With the Pacific leg of the World Tour looming (gals from May 29, chaps from June 5) it’s that time of year when the pros are emptying their boardbags of small-wave Rio sleds and weighing up what boards to chuck in to take on potentially huge Cloudbreak and the girthsome tunnels of Teahupo’o.
The events of yesterday, when some of the world’s best free surfers had a dig at maxing Cloudbreak, leading to Aaron Gold’s, sphincter clenching for all involved drowning / rescue / resuscitation, must be weighing heavily on their minds.
The session took a dark turn, no longer an amuse bouche for the Fiji WSL stop, but a serious heads up. No other stop on the tour has the potential for being so outrageously big and perfect. Sure Teahupo’o gets nuts but there’s a point where paddling it is beyond human physics and it goes Code Red for the tow crew.
Cloudbreak, as it has occasionally shown, can be massive and perfect. Outside of the realm of what tour surfers expect or in some cases have any experience in. We all remember the kerfuffle that happened the year the event was put on hold as Cloudy went mental.
With a distinctly dismal Brazil event this year the WSL sorely need the Pacific to deliver. If it’s massive and clean they’ll have no option but to run. Unless the surfers vote not to surf. In which case the public will be baying for blood. And the free surfers that are keen to take it on will garner all the coverage. Again.
It’s a tricky proposition. Surfing Cloudbreak, or Teahupo’o at size, in the name of ‘sport’, is frankly nuts. Even though the surfers now have the option of life-vests under their suits and some of the world’s best water rescue guys on hand.
Mick’s tussle with a shark live was terrifying; a warning shot across the bows. No one wants to be holding the tiller of the professional sports organisation that leads to someone drowning live on the internet in the name of entertainment.
How many sports involve such risk? Sure you might break a leg playing footy or get concussed playing rugby. Tennis elbow is an issue. A ping-pong ball in the eye sure does smart. Sure F1 and most motorsport comes with a healthy dose of life threatening but it’s not an unruly track that kills you.
Few competitive sports compare. It’s hard to comprehend getting brutally beaten into a coral razor garden while half the Pacific tears you a new one … all as you struggle to not pass out.
Which leads us to the question: How many sports expect that you risk drowning, wounding and even death to get a score?
This is why watching surfing in serious surf is so magnetic. It transcends sport. It’s not about scores, rash-vests and sponsored messages. It’s man v nature. Plain and simple. It explains why big wave events draw the crowds. It’s why the Pacific leg is the most anticipated part of the tour. Big, clean 10-15 foot Cloudbreak and ‘edge-of-ridable Teahupo’o’ is what we want.
In an age where visual is all and being able to grab the hoi-polloi’s attention in three seconds or less before they scroll on is key. Big, bombing, blue barrels will do that. Here’s hoping the conditions are at the fine line between crazy and awesome.
Words by Sharpy