Surf-A-Palooza Mar. 7-14

DOWN GOES FRAZIER! DOWN GOES FRAZIER!: I’m convinced. The WCT is not only good, it’s great. The level of surfing is nothing short of magnificent. The locations are world-class. The athletic performances are exceptional. Most importantly, it has a legitimate, albeit unspoken, rivalry. Similar to the glory days of MP vs. everyone or MR vs. Horan or Curren vs. Occy, a well-shaped rivalry has formed on the ‘CT. Unfortunately, not everybody knows about it, so I’m gonna blow it open right now: Irons vs. Slater. That’s right, Irons vs. Slater. Nurtured properly, the ASP could have its very own Ali vs. Frazier: A heavyweight contest of unequaled appeal.

Former six-time world champion Kelly Slater is again committed this year to a full tour of events. Last year’s anti-climactic comeback-turned-sour due to, among other things, the death of his father, and his off-again, on-again disdain for the ASP judging. But now he’s back, and he is, for the first time since world title numero uno, the underdog. This fact alone spices things up considerably. Especially knowing how ultra-competitive Slater is. The newest world champion, Andy Irons, who for the first time in almost a decade has knocked Slater from atop the Surfer Poll Awards, reigns number-one in the world–in more ways than one. By the way, over the duration of his career, Irons is the only ‘CT surfer to boast a winning record versus Slater.

Now the “bro”manship on tour is disgusting–way beyond placating. Tour pros are mealy-mouthed. The ASP would be wise to foster more heart-felt disgust among its competitors. The pros are quoted explaining how they like each other’s style or how great each other’s bottom turn is…blah, blah, blah. Please, somebody, anybody, publicly acknowledge your foe has hideous style or a slow cutback. I long for the day when one of the ASP press releases is titled “Slater Calls Irons Soft.” It doesn’t matter if the contention is true. The public longs for good guys and bad guys. Bring back Richie Collins. He spoke his mind and his style was hideous! But I digress.

Quite honestly, Andy and Kelly may very well like each other. Respect? No doubt. But it seems like there may be some hidden tension in the water. It’s all speculation on my part of course. But after watching these two scrap and claw at each other during their Pipe Masters’ heats over the last two years, me thinks there is, at the very least, an underlying competitive distrust. And this is a good thing. A very good thing.

The tour does not lack in talent, or in depth. The ‘CT offers cream to go along with the Irons/Slater caffeine. Parko, Taj and Mick Fanning continue to elevate their surfing, both figuratively and literally. Others rise to the top as well. There are tour stalwarts like Occy and Luke Egan who can recycle the steepest of shoulders with their blazing gouges. Kieren Perrow and Dean Morrison lead the charge of young, confident swashbucklers in the deep end of the pool. Tour officials would be wise to nurture any potential rivalry that pops up.

The real beauty of the Tour is the tour. The ‘CT takes the world’s best professional surfers to world-class venues–The Gold Coast, Bells, J-Bay, Tavarua, Teahupoo, etc., etc. The Allentown Pro is long gone, thankfully relegated to our surfing subconscious along with scalloped-leg Quiksilver’s and mauve Zinka. Luckily, we won’t have to see Irons vs. Slater grovel in “epic” Virginia Beach.

Now, I realize there are those of you who despise that concept of professional surfing. Surfing is not a sport, you argue, it’s a lifestyle. And I not only understand your viewpoint, but in many respects I agree with you. For many of us, heat sheets, scaffolding, and media tents have nothing to do with our morning sessions, or our board choice, or our uncanny desire to plot out hurricane movement on the hour every hour–just as there are enthusiastic golfers who couldn’t care less about Tiger Woods, and avid fisherman that don’t follow the Bassmasters series. Surfing is personal. It is not professional. But for the people involved in, excited about, or even slightly intrigued by professional surfing, the WCT is, right now, about as good as it gets. And the Irons vs. Slater rivalry, if it plays out properly, will make it great.

“ANOTHER ROUND OF FOSTERS LADS, GRELLMAN’S SHOUT”: The ASP today announced a “realignment of executive duties” which translated means somebody was getting overloaded with work while another was browsing the internet too much. Here’s how the ASP executive chambers will run things moving forward. Bugs will be the President, Peter Whitaker CEO, and Richard Grellman the non-executive Chairman of the Board. Who’s the new ” Rivalaries Marketing Director”? C’mon, we’re excited, keep the fire stoked.

THIS BEER IS RICH, AND SHARP: Did you know, the richest domestic surfing tour in American history hits the waves off Jacksonville Beach, Florida on March 20-22 with the Jax Beach Pro presented by Aqua East? The leadoff event of the 2003 Foster’s Pro Surfing Tour is a 2-star. Hats off to Fosters. PT and all the powers that be, it’s a start. Fact is the US Tour needs at least four 5-stars, but no one can afford to, or wants to, step up. And young ‘QS surfers can’t afford to travel all over the globe for 5-star and 6-star events. The ASP should address this. Here’s my not-very-well-thought-out-off-the-top-of-my head idea: Each continent have a tour (such as the Fosters here in the US) and present ten surfers from said tour to compete in an event in Hawaii. This event would then seed the available ‘CT spots each year. God I’m brilliant. Call me, I just though of a great lotto system too.