It was precisely a year ago that a terrifying scourge caught the world off guard – those who found themselves exposed reported symptoms of nausea, trouble breathing, loss of taste and appetite. Some say the dangers were over-reported and exaggerated, but I believe the horrors were, and are, all too real.
I refer not, of course, to COVID-19, but instead to the Gal Gadot-led multi-celebrity car-crash rendition of John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ that was put on the YouTubes and the Instagrams.
Remember that toe-curler? Whatever you do, DON’T look it up, I can attest that a year later, it’s still as toxic as ever.
For some strange and unmerited reason, your Ding Alley correspondent was reminded of this awful celebrities-taking-it-upon-themselves-to-give-your-empty-life-meaning moment in history, when pondering the planeload of Woz surfers and staff winging their way to Oz earlier this week.
It’s bitchy and judgemental and just plain ol’ wrong, I know, but I can’t shake the notion that there’s an element of a mercy flight here – a plucky troupe of entertainers with hearts of gold, hitting the road to put on a show that’ll give the common folk something to cheer for.
And if it means leaving the usual entourage behind – the strength and conditioning coach, the video-kid/errand-boy/acolyte, and the friend whose role is pretty much like Bez in UK ‘90s group Happy Mondays, (basically there just for the vibe) – then so be it, sacrifices must be made for pro surfing’s higher purpose.
Because as we’ve all learnt over the course of the last year and a bit, a surf culture will wither and die without the heartbeat of the pro tour generating the fires of stoke and excitement.
The evidence is everywhere: lineups Australia-wide have become listless, low energy affairs; surfboard sales are shithouse; and most concerning of all, without seeding rounds, without dropping the high and low scores and averaging out the remaining three, without Jeep ads, without combinationsituations and paddlebaddles, heck, what other possible mechanism could pied-piper the kiddies to the beach?
And as we know, ‘growing the sport’ is the sacred charter of pro surfing, for decades it’s been declared as such an obvious statement of fact that anyone’d feel like a downright heel if they were to ask, “but why?”
OK, now we’ve got the cheap shots (mostly) out of the way, let’s imagine WOZ AIR in a more enjoyable light, where, similar to any self-respecting Brisbane > Denpasar flight in the ‘80s, the moment the seatbelt light goes off it’s a mad dash to the back of the plane for six hours of duty free and durries.
Obviously, that’d be too much to ask of our well-behaved international surfing heroes collectively, but I pray to God that one or two of ‘em had the presence of mind to realise, “Fuck, here I am, with my noise-cancelling headphones and twenty shooters in the hold, lah-de-dahhing my way across the globe to do some reos and cutties and talk bollocks about heat management in post heat pressers with whoever they’ll get to resemble Rosie, so I better do SOMETHING with my time on this bird that I’ll be able to look back on with satisfaction.”
I dunno, would it be too much to ask for someone to at least have been cut off from the drinks service because they got too raucous? Or that a few crew started punching on, only to hug it out, then start punching on again? Can someone have brought just one tiny bud into the country, tucked in their shoe? Could someone have been fingered or copped a wristy under an airline blanket from someone not technically a spouse or partner?
I think we can assume that the best we can realistically hope for is that someone had a sly kill in the dunnies. And I know he’s a family man with lovely wife and kidlets, and I’m not even sure he was on the flight, but my money’d be on Joe Turpel. I mean this in no way disrespectfully. In fact I think it would have been tactically brilliant – a little bit rock ‘n’ roll, and a solid post-wank snooze all the way to Sydders.
Enough futile speculation about the recent past. Let’s pointlessly speculate about what lies ahead.
First up, massive ups to the Woz putting the flight together, and full credit to our man Starky, the big wave charger who’s been making appearances at second-tier venues in regional areas the length of the seaboard, in these respects he’s Greg AND Shannon Noll rolled into one.
And if all four comps actually DO happen, who knows? Perhaps planet Woz will shift on its administrative axis and there’ll be more Oz in Woz.
Anyway, we’re looking forward to seeing some top notch surfing, and grateful as ever for the generosity of the free webcasts. Here’s a few questions your Ding Alley team cannot wait to find answers to:
• Will the stars align and all four comps run smoothly and incident free, or will the fickle finger of fate yet again fuck with the Woz? No doubt there’s contingencies up the wazoo if surfer or official finds themselves struck by the pox, but it’s been a while since we had some good old-fashioned mainstream media pandemic argy-bargy, and so if the Woz and an outbreak of the COVID find themselves in the same postcode, expect shrillness!
• Will the internet survive the next fortnight’s worth of Instagram quarantine stories from our recently arrived heroes? Day one was all 1000-yard stares and stoic, “Well, here we are” monologues to iPhones. Hints of Andy Dufresne, narration by Morgan Freeman the only thing missing. We’ll no doubt be seeing some here’s-me-training-in-my-room clips shortly. As long as they don’t sing ‘Imagine’, or ‘Do They Know It’s Christmas’ or ‘We Are The World (Tour)’, we’ll be OK.
• When the gang bust out of the joint, and convene at Newy (on, er, April 1st), how bunched will the field be? Will a year on ice have allowed the long-service guys - Wilson, Wright, Bourez, Flores, ADS, Buchan etc - a chance to sharpen an edge dulled perhaps by the grind? Will the rookies have benefitted from a year of surfing without the consequences of survival rookies usually are dealt? Will Italo and Gabs pick up where they left off? And would I be able to distinguish between Alex Ribiero, Peterson Crisanto and Deivid Silva if I ever saw them together?
• And please God, let there be good waves, and especially can we have Margies Rights fire up, and can JJF go mad again? The fella deserves to win at least one comp, not only for his otherworldy surfing, but for the dignified distance he maintains between himself and the ‘post’ button on his Insta.
• It’ll be the little things we’ll all delight in, I think. Like, how Seppo-fied will Jack Robbo’s accent be in his post heat pressers? Using Ding Alley's patented Accent-o-Meter at the Caba comp last year, following a solid stint in the WA desert Robbo was turning in a mere 11 percent Seppo drawl in his ‘O’ vowels, which ramped up to a 27 percent inflexion at Pipe after only a relatively short time on the rock. Given his extended stint in Hawaii, experts are predicting up to 50 percent Sepponess, particularly in any drawn out ‘you know’s?' Definitely something to monitor.
• And finally, the elephant in the room. Ding Alley is a true believer in the unifying power of sport, and if there’s one thing this world needs right now, it’s healing. Australia currently finds itself at an impasse with China. President Xi Jinping is ramping up rhetoric and indicating Beijing is willing to use whatever means necessary to prevail in matters of trade and territory. I believe the magic of competitive surfing can transcend geopolitical tensions: so let’s take 5th ranked male surfer Kanoa Igarashi into our hearts and give him all the support he deserves. Can you imagine the pressure he’d be under? Singlehandedly carrying the hopes of the most populous country on earth? No doubt he’ll be surveilled like a hawk during his time down under, so let’s show him, his handlers, and the peoples of his great nation nothing but warmth and friendliness.
And on that profound and insightful note, Ding Alley is looking forward very much to presenting you with more well-researched, fact-checked, accurate surf journalism when the comps kick off.
// DING ALLEY
Ding Alley is Illustrator Deivid @maccatoons McArthur and Writer Gra Murdoch. And just in case it’s not super obvious, that K.I gag at the end is a riff on the author’s ignorance and stupidity.