Opinion: The New Standard for Modern Surf Contests

Move over Pipe, see you later Chopes. The Volcom Fiji Pro and the Oakley Bali Pro have redefined what world tour spots should be.

Let me explain…

Contemporary surfing has turned Pipeline into a snore-fest. That’s just my opinion, but barrel after barrel after barrel, to me, is boring as hell. While there is some variation in the barrels at Pipe, it is nothing like the variation seen in the Fiji Pro and at Keramas.

Barrels, that were probably as heavy as most Pipe barrels, were seen in Fiji. To accompany this there were huge gouges and the occasional air section, particularly when the event was moved to Restaurants. At Keramas we saw long, heaving, shallow-reef barrels, huge hacks and the biggest ally-oop in contest history. Clearly, Keramas and Restaurants force surfers to think and get creative.

“[Surfers are] trying to figure out what’s being scored [at Keramas] and where there’s room on the wave to think outside the box,” said CJ Hobgood. The wave of Keramas is repetitive and mechanical but the surfing is not. At Pipeline there is far too much thinking inside the box (or thinking inside the tube). Everyone knows the surfers are pretty much only going to get scored for a barrel.

One of the most essential aspects of high performance surfing is the ability of surfers to get creative. That’s why we are all bored to death of the air reverse, as Stab is telling us (http://stabmag.com/fly-me-to-the-moon-the-death-of-the-air-reverse/).

“I think the best kind of airs these days are the ones you don’t have any idea what type of air they’re going to do,” said Dino Andino. Did anyone see JJ Florence’s ally-oop coming? I know I sure did not. When watching Pipe, you pretty well always know what is going to happen next.

But heck, I don’t mean to pick on Pipe so much. There are reasons for it to be on tour. It’s prestigious and it has an amazing history, although it may be a little out-dated in a high-performance modern surf era. It seems wrong that world titles can be won and lost based on barrel riding skills at the final event. Should the event organisers quit while they’re ahead and preserve the event’s history?

Teahupoo, for the same reasons as Pipe, sucks. So many barrels, so little time in the barrel, no option of doing a move after the barrel and way too many 10s. Just thinking about it provokes yawning. The Bali Pro was always going to be a hard act to follow and although Teahupoo was a (mildly) entertaining event, it was no match for Keramas and Restaurants, especially when it went onshore.

The progressive nature of contemporary surfing means that World Tour events need to keep up. There are already several events which are well catered to barrel/air/turn combos, meaning that a drastic overhaul is not needed. Suitable waves include: Snapper, Fiji, Bali, Trestles, France and Portugal. While we all have recommendations for the ASP, they should probably rethink Bells (a bit of an old-timer’s wave), move the Rio event away from a beach that closes out more than low-tide Bondi, ditch Chopes  and maybe Pipe (bring back J-Bay please). While Pipeline and Teahupoo are crazy waves, mechanical barrel riding – apart from being boring to watch – does not test all aspects of a surfer’s repertoire.

Despite this, there are clear economic motivations for the ASP’s structure of the World Tour, particularly in terms of holding an event at Pipe. However, from a pure entertainment point of view, some events could be changed.

Fiji and Bali were about as exciting as World Tour events can be. Unfortunately, for the ASP, these events have also reaffirmed the unnecessary inclusion of the purely barrel focused events on Tour.

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