Artificial hells

julioadler
Swellnet Dispatch

By Júlio Adler and João Valente

Mark Twain, he of the glorious mustaches, shining white garments, and Huck Finn fame, who once notoriously surfed naked in Hawaii, said that some people never make the same mistakes twice, they always find new ones.

Well, the Brazilianana Woz office was courteous enough to do just that for the sport of surfing: They found a stellar new way of breaking a model that has been showing signs of its own worn-out condition for a long, long time.

While the rest of the globe slowly returns to sports world sanity with a praxis (from the, er… Greek word for practice) routine, the Latin America’s WSL branch innovates in echoing failure.

Sounds exaggerated? Well, let's see how it's worked out...

"Everyone remember their flashlights?"

The first to attempt (and succeed, mind you) at returning to surf competition on its best, no-bullshit manner, were the Portuguese. That was way back in June, through their professional regional tour, which is one of the last operating circuits that still insist on naming national champs.

In fact, as I write these very words, on September 19th, the best Portuguese rippers (and some acolytes, like the ever-smiling Spanish Portugal-transplant journeyman, Gony Zubizarreta) are in Oporto competing in the fourth out of five contests, without an audience, with solid non-endemic sponsorship (Meo, Allianz, Renault) and focused on what has always been the core interest of this sport: waves and surfers.

After that pioneering move, the rest of the world was soon to catch up.

Firstly, the US had the perennial attempt at making Uncle K’s Ranch an enjoyable specatcle. Afterwards, a shark-spooked Australia staged its li'l play and is planning on doing two more. Europe is in a waiting window and has guests from its most represented countries: France, Spain, and Portugal, while throwing Italy’s Leo Fioravanti into the mix, as well as Kanoa Igarashi who these days is equally good for Asia, Europe, and North America.

On a sidenote, I wonder what has happened to the UK, once one of the Old Continent’s prime surfing nations that today seem as outdated as Russell Winter’s snaps and as misplaced as a Union Jack in Brussels.

Also, during the COVID interim, Japan, Chile, and Australia have been testing out media-oriented contest models, including web series in several formats.

And so, finally, the time has come for professional surfing to make its comeback to the homeland of WSL’s last two male world champs. And what exactly did the latino outlet of pro surfing do? They glowingly dropped the ball, bringing to the table something that has never been present before the arrival of its new CEO, Ivan Martinho - a sense of shame.

Judging from the Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook shitstorm, the most common word to describe the poorly named Onda do Bem (Translated: Wave of Goodness, whatever that means) was “embarrassing”. Simply put, the barely-visible, crappy-wave, night-surfing on LED-adorned surfboards by a mixed field of World Tour surfers and anonymous (outside of Brazil, that is) celebrities, was simultaneously scorned, bashed, and shunned in Portuguese, Spanish, and English — I don’t follow any French or Japanese feeds, but have little reason to think they would have reacted differently.

'Surfing like you've never seen it!' exclaimed the Onda do Bem ads, which was partly true, the surfing could hardly be seen. 

Fact is: everything about this event was or sounded fake, starting with the gimmick of waving the solidarity banner while setting up a gigantic structure on Itamambuca beach amidst an ongoing war of narratives between deforestation and preservation, to the philanthropy smokescreen scantily disguising the astronomical differences between the cash actually spent on the event and the sum that will eventually find its way to the appointed beneficiaries. In fact, not even the official communication office of Onda do Bem is clear about how much was raised for the publicised Ondas project.

As soon as the whole thing kicked-off, I was bombed by links to a real live “storm” (to use the exact term adopted by the OFF channel, Brazil’s prime action sports cable TV outlet) of smiles and superlative-ridden interviews. As usual, I checked the numbers, which showed just 2,600 live viewers in Portuguese on YouTube. Later on, I made sure that there was an English broadcast on the same platform where I found 730 resilient sufferers enduring Chris Cote’s desperate attempts to inculcate some sense for the always-sought, always-missed audience outside our limited surfing comp-watchers bubble.

