Mon, 23 September 2019

The WSL Big Wave Tour is gone and there has been mixed reaction, including some wailing and gnashing of teeth, but Craig Jarvis thinks something good will come from it.

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TURN FOR THE BETTER? Kai Lenny digs deep as he draws out the bottom turn. Photo Pompemayer

Gary Linden’s dream of a fully sustainable and functional Big Wave World Tour, and the notion of crowning a world champion, is no longer, and more’s the pity. Having said that, there is still plenty of excitement in the big wave world, so let’s unpack what it means.

All sorts of controversy and dramasThe Mavericks Challenge is no longer. It has departed from the tour as a venue or event. It has been a shit-show for years, with all sorts of controversy and dramas, not least the event going awol. Mavericks still holds her own due to the nature of the wave when it comes to big wave awards and records. However, as a competitive structure there were too many cooks, too many people wanting their slices of the smallish pie, and the inevitable politics.

In a recent interview on mercurynews.com Sabrina Brennan, president of the San Mateo County Harbor District Board of Commissioners, said the problems that led to Mavericks’ cancellation this year were of the league’s own making, because organisers failed to get permits they needed for the event.

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TO THE TASK: Bianca Valenti pushed for equality in big wave surfing. Photo WSL / Hallman

“They have been so late and disorganised with getting their permits in order, they have missed every opportunity to hold a competition,” Brennan said. “I don’t think they want to put it on.”

The World Surf League opened the Mavericks competition to women for the first time last year. And Brennan, as co-founder of the Committee for Equity in Women’s Surfing, was part of a successful push for the league to offer equal prize money to men and women.

So there are two events left, Jaws and Nazaré, and the latter is now tow only. The women only have their contest at Jaws, but they traditionally struggle out there, despite enormous courage. Apart from Jaws and Nazaré, the rest of the big wave adventure is all about ‘Strike Missions’ where a giant storm is tracked, and when the waves look good enough on the wave models, the WSL sets out with their media teams to capture whoever wants to arrive to get some bombs.

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PULL IN! Grant Baker earned worldwide kudos for this gutsy tube. Photo WSL / Morris

This is pretty cool, and exciting, and obviously a massive cost-cutting exercise, and the footage will be in the running for the WSL big wave awards, but it’s not going to make a world champion. It’s going to make heroes for a day. I also wonder whether the women will get much of a shake with hungry big wave surfers desperate for coverage to appease sponsors, paddling for every set without any drop-in, snaking or undue hassling rules, except for those Unwritten Rules Of Surfing.

It’s not going to be the same. On the other hand, we might see some strike missions to some real sessions. If Dungeons comes alive, maybe it’ll be part of the Strike Mission strategy. When they had the event at Punta Lobos on Chile, it never really got to showcase what sort of waves can happen there. Todos Santos is due a day in the sun, as is Pico Alto. In a perfect world this could all happen.

The fact that there will be no more world champions being crowned by the WSL is a little discouraging, but it is not the end.

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SCUD MISSILE: Will Skudin reaches halfway down this Nazare mountain. Photo WSL / Entrudox

Something new will rise up. It has been 20 years since a few hardy big-wave surfers jumped off a boat at Hout Bay to test the waters at Dungeons with Red Bull, and after two decades of the sport growing to a level of absolute legitimacy, there is no way that this will just fold up on itself and disappear. There are too many surfers, both young and old, who have dedicated their lives to getting onto the Big Wave Tour and on being world champions.

In Greek mythology, the Phoenix dies in a show of flames and combustion. Then it obtains new life by arising from the ashes of its predecessor. Lets see.

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