The Woz Finals Series on the Rocks...Again
That's the sound of the Woz slapping global surf fans in the face with a cold fish in a wet sock by announcing the 2022 Finals Day will be held at Trestles.
While the 2021 Finals Day was held on a day at Trestles that was as “big as it gets and as good as it gets”, and was “fun to watch”, it failed to provide the drama and excitement promised to fans of the sport. The number one seeds, especially Gabe Medina, cantered to easy victories and the most dramatic moments were supplied by Kelly Slater in the booth, not the action in the water.
Trestles is great as a regular tour stop. By returning there for the Finals Day the Woz has stolen defeat from the jaws of victory. The CT schedule this year is shaping up to be insane. It includes many A-grade waves and with the mid-year cut removing the backmarkers the potential exists for a tour year to finally live up to the promise that the top tier surfers like JJF, Medina, Italo deserve. As well as surf fans who gritted their teeth through multiple beachbreak events last year. Even the wavepool event, the bane of the modern surf fan, and which Kelly Slater himself described in a recent interview with MMA journalist Ariel Helwani as “boring"- has been quietly taken down to the bottom paddock and euthanised.
Which makes the decision to hold Finals Day at an intermediate-level wave incomprehensible, if not mind-bogglingly dumb. It's robbed fans of the chance to see the women challenged at a proper surf spot on Finals Day, after a year in which all their skills will be tested at Pipe and Teahupoo.
Why put them back in the kiddie pool for Finals Day after throwing them in the deep end all year?
It's eliminated any miniscule remaining chance Kelly Slater may have had at a World Title in his fiftieth year, and final year as a full-time tour competitor. It's likely vaccination requirements for the Aussie leg will guillotine those chances anyway, but with Pipe, J-Bay, and Teahupoo on the roster an unlikely outsider run at, say, finals day Cloudbreak could have remained a tantalisingly remote possibility.
Not any more. Kelly cannot match the Brazilians on the cobblestones. That storyline is now kaput.
How can they not get this right? UFC, the global franchise which has been massively in the ascendancy during the past COVID-derailed years, and which the WSL has tried to copy, routinely, almost mechanically, gives fans the match-ups they want to see. What the fans want, the sport delivers to them.
"Lame", "weak", "disappointing" is the feedback I've got this morning from the surf fans in my local hood. “Beyond exciting,” is how Brooke Farriss, Rip Curl's CEO described the move.
Do you see the problem here? The disconnect between the corpo speak and direction of the WSL and its partners with the average surf fan is not something a global sport should be happy with.
Ten days to the start of Pipe with the tantalising prospect of seeing JJF in god-like form at his local break and the WSL throws a rotten egg at its fans - and then tries to pretend it smells like roses.
Just another classic misstep from the WSL, and more proof that the people at the top have no idea about the sport they now own.
// STEVE SHEARER