UN­SPOILT BY PROGRESS

Carve - - INTRODUCTION - Sharpy Edi­tor

You will surely agree that Kelly’s Cal­i­for­nian wa­ter fea­ture is a mar­vel­lous feat of en­gi­neer­ing. An ex­cel­lent ex­am­ple of tak­ing a first world prob­lem and ap­ply­ing a Da­monesque “I’m go­ing to have to science the shit out of this” work ethic to its so­lu­tion.

No one will ar­gue the fact that the Surf Ranch pro­duces the most ex­cep­tional hu­man-made wave is with­out a doubt. We’ve cov­ered the rise of the ma­chines in the pages of the mag­a­zine. Th­ese con­trap­tions are newsworthy, fas­ci­nat­ing and if you get the chance at a slide in a lake fun as hell. But are they the fu­ture? Are they the fu­ture we want?

I couldn’t even bring my­self to watch much of WSL Surf Ranch Pro. Wit­ness­ing min­utes of my life steadily dis­ap­pear while wait­ing for the ma­chine to re­set was pain­ful. No sur­vey­ing the hori­zon for sets, no won­der as to what curve­balls na­ture would throw in the heat. Just pain­ful pre­dictabil­ity and repet­i­tive surf­ing. The words ‘ster­ile’ and ‘bor­ing’ kept flash­ing in my mind’s eye in gi­ant neon let­ters.

Surf comps work be­cause they’re a glad­i­a­to­rial bat­tle. The per­son vs per­son dy­namic is vi­tal. The dance of ran­dom­ness pro­vided by an oceanic can­vas keeps it in­ter­est­ing. There are no buzzer beaters, pad­dle bat­tles or sport­ing drama in the pool. A four-day event is worse than flip­ping cricket. No sport needs to last four days of repetition, es­pe­cially with waves lit­er­ally at the press of a but­ton.

Surf comps aren’t fair. The ocean does not care what score any­one needs. It’s this capri­cious­ness that keeps us on our toes. The pool’s only ad­van­tage is you can say the comp will start bang

on the dot Sat­ur­day morn­ing at 8:30. It’s a good time keeper, a level play­ing field. As long as you don’t need a scor­ing left.

It doesn’t sat­isfy the build­ing per­for­mance level of snow­board and skate jam style comps where the ex­cite­ment is pal­pa­ble ei­ther. Non snow­board­ers get the half­pipe comp in the Olympics. It’s fast, fre­netic and ex­cit­ing. Not like watch­ing paint dry. The WSL doesn’t need to make surf­ing more pop­u­lar. It needs to ex­cite the folks that do it al­ready.

Of course, surf­ing com­pe­ti­tion means not a jot to most of you. The bulk of you won’t have ever com­peted or have the slight­est in­ter­est in it. I’ll wa­ger a lot of you don’t even watch the world tour ei­ther, which is fine.

We surf be­cause it en­riches our souls. It’s fun. Be­ing out in the sea is ben­e­fi­cial for you in so many ways. The pools won’t ever re­place the ocean. One day we might look back on this era as an ex­pen­sive cul-de-sac in surf­ing’s rich his­tory, the pos­si­ble fork in the time­line when pro surf­ing com­pe­ti­tions jumped the shark into ir­rel­e­vance.

The waves will keep on com­ing with­out me­chan­i­cal as­sis­tance in the salty realm. We will con­tinue to seek so­lace and spir­i­tual con­nec­tion to the good earth in their briny em­brace. When they can re­pro­duce Cloud­break in a tank maybe then I’ll change my mind.

Ju­lian Wil­son from the re­cent Surf Ranch Pro. High per­for­mance sure. But did it grab you by the lapels and ex­cite your surf­ing juices? PHOTO: WSL/CESTARI

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