Surfers on the ASP World tour aren't allowed to compete in any event that the ASP doesn't sanction. If they neglect the papers and choose to compete in such an event regardless, the board of directors could kick the surfer off tour and take back that year's prize money. Strict, huh. To a surfer, it sounds a lot like playing with fire.
Which is exactly what the X-Games is all about. Fire, explosions, Mountain Dew, bad tattoos — these are the lifeblood of the Extreme Games. In the early 2000s, surfing had a brief and nervous romance with the X-Games. A gaudy team format combined with Huntington Beach dribble to create a relationship that was of little worth to anyone. There was attempt to salvage by relocating the event to Puerto Escondido, but the damage was beyond repair. And after a few short years, the X-Games ditched us stone cold in the sand. To their credit, they did leave
us with a few cases of Monster energy drink and a pretty cool lanyard.
But they came crawling back. And this time around, they've changed. There will be no teams or Huntington Beach. There won't even be bullhorns and singlets. Instead, there will be video cameras and Final Cut Pro. In an event called Real Surf, a sweet sixteen surfers were invited to compete by producing 90-second video clips. The segments were put on the web, matched into man-on-man heats and voted on by fans of democracy and slob grabs.
The concept of a video competition is nothing new to surfing (just ask Matt Meola or Albee Layer), but Real Surf is an attempt to provide an alternative to the traditional surf contest. The 90-second limit makes for segments that are focused on surfing, not film filters. The man-on-man matchups are meant to mimic the drama of an orthodox heat and give a direct means for comparison. And the multiple rounds create a sense of anticipation.
All the while, the video aspect eliminates dreadful words like "tactics" and "priority" that should have no place in our beloved diversion. Competitors get to surf waves that please their specific tastes. The final product that we watch and judge is an accurate depiction of one's surfing, not a 40-minute glimpse of safety-surfing convention. And ASP surfers Kelly Slater, Jordy Smith, Julian Wilson, and Gabriel Medina are partaking in the fun.
Who wouldn't want to watch a freeform heat between Gabriel Medina and Matt Meola? Or Slater against Chippa? Or Willian Cardoso against an actual rhinoceros? Even though Real Surf most likely isn't a messiah's answer to our competitive woes, it's on the right track — even if it does still listen to Sum 41.
You can watch and vote here:
http://xgames.espn.go.com/events/2013/foz-do-iguacu/real/round/1/. Competition is already in the second round.