Against The Grain

rooftop's picture
rooftop started the topic in Friday, 28 Mar 2014 at 12:09am

While looking at pictures of the most recent East coast swell the other day, a realisation suddenly struck me: despite visiting Swellnet every day of the past year, I had no idea who had won the most recent ASP contest on the Gold Coast. I had read about the competition. I had seen the results. But for the life of me I couldn't tell you anything about it.

I figured that unless I had suffered some recent head trauma (checked with the wife - no, dear), there could only be one other explanation: I don't care. Honestly, I couldn't give a damn.

What! Sacrilege! How could you say such a thing!

Rubbish. You probably don't care either.

Let's face it, most of us keep an eye on the standings and the results, but what do we spend most of our time on? Pictures. Pictures of thrilling late take-offs, of white slashing peacock plumes of spray, layback barrels backlit by orange dawn rays. Footage of people emerging like magicians from unmakeable barrels, or great schools of human flotsam scrambling to make it over a vast slab of the Pacific ocean as it sacrifices itself onto a ravenous reef.

This is what raises our heart rate. Not standings.

Sure, if there's a competition on in my part of the world I will check it out. And the last Pipe Masters was a great event, for which I was more than happy to wake up early and park myself in front of the screen.

But would I have done the same if it was two foot Trestles?

We can bitch and moan and scratch our heads about the ASP, and Lord knows we've done plenty of that. Since its inception we've all chipped in our two cents as to why this sport, with all its drama and spectacle, is not a mainstream competitive sport. Why doesn't the ASP have a higher profile, why don't others understand how great our sport is, why this, why that. Oh, but it's so marketable! If only the corporate powers that steer it knew what they were doing, we'd get more media coverage and blah blah blah. Blah.

Our sport has stumbled along in the professional arena for so long because...

It's not a sport. It's an art.

Trying to fit the square peg of surfing into the round hole of competitive sport is futile and misguided.

Nabokov wrote the book Lolita after he read an article about a monkey who had been trained to paint. The connection between the two events may not be apparent at first, but Nabokov saw in that article something which disturbed him greatly: the monkey was being forced to go against its natural state. To be something other than what it naturally was.

So it was with Lolita.

And so it is with surfing.

I would consider myself a fairly average surfer. I view surfing content daily, I surf whenever there is some swell (I live in Perth, so whenever it's above 2ft), and I also have a very mild interest in AFL. During the footy season I could tell you at any given moment where my team is on the ladder even though I probably watch only two or three games a season. If I miss a match, as I usually do, I only want to know one thing: Did we win? Then: By how much? Then: Are we still in the eight?

But with the most recent Pipe Masters, the thing that I loved the most was the round with Jon Jon and Kelly. Not because there was anything at stake, but because the surfing in that round was beautiful. Vertical drops, perfect lines, a breathtaking exhibition of artistry in - sorry to have to say these words - perfect harmony with nature.

Yes, there are benefits to competition. It fuels innovation, it gives surfing companies a platform to advertise, and provides careers and entertainment to many. And of course, other competitive sports are not without their own aesthetic qualities.

But the joy of painting the temporary canvas of a wave with a fleeting record of our body's unique rhythm is not something that can be canned and force fed to the masses. Nor should it be. Let's not do to surfing what Australian Idol did to music.

I don't care who rode the best wave of the recent swell. I just want to see some awesome pictures of it until I can get out there myself.


thermalben's picture
thermalben's picture
thermalben Friday, 28 Mar 2014 at 6:30am

Completely agree with your post RT.. well written too.

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot Friday, 28 Mar 2014 at 8:15am

Well said. Watching Fanning at pipe was spine tingling stuff but the "Carpark Stories" DVD that came out with an Oz surfmag recently featuring semi-underground pros and locals and showing epic waves around Oz impressed me a lot more than watching pro surfing. At least you could relate to travelling around with your mates trying to get barrelled off your banana.

mick-free's picture
mick-free's picture
mick-free Friday, 28 Mar 2014 at 8:47am

Going to be some nice canvasses to paint on in Margarets with a week of pumping waves and offshores.

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet Friday, 28 Mar 2014 at 2:31pm

You hit upon a few poignant points, Rooftop. One is that we really only care for 'competition' (scary quotation marks intended) when the waves are good.

It's an indisputable fact, the webcast viewership goes up when the waves are better, so therefore it's the waves and not the competition many of us care about. I understand that this isn't a new point, it's been stated ad nauseum, and yet it hasn't been acted upon and doesn't apear it will with prefessional surfing's new stewards.

The sport or art argument I don't care too much for. If a surfer wants to show that he's better than another surfer then that's competition and by extension a sport. Whether the rest of us want to watch that is something else indeed.

Sheepdog's picture
Sheepdog's picture
Sheepdog Friday, 28 Mar 2014 at 3:02pm

Mickfree- TH was 8 to 10feet wed/thurs........ dead offshore..... That spot you and I know would've been cranking.... Anyway, back on subject...... Nice post Rooftop.....
Had this out with stairdodger once..... Surfing is a pastime, a recreation.... It's convoluted.... It's like dancing... It can manifest itself into an art, a lifestyle, an exercise, a sport, a business. It's a malleable pastime that means a thousand different things to a thousand different people.

Yeah, the webcast viewership goes up when the waves are cranking, but so does the average age of the viewer......
Us guys over 30 mightn't care too much for watching when it is 3 foot onshore, but a 14yo grommet and his mates who all have helicopter parents with full wallets will be watching every cutback, every air. They could tell you what parko did on his second wave in the second round of the third last comp in 2013 move for move, and what brand of sunscreen he used...... That's where the money is, where the future is.... Not with us old farts whose wallets are full of moths........

mick-free's picture
mick-free's picture
mick-free Friday, 28 Mar 2014 at 3:57pm

Haha Sheepdog - I have been trying to play it low key with Tassy and its been good East Coast last two weeks. Keen to check that river mouth set up in the next large swell though down your way.

I'm struggling to get into the world tour along the lines what rooftop said. Looks like a bullshit week to be searching WA so the pros score again

Sheepdog's picture
Sheepdog's picture
Sheepdog Friday, 28 Mar 2014 at 5:10pm

What rivermouth? I don't know what u r talking about........ ;)
Never been to W.A.... Augusta to Esperance looks interesting......

rooftop's picture
rooftop's picture
rooftop Saturday, 29 Mar 2014 at 12:03am

Thanks for the input, guys. Glad you liked it, TB.

mick-free wrote:

Going to be some nice canvasses to paint on in Margarets with a week of pumping waves and offshores.

Wish I could get away.....

barley's picture
barley's picture
barley Saturday, 29 Mar 2014 at 12:07am

Roadtrippin with the fams to watch the margies pro..stopping at a prickly place then heading to Margs..soooo psyched can't wait yeeewww!!