Surfing’s representation in the dreaded mainstream media consists of two things right now: sharks, and absurdity. The shark thing needs no introduction, Mick Fanning did that for all of us, but the absurdity levels to which our sport is getting tagged is pushing the sport close to ridicule.
Why would one surf while on fire at Teahupo’o? It’s a bizarre stunt, so contrived it had to be J.O.B. To be fair, since he turned his back on professional surfing Jamie does do his utmost to stay relevant, and does get pushed along the road of relevance by his sponsors. But to torch oneself before pulling into a Teahupo’o tube has got to be one of the most vainglorious stunts yet conceived and deserves the dancing bear status it has received on the ground. Jamie dons a couple of wetsuits, and according to the accompanying media, carries out one of his surfing dreams; ‘to get barrelled on one of the world’s heaviest waves… while lit on fire.’ To his credit, it’s a heavy wave, as are most size waves at Chopes, and he rides it with absolute aplomb, while flames lick at his eyebrows and nostrils.
However, without wishing to detract from his efforts any more, something similar has been done before, way back in 2007, and while the wave is small and inconsequential the flames are pretty intense. Check out the world’s first Fireball Surfer Jody Hooker having a go at Raglan.
“It’s a good day for a burn,” said stuntman Hooker. Indeed.
Dog Day Afternoon
Over in Cali, the current surfing trend right now is to take your dog surfing, and then when he or she is good enough, enter the same dog in a surf event. “I taught her to balance in a kiddy pool when she was 8 months old on a boogie board,” said the proud owner of Kalani, one of the winners. “The rest of it is Kalani. She’s just a fantastic balancing dog.”
Dogs surfing, it has been said, are more popular than professional surfing as a whole. It’s cute, it’s totally understood by mainstream media and it makes for easily digestible News filler content across the globe. More so in fact than the average person’s grasp of professional surfing.
Kalani went on to win the Large Breed Event.
The Roar Of Engines
We all know well enough about the Robbie Maddison Teahupo’o dirtbike riding session, but what has it done for the sport? Many ordinary surfers, call them purists if you must, actually shudder when talking about this video. It’s surf porn all right and at what expense to our sport? And how much did the Teahupo’o locals have to be paid off to let this absurdity happen? Teahupo’o sure has evolved from its burst onto the scene as the Gotcha Pro in 1998 as The Killing Floor. It’s now a sold-out film studio for Jackass type stunts. DC got their whack however, with 17 million views.
A million miles away from the azure water and petrol fumes of Chopes, over in Wales they’re busy preparing for a surfing joust on a real artificial wave. Surf Snowdonia is real and the wave works. The event does have a bit of a funny taste to it right now, as this is their marketing spiel.
Teahupo’o sure has evolved from its burst onto the scene as the Gotcha Pro in 1998 as The Killing Floor. It’s now a sold-out film studio for Jackass type stunts.
‘A brand new innovative event format – only made possible by the on-demand nature of the waves, will see Formula 1 style leaderboard qualifying narrow a 24 surfer field down to 16 seeds, using their highest single wave scores. A series of head to head clashes will then go down, themed on medieval jousting tournaments, which, set in the beautiful Welsh countryside, with its hundreds of castles and rich folklore will be an echo of sporting combat from another time.’
In a world of surf stadium conjecture, wave pool rumours and Olympic Games gossip, this is a step. It’s just a step, but for many glass-half-full kind of people, a step in a positive direction. What many people hope, is that it will kick into gear the other wave pool projects from the Webber/Slater rivalry, maybe lessen crowds, get more people into the sport, and side-step the current shark conundrum. For those of us born and bred on ocean waves for a few decades, it’s still a hard concept to accept. Having said that I’m so old I even remember when the Thruster was an impossible concept to accept. Did you see what I did there?
Let’s not forget the tandem gymnast surfing clip that has been doing the rounds. While not in any way laughable or derisive, it does sit way outside our boundaries of what is hard-core surfing, and what constitutes legitimate surfing elements and skills. While Lauren Oiye and Chuck Inman are obviously extremely talented and good at what they do, especially while competing in the Tandem Surfing Contest at Waikiki as this video shows, it’s not going to catch anyone’s attention except the mainstream, who are going to be amazed by their gymnastic abilities. Most hardcore surfers will have a quick look, realise it’s really not what they expected, and move on, leaving the clip to exist on mainstream news websites under the ‘Lighter Side Of Surfing’ type headers.
Surfing has many sides to it. There are just too many variations for any of us to be scornful of any one particular niche subspecies. We don’t have the right anyway, but you have to think that all of this is not quite what The Duke had in mind.