seems their Indiana Jones-type airlift adventures and king of the hill hard goods acquisitions may have blurred their original vision. DISCUSS!

When you peel the tape off of the pin line it becomes clear that two forces drive world professional competitive surfing: The ASP, which administers the tour, and the surf-garment industry, which funds it. Those two forces need to get together and change things. From this point forward every men’s WCT championships needs to be decided in Hawaii. Deciding a men’s surfing championship in Brazil or Spain or California or anywhere other than Oahu’s North Shore is like determining a championship hot dog eating contest in Somalia. It’s like playing the World Series at the local YMCA. It’s like contesting the State of Origin rugby fest at a Melbourne bowls club. It’s like holding the US Open of Surfing at Huntington Beach…oh, wait, errr… sorry ’bout that.

C’mon people, let’s not lose our focus.

Look, we all know Hawaii possesses the world’s most challenging and perfect big waves in the world. To determine your championship anywhere other than in these conditions is beyond ignorant; it’s criminal. It’s not much of a stretch to think that the ASP’s Brodie Carr and Rabbit Bartholomew agree with me—although they have not confirmed this.

So, how do we make it happen?

First off, we need two (not one) TWO! World Tour events in Hawaii. We need an event at Sunset Beach, and an event at Pipeline. The Pipeline event exists. The Sunset WCT does not. Kelly Slater, holder of eight World Titles, has never won at Sunset Beach. Why? Because more often than not he hasn’t been asked to compete out there. Sunset Beach is missing from the WCT and that is tragic. Arguably the most difficult, powerful, and unnerving wave on the planet in our own backyard and the world’s best aren’t asked to lay it on the line. That’s absurd. There isn’t even a wave on tour that requires a board bigger than 7’0″. Let’s make things right. Let’s give the tour Sunset Beach.

Somebody over at Abercrombie & Fitch or Hollister or wherever needs to deliver the goods. These billion-dollar companies need to step up for pro surfing. I know, I know, many of them have given huge amounts of sponsorship dollars back into the sport. Yippee. We’ll have a parade later. The bottom line is that with all they’ve done, it is not enough. End of story. If our world title is being decided in Brazilian beachbreak instead of 12′ Sunset Beach West peak bombs than the so-called surf companies have failed us. Nice cargo pants. Nice sandals. Nice watches. Complete failure. Our world champion, their world champion, decided at a blown-out beachbreak.

Bruce Raymond to the courtesy phone. Bruce Raymond to the courtesy phone.

Fiscally we know the corpos are healthy enough. But are they still core? Do they still care? Is competitive surfing still a top priority? Have these, ahem…surfing companies lost their edge in the never-ending quest for double digit growth? It seems their Indiana Jones-type airlift adventures and king of the hill hard goods acquisitions may have blurred their original vision. To quote one of their ’80s-era ad campaigns: “If you can’t rock ‘n’ roll, don’t f–king come.” I don’t know about you, but when championships are being finalized in beachbreaks…well, it smells more like perfume than surf wax around here.

So, simple enough, one of the industry giants sees the light and throws a million bucks (give or take a couple hundred thousand) at Sunset Beach and we get another event added and, in combination with the Pipeline event, we are getting closer to the goal at hand. Now we (read Al Hunt) must break out the abacus and do some tweaking to the ratings system. You’ve seen this sort of number manipulation lately if you follow NASCAR or the PGA tour. Each of these sports has an end-of-season showdown. To accomplish this, to guarantee a Hawaiian showdown, the ASP would back weight the last two WCT Hawaiian events (the Hollister Sunset Beach Pro and the Billabong Pipeline Masters): Either points-and-a-half or double points. I haven’t done the math, but they’ll figure it out. It’s not brain surgery. This would ensure greatness for surfing’s competitive realm and put the act of riding the world’s most challenging waves at the forefront of what the ASP WCT is all about.

It just dawned on me how absurd it is that I even have to write this Op-Ed. A world surfing champion that is decided each and every year, no matter what, on Oahu’s North Shore in the most challenging and life-threatening surf. Duh.

If you were given the responsibility of driving the culture of world competitive surfing isn’t this what you would do? Of course it is. Why wouldn’t you?

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