Regarding Scott Bass’ recent Op ed piece contending that the ASP World Tour must always come down to Hawaii in order to legitimize the sport of professional surfing, I respectfully disagree. In fact, if we implement a new rule that guarantees a finish in Hawaii, we risk denigrating the sport of surfing and disregarding the skills of some of the best surfers on the planet.
In tennis the Grand Slam competitions are played on different court surfaces. Why? Because a true master of the sport is one who can perform at different venues.
The WCT Tour as we know it is designed to showcase “The world’s best surfing talent in a variety of progressive formats and challenging locations” – according to the ASP website.
The ASP has made it a goal to determine the best surfer in the world in any given year by their consistency in a variety of conditions – and their ability to adapt to these varied waves and locales. If we discount locations with world class waves like Spain and Tavarua, and suggest that competing there is like “holding a world hot dog eating contest in Somalia” as Bass suggests, then why even have a world tour at all? (Although, I don’t quite see what the problem would be with holding the hotdog event in Somalia, or what constitutes a good location for eating hotdogs anyway…) According to that logic the entire tour might as well be held in Hawaii if the title is going to come down to the last contest there anyway, and that would undeniably be the wrong criteria for deciding a champion.
We need two tour stops in Hawaii because it provides the most challenging, incredible waves on the planet. We need another tour stop there because Hawaii is the cultural and physical surfing capital of the world, where decades of dreams have been made and broken, and where surfers still come to prove themselves in the highest level of surf. But in order to make this culmination in Hawaii really matter, we need to take into account that surfing well in Hawaii is not the ONLY factor that decides whether someone is a surfing champion. Consistency, for one, is of major importance; how else could PT have won a championship in ’76 without winning a single event? Because he consistently surfed at the top of his game at each event, and the same idea applies today. Mr. Bass constantly voices his frustration with crappy Brazilian beachbreak, and I admit that I am way more interested in the nuances of Brazilian swimwear on statuesque, supermodel-like beauties than I am with the surfing there, but doesn’t a true champion need to be well rounded enough to surf impressively in that crappy beachbreak? Doesn’t a huge portion of the surfing populous surf every single day in crappy beachbreak? Isn’t the competitive arena of the ocean so fickle that a mastery of all conditions a more realistic gauge of a champion? The answer is undeniably yes.
In tennis the Grand Slam competitions are played on different court surfaces. Why? Because a true master of the sport is one who can perform at different venues. Accruing points throughout the year is the most fair and even-handed way of deciding a champion, and in surfing it works. After all, how many world champions have we had in surfing who aren’t highly capable surfers out at Pipe? Look down the list, there are not too many.
I may not be voicing the most popular opinion here – but I simply don’t believe that corporations have “lost an edge” as Bass implies by putting up funding for the entire world tour (with comparatively little return…think how much money other sporting events rake in) and creating a competitive arena that requires acuity in all kinds of surf. Applying a guaranteed end in Hawaii would eliminate the financial benefits of sponsoring events earlier in the year, would make it pointless to cheer for a favorite surfer earlier in the year, knowing that the last events were the only that counted.
Hawaii is a gem. It is a location that should be revered, and as I stated above should be weighted more than the other events. But if we give it too much weight the possibility for Pipe specialists and surfers with Sunset in their backyards to win world titles without a well rounded skill set goes through the roof. And if we discount the surfer who has the fickle tides at Mundaka mastered, who perseveres through insane tubes at Tavarua and Teahupoo, who rises to the challenge at the mobile Rip Curl event and owns the crowd at Trestles and the other comps for the year, we undermine the tangible definition of what a great surfer actually is. The only way we can tell a true champion is by consistency in a variety of conditions and this we can only achieve by leaving the importance and integrity of each individual tour event as is.