As for what was happening in the water, the current world champ Ítalo Ferreira and even the SporTV commentary team (I kept zapping between streaming platforms) had trouble identifying each of the ghost-like figures riding the multi-coloured LED-decked boards. Amongst the darkness, the cameras were as lost as a nun on a honeymoon in their desperate and vain search to film anything worthwhile.

Finally, be it a (sad) coincidence or not, the evening news came on showing the much brighter, albeit infinitely more dramatic, lights of the bushfires that have are again consuming the Brazilian forests in biblical proportions, while the ever-smiling, tanned on-site surf audience have fun at the expense of those who should be concerned with preserving the remaining little pieces of dignity in the first place.

It could all be a metaphor. You know, showing grace, happiness, and beauty in the face of disaster.

It is not.

It's just disrespectful.

PS: For all the Spanish-reading people out there, I highly recommend the words our hermano, Pablo Zanocchi, put together on his website about how WSL Latin America despises anything that's not Brazilian-centric. It’s a worthwhile read about Brazil’s place in the world surfing scene and how we are on our way to replicating the same egotistical mistakes that for decades we blamed the Aussie-Yankee axis of.

PPS: While Itamambuca seethed with happiness, a few kilometres away, Gabriel Medina posted a clip of himself riding a wave sitting down, Corona bottle in his hand, that has reached 1,500 more people than all of the Onda do Bem guestlist combined.

// JA and JV

Júlio Adler and João Valente are veteran surf journalists from, respectively, Brazil and Portugal. Together they have a podcast and collaborate on written work documenting the rise of the Portuguese-speaking surf world. Through the wonders of Google Translate they'll begin contributing to Swellnet

Comments

Gra Murdoch's picture
Gra Murdoch's picture
Gra Murdoch commented Monday, 21 Sep 2020 at 5:24pm

Sincere and heartfelt thanks to JA and JV for sparing Ding Alley this experience.

wildenstein8's picture
wildenstein8's picture
wildenstein8 commented Monday, 21 Sep 2020 at 6:08pm

Why wasn't Gabriel competing?

julioadler's picture
julioadler's picture
julioadler commented Monday, 21 Sep 2020 at 9:13pm

Just speculating,
Gabby might have asked for little fee.
He was right.
He did use some irony on his IG post (and got cash for it)
https://www.instagram.com/p/CFSopp7pfWY/

christopher.jones's picture
christopher.jones's picture
christopher.jones commented Thursday, 24 Sep 2020 at 1:58pm

Corona hardly need marketing this year...

Bnkref's picture
Bnkref's picture
Bnkref commented Monday, 21 Sep 2020 at 6:22pm

I watched it for about 5 minutes on and off early on Saturday morning (while you could still see). It was so bad. Just embarrassing.

freeride76's picture
freeride76's picture
freeride76 commented Monday, 21 Sep 2020 at 6:23pm

where's the poddy gents?

can we get a google translate in real time on it?

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Monday, 21 Sep 2020 at 6:40pm

It ran for around five hours, so scroll through to at least the two hour mark unless you want to see mistimed tow ins into two foot junk.

centralscrutinizer's picture
centralscrutinizer's picture
centralscrutinizer commented Monday, 21 Sep 2020 at 9:07pm

Poddy is called Boia and its on every damn platform out there. As for the real time Google translate, well, considering the different slangs and accents in it, that'd make for a fun experience.

julioadler's picture
julioadler's picture
julioadler commented Monday, 21 Sep 2020 at 9:14pm

Don't do it!
Just don't...

Remigogo's picture
Remigogo's picture
Remigogo commented Monday, 21 Sep 2020 at 6:30pm

'730 resilient sufferers..'

Respect to the authors.

centralscrutinizer's picture
centralscrutinizer's picture
centralscrutinizer commented Monday, 21 Sep 2020 at 9:17pm

No Google translate there!

stan1972's picture
stan1972's picture
stan1972 commented Monday, 21 Sep 2020 at 6:56pm

As someone who's worked in marketing I can totally understand how an idea like this would be floated in the board room. Night time! Bright lights! Carnival on the sand!

But that's as far as the idea should've gone. It's not like it hasn't been tried (and failed) before. Remember the Keramas expression session?

centralscrutinizer's picture
centralscrutinizer's picture
centralscrutinizer commented Monday, 21 Sep 2020 at 9:03pm

Your comment just reminded me of an old meme that ran something along the lines of "next time you're afraid of sharing ideas, remember once someone said in a meeting: let's make a movie with a tornado full of sharks."

Spuddups's picture
Spuddups's picture
Spuddups commented Tuesday, 22 Sep 2020 at 3:03pm

The Sharknado film was genius though to be fair.

Westofthelake's picture
Westofthelake's picture
Westofthelake commented Monday, 21 Sep 2020 at 6:58pm

Hells Bells what a shite show that was/is.

Two thumbs up to JA, JV, and GT via SN.

PCS PeterPan's picture
PCS PeterPan's picture
PCS PeterPan commented Monday, 21 Sep 2020 at 9:44pm

I have refrained from commenting on this fine website for months . However this has drawn me out , WTF , is the WSL that disconnected ???????

servant's picture
servant's picture
servant commented Tuesday, 22 Sep 2020 at 1:49am

Dear oh dear.
I saw the WSL promos for this thing ( the most convoluted, confusing and weird surf event description I've ever heard foretold ), before it happened and said to my self, "self, what ever you do, regardless of how surf starved you are in Victoria stage 4 lockdown, do not, I repeat, do not watch this train wreck!"
Well, I didn't and Thank You LORD!
God Bless them all

servant's picture
servant's picture
servant commented Tuesday, 22 Sep 2020 at 1:46am

P.S. ....well played above Gra Murdoch.

nolocal's picture
nolocal's picture
nolocal commented Tuesday, 22 Sep 2020 at 9:20pm

great stuff fellas, look forward to reading more from Júlio and João on Swellnet.

wax-on-danielson's picture
wax-on-danielson's picture
wax-on-danielson commented Wednesday, 23 Sep 2020 at 1:20pm

Sexy

wax-on-danielson's picture
wax-on-danielson's picture
wax-on-danielson commented Wednesday, 23 Sep 2020 at 9:40am

I’m not saying this comp was my idea but I was involved in the marketing pitch and it went something like:

People in Brazil have been hit really hard by the pandemic and are super depressed. We need to make them forget this and be happy. Surfing is great but we need to make it Spicier!
We are thinking dance music festival, meets surfing.
We are thinking half naked sexy wet people, meets surfing.
We are thinking night time ecstasy party, meets surfing.
We are thinking SEX meets surfing.
And the idea was brainstormed to have people surfing on giant flashing dildos at night time.

julioadler's picture
julioadler's picture
julioadler commented Thursday, 24 Sep 2020 at 3:14am

So good!

djizzah's picture
djizzah's picture
djizzah commented Thursday, 24 Sep 2020 at 2:55pm

looked like a 10 year old's birthday party, flashing lights, balloons, really lame boring and unwatchable, couldnt see anything!!

stunet's picture
stunet's picture
stunet commented Thursday, 24 Sep 2020 at 3:04pm

Night surfing's not all bad...

fitzroy-21's picture
fitzroy-21's picture
fitzroy-21 commented Thursday, 24 Sep 2020 at 3:12pm

Thank goodness someone was sun smart at 1:17................

original smith's picture
original smith's picture
original smith commented Saturday, 26 Sep 2020 at 8:48am

In 1984 we built a mini half-pipe in Shoreham park, gaffa-taped torches to our Pro-Tec helmets and invited our parents to watch us skate in the dark. Two, maybe three runs in they grabbed our torches and turned heels for their Fresh Dry White...leaving us wandering, in the dark, where it all went wrong?

If only we could have paid our experience forward and saved The Woz the effort.

Gra Murdoch's picture
Gra Murdoch's picture
Gra Murdoch commented Saturday, 26 Sep 2020 at 11:36am

Their mistake was not bringing the booze with them. I personally would have loved to pull up a camp chair, work through a bottle of vino and occasionally scatter small rocks across the skating surface.

views from the cockpit's picture
views from the cockpit's picture
views from the ... commented Saturday, 26 Sep 2020 at 6:26pm

Ha Classic footage and commentary I recall.
Whats Incredible (MR) is that the surfing actually looked better in 84 than now!!!