Last year when the Code Red swell was forecast for the Billabong Pro Teahupoo, the best big-wave surfers arrived en masse and charged one of the biggest days of the year. It was a spectacle, and Billabong capitalized on the situation by keeping the cameras rolling, and subsequently marketing the footage.
Déjà vu struck at Cloudbreak this year when an enormous forecasted swell arrived during the Volcom Fiji Pro. Thirty of the best big-wave surfers were already in town, and so ensued one of the greatest paddle-in sessions in the history of the universe. Volcom, like Billabong, kept the cameras rolling. The public outrage due to the contest being canceled was totally eclipsed by the media hullabaloo surrounding the groundbreaking big-wave exploits that went down that afternoon.
The sponsors and the people making the hard decisions (contest director, head judge, surfers reps) choreographed both the Teahupoo and Cloudbreak situations, and both had mixed but ultimately positive outcomes. Which gets one to thinking: maybe there should be some sort of ASP ratification of the existing Big-Wave Tour in situations like this. Maybe there should be a size limit, when an event switches over from WT to BWWT. Maybe...
The thinking is that there is already a total media infrastructure in place, but it exclusively caters for the World Tour. If it incorporates a Big-Wave World Tour, the combined media output would elevate surfing as a whole. It could compound mainstream access and would be beneficial to all parties. We hit up Kelly Slater to get his thoughts on a Big Wave World Tour piggybacking the current WT system.
"I think ASP is crazy not to make a specific platform that is recognized around the world as the Big Wave Tour," said Slater. "It exists but isn’t affiliated with ASP to my knowledge at this point. There doesn’t seem to be the financial backing and support, which seems bizarre to me."
Slater gets that big-wave surfing, footage of giant waves, and death-defying situations are what hooks the non-surfing public the most.
"Huge waves are the most interesting thing for surfers and non surfers to watch," added Slater. "It really is the only thing that translates outside of surfing for people visually. They understand man against the elements, and life or death situations. It’s intriguing and exciting and I think it should be a focus in pro surfing but for some reason it isn’t as of now."
As for the ASP recognizing the existing Big Wave World Tour, and possibly ratifying the events, Grant "Twiggy