The 2017 WCT kicks off this week with SO MANY QUESTIONS:
Will Facebook save pro surfing?
Will Fanning or Slater win agai….yawn, sorry, fell asleep just thinking about that possibility
Who’s in charge of the WSL now anyway, with Paul Speaker gone?
Can Florence find the focus to repeat?
Is Owen Wright Owen Wright again?
Can Stu Kennedy repeat his performance as a more-interesting-surfing Fanning, riding strange boards and knocking off titans?
Is this the last year without a wave pool venue on the schedule?
Can Jordy get over the hump and bring home the title?
Answers: No, no, good question, sure, shruggie emoticon, yep, nope, doubt it.
With all the important questions thus answered, what's left to anticipate with this year's Tour? As somebody who's been unnaturally dedicated to watching pro surfing over the past 20 years, here are a few things I'd love to see happen:
1. SINGLE DAY EVENTS. Look, in theory, I get the idea of multi-week waiting periods. And fine, have long waiting periods, if you want. But once you pick the day of competition, that's it--that's your day. No more holding a round or two one day, then no competition for three or four days, then a couple rounds, then a day off, then the finals. I've already long since lost interest once a day or two without heats goes by. There's baseball to watch, dogs being rated on Twitter, arguing with strangers on Facebook--all of these important activities will easily draw my attention away from a surf contest that's been on and off again for an entire week. This will of course necessitate trimming lots of excess heats and rounds from competitions, which brings me to the next point…
2. STRIP THE TOUR BACK TO A TOP-16. There's a reason that there's very little drama in pro surfing: no rivalries. Too easy to stay on Tour. Too many faces. With 30-something spots (seriously, how many guys are on tour now, 34? With a couple wildcards?) and a zillion 'QS events with which to bolster ratings, it's like a giant party at each event. It's too hard to form bitter, nuclear-grade rivalries when there are different surfers battling it out for the podium every event. Cut the competitors down by half, and suddenly you get the same dudes fighting with each other at every contest in a desperate battle to either win the title, or to stay on Tour. Brilliant. Familiarity breeds contempt, and all that. I want enraged paddle battles and curse-laden post-heat interviews. I don't want a bunch of friends surfing with each other and “just taking everything one heat at a time.” And if the ratings are any indication, nobody else wants that, either.
3. FINALLY, DIFFERENT BOARDS. I'm projecting here, since I've mostly abandoned riding high-performance shortboards, but still, allowing a bit of individuality in surfing beyond hand placement or line choice, or rail v. airs, would go a long way to making a contest way, way more interesting. Half the time, a legit fish would be a better choice for the conditions at Trestles, the Brazilian beachbreaks, or Snapper. Remember when Heath Joske drew a high line and threw in a soul arch at the J-Bay contest a few years back and the internet freaked? A simple soul arch? Let's have more of that. Let's see somebody paddle out on a 2+1 high-performance egg at Bells and do the weirdest shit. Be a lot more entertaining than watching hack, cutback, air reverse over and over again. I'm not talking about somebody paddling a longboard out to a small-wave event in protest, a lá Dave Parmenter. But if it looks like a twin-keel fish would go the best at J-Bay this year, damn hell, paddle that sucker out.