March 11, 2008 – The Rip Curl SEARCH Men’s WCT event is still searching. Unsuccessful attempts at securing an Australian or New Zealand location have surfing fans wondering where, and if, Rip Curl can pull off a SEARCH event this year. If it does happen, it's clear that a developing country will be Rip Curl’s home, most likely Indonesia according to well-placed anonymous sources.
Rip Curl first attempted to secure the legendary wave at Gnaraloo station in Western Australia. The perfect and challenging left hand barrel would have been a great test for the world’s best competitive surfers. Upon hearing about Rip Curl’s plans to hold the SEARCH at Gnaraloo, the local surfing community united against the event and created an online petition. The "Save Gnaraloo" petition secured thousands of signatures and forced Rip Curl to look at other options. According to one former Rip Curl employee, “(Rip Curl) will not hold the event without support of the local community.”
After deciding against Gnaraloo, Rip Curl eyed the epic lefthanders of Raglan in New Zealand, according to New Zealand’s Waikato Times Newspaper. Raglan, and specifically the wave known as “Indicators”, like Gnaraloo, would be a great venue, both scenically and competitively pending a swell for the world's Top 45 surfers. Again however, the local surfing community emphatically protested the event by unanimously voting against it at a Raglan Town Hall Meeting, thereby once again denying the Rip Curl SEARCH WCT's request. The landowners and local surfers cited indigenous Maori sacred land as the primary cause of concern, according to the Waikato Times report.
Surfing New Zealand, the country’s governing association for competitive surfing, has offered a solution. According the Waikato Times article, Surfing New Zealand has suggested holding the event at other spots in the scenic country, specifically Manu Bay and the Raglan bar. No one knows for sure if Rip Curl is considering Surfing New Zealand’s offer.
If past success is an indicator, then look for Rip Curl to search out a developing country with the infrastructure to handle the logistics of a large event and the financial desire to look past issues raised by first world countries. Indonesia, specifically Bali, seems the obvious choice. Don’t be surprised if G-Land is on Rip Curl’s short list as well.
At this point Rip Curl’s SEARCH WCT location remains unknown. In an email regarding its next locale, Neil Ridgway, Rip Curl's International Marketing Director, would only comment, “Somewhere…". Rumors about Indonesia have been boiling in the Orange County surf industry cauldron as the event's most probable site. With a ‘floating’ license from the ASP that runs from July 30 – August 10 everybody is going to need an answer from Rip Curl fairly soon. Logistically speaking, people need to know. The prestigious Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach is next on the ASP's docket. Rip Curl will likely announce the SEARCH WCT location at that time.
If you are like most, really the only thing for certain is that come July 30th, on a webcast near you, the Top 45 surfers will be ripping somewhere. Our hunch is that it will be in Bali or G-Land. Wherever they end up, this year more than any other, Rip Curl has certainly had to break out the maps, flashlights, and diplomatic skills, and search.