Rip Curl and the new gold standard
It’s been fourteen days and we’re none the wiser.
Surely no-one thought it was gonna take this long?
When Rip Curl dropped the clip of Mick Fanning surfing ‘the Snake’ it didn’t exactly break the internet but it did set off the largest global search since Pokemon Go. That afternoon ‘Mick Fanning’ trended on Twitter, it spiked on Google Trends, and judging by the geographical clues and allusions strewn across comment sections, Google Earth got a similar pounding.
In 2017 the surfing subculture is fractured in myriad ways, we come from various cultures, demographics, and social strata, but events like this show it’s still possible to unite the tribe. In that sense it was a marketing masterstroke.
Mick and the wave: distinguished by being indistinguishable
The recriminations were predictably fast and pointed, with most assuming the tone that Rip Curl were exposing yet another secret spot, which, it’s fair to say, is a valid concern if form on the board counts for anything.
Though whether it’s a valid criticism is another thing.
Perfect waves will always garner our attention, and surf companies don’t have the mortgage on this concept. It’s a formula that’s worked for everyone from Bruce Brown on down to lowly Instagram photographers. Yet as frustrating as exposure is, asking companies to opt out is a tad naive.
The recent event shows the cut-through a good clip can achieve, so of course surf companies are gonna act in their own self-interest. The economic world turns upon companies acting on this impulse. And it’s pointless to think Rip Curl shouldn’t do it, because experience dictates that another company will simply fill the need by acting on their self-interest.
Head meet wall.
Yet all isn't lost for those who like some space and adventure. You see, even self-interest has some nuance. Recently ‘enlightened self-interest’ has become a philosophy for companies wishing to be good corporate citizens - i.e not piss off their customers - and I’m gonna throw it out there that Rip Curl’s handling of this video is an example of this.
In the hours and days following the release of the video it was assumed disclosure of the location was imminent. It was merely a matter of time. Yet two weeks down we’re no closer to finding out where it was shot. And here’s the clincher: even if someone thinks they know where it is there’s no way to prove it from the video. By sharp editing and removing all distinguishing features a positive ID is impossible.
The only way for that to happen is if Rip Curl themselves divulge the location. But for the sake of their reputation - and that of one surf journalist - I’d heartily advise them not to.
Angle of the sun? Colour of the sand? Formation of the clouds?
For years I’ve watched companies underestimate the sleuthing skill of surfers. They’ll drop clips of unnamed waves yet unwittingly include clues a’plenty. Number plates, headlands, boat rego numbers, local languages spoken, shopfronts, the list goes on and each one is a pin drop to a supposedly secret wave. This kind of carry on is sport for many people. In fact, Swellnet forecaster Craig Brokensha has found every single wave he’s put his mind too….except for one.
All we know is that Mick’s clip was filmed last July or August following the J’Bay comp. The one slip up they made was leaving the bandage on Mick's foot. The rest of the clues were not simply vague but vacant. Crops were tight except when the background was sand or ocean, no nearby features were included in the name of aesthetics, nor local people to give it flavour. It was just Mick and the wave.
Even the spoken info was sparse, and considering the lengths they were going to could it even be trusted? There was simply no toe hold into this mystery. After more than a million views and a frenzied online search still no-one knows where the fuck it is.
And that makes Rip Curl’s effort the gold standard in modern surf filming. As secret spots dwindle theirs is the bar that every self-interested filmmaker should now aspire to.