Not that anyone engaged with the rich tapestry of their own life should really give a shit about who helms the WSL, but we should have seen it coming anyway.
“It” being, as we all know, the elevation of former Mouseketeer Erik Logan to Top Cheese at the Wozzle, as outgoing CEO Sophie Goldschmidt updates her SEEK profile and stares into space for a bit.
The rise of this one-time Countdown host has occurred in lockstep with the build-up of “content” on the WSL platforms. You know the gear: the Brilliant Corners, the PURE, the Rising Tides, the Sound Waves, the ECO schtick, the earnest podcasts, the relentless #instappropriation of anyone’s good stuff.
Permit us to speculate on the sequence of events that might have led to this glorious state of affairs:
At some stage it must have been agreed – possibly during that memorable 13-minute Simpson V Andre lull of 2015 – that the spectacle of competition alone may not be enough to win over the masses, no matter how furiously or often Turps would pull the talkie-doll string on Pottz’s back.
If backs of heads staring out to the horizon won’t do the trick, surely back stories would win hearts and minds, the thinking went.
When excavation of the athletes’ rich inner lives turned up fuck-all, the decision to look beyond the pro-bubble – to become the storyteller of all things surfing – was sown.
Five years on, the Wozzle identifies itself more as Media Company first, Competitive Surfing Organisation next, with grinning former X-Factor contestant Logan perched atop it.
Dunno what you reckon, but IMO the Wozzle Studios’ how-good-is-surfing output is dishwater most of the time. It’s well-resourced, well-executed and all, but it never quite catches you off guard the way a story’s supposed to.
And so: Surfing is good, especially for poor dark-skinned people; on the balance of things, it’s healthier to go for a surf than, say, be in a gang doing crime stuff; young girls are excited to surf with their heroines, and look at how sweet the heroines are to the kidlets because – get this – they can remember being young themselves!; see the surf star picking plastic off the beach; see the army vet/famous DJ/philanthropic comedienne/F1 driver/headless spastic kiddie* getting a sweet ride at the surf ranch.
All fair enough I suppose. But how-good-is… gets irritating real quick, as we know.
The irony here, of course, is that we’re unworthy of the WSL’s extraordinary efforts when it comes to the matter of putting on and presenting a surfing contest.
Forget the Brilliant Corners, put aside your beef with the commentary, throw down your Eliminate-The-Non-Elimination-Round placard and think instead of the technical professionalism and teamwork that lies behind those three-or-four replay angles. Think of the military-grade logistics of getting those events in and out of town, the never ending challenges the ever-changing elements must throw up.
You’d have to think stuff happens every single day on those comps that could derail the show, and every day some champion holds it all together with gaffer tape and bubble wrap.
But in the Wozzle’s quest to own the storytelling space, (to give us all warm ‘n’ fuzzies in the hope that somehow this will translate into ... whatever it is they’re hoping to happen …) they’re undermining the stories they share so capably.
I mean, just off the top of my head, if I think back to the Triple Crown, I can remember heaps of great stuff: seeing Slater on his guts in a Haleiwa trough, thinking that the old boy wasn’t gonna get to his feet, then emitting an audible groan at that rail turn that snuck him into the quarters. I remember being spellbound by a lot of the surfing through the Sunset Comp: Ethan Ewing’s full-rail carves out of the lip and back into the big leagues; Robbo turning the break into something else; kinda hoping Zeke would pull it out of the hat but resenting him for all the times he let me down on Fantasy Surfer; marvelling at how hard the smiling Saffirs charge; being stoked there was gonna be another Aussie to root for in Morgan Cibilic.
(A quick aside – of the human interest stories, the most compelling for mine was on the sand at Pipe: Rosie patiently waiting to interview Italo in the frenzy of his world title moment. For about two seconds, the possibility of Italo tearfully porking his missus then and there – and Rosie becoming unwitting adult-movie boom operator rather than interviewer – became all too real.)
These were stories I constructed myself, from the material provided by incredible surfers simply trying to surf better than each other. Which in itself is pointless. But for reasons I can’t explain, I don’t tire of it. I’m completely engaged and it’s a credit to the WSL that it’s beamed to me so well and for free.
Try to feed me some side content about how surfing is a magic force for good, however, and I’ll run screaming from the contrivance.
Anyway, it’s a long way from repeated American Idol auditions to running the Wozzle. Let’s hope Logan rides more waves, watches more heats, and surprises us.
*Quote from Captain Goodvibes circa ‘81
Ding Alley is two mates: cartoonist Dave McArthur and writer Gra Murdoch. They may be the most successful Surf Media team ever to come out of Footscray TAFE.