Paddle Battle: Jet-ski assist banned at Rip Curl Search San Francisco
Who are Rip Curl planning to use in the commentary booth at their Search event in San Francisco this November? Normally, I wouldn't care but the 'Curl are gonna need some special talent to carry the webcast now that PWC - or jet-ski - assist has been banned at the event.
The announcement was made last month by the National Park Services who oversee the competition area at Ocean Beach and contravenes an earlier understanding that Rip Curl would be allowed to use PWC's.
Ocean Beach is known for having lines of whitewater that must be breached before making the clean water beyond - it can be a long, tough paddle out, even in smaller swells. I recently asked surf writer, Matt Warshaw, who lives locally, what type of conditions the competitors can expect. "The beach picks up all swells, which means there will be surf for sure, but possibly crossed-up. It's always hard, even for pro-level guys, to get a handle on where to sit."
Without PWC assist to ferry surfers out and minimise paddling there'll be a lot of down time during heats. To fill the dead air the webcast commentators will have to dig up all their old chestnuts. While surfers engage in lengthy paddle battles ex-pro commentators can tell old war stories.
I recently spoke to George Durgerian in regards to the PWC ban. Durgerian is the ranger for public affairs and special events at Golden Gate National Park. It's an ideal role, his voice has a deep, authoritative timbre. 'He'd make an ideal commentator' I thought to myself when he answered the phone.
The ban, Durgerian explained, came down to the definition of safety. As a rule all PWC's are banned in the national park except those used for safety purposes. When Rip Curl first applied to stage the competition they were granted the right to use PWC's on the grounds of public safety. However, Durgerian explained, on further review the park board, "Deemed that towing them out didn't meet the correct definition of public safety. We realised it was more for a convenience than a safety measure."
"I feel for them," Durgerian said apologetically, "because obviously they planned to use them and we made it more of a challenge for them."
Another factor, Durgerian said, was that allowing Rip Curl to use PWC's would, "Set a precedent that could be used by other organisers making applications to the park." In 2013 the Golden Gate National Park will be the site of the America's Cup.
Dave Prodan is the international media manager for the ASP. I can't vouch for his qualities as a commentator as we only exchanged emails, but in reply to the ban Prodan stated that PWC's, "Serve the primary purpose of safety for our surfers and staff, and the secondary purpose of allowing surfers to surf more in their heats." The order of priority is important: safety first, convenience second.
Considering that the ban hinges upon the word safety I asked Durgerian if the local lifeguards, who can use PWC's, are capable of patrolling the contest. "I have no doubt that the Rip Curl people are very well qualified, but our people are as well. They know the waters exceptionally well because they're all locals." And with an air of finality Durgerian added, "They have the ability to rescue any troubled surfers."
Despite the findings both Prodan and Brooke Farris, the international event manager for Rip Curl, are adamant they'll find a solution and, at present, the discussions between the three parties are continuing. For everyone's sake - surfers, commentators, and viewers - we hope they find a way through the impasse.
The waiting period for the Rip Curl Search San Francisco begins November 1st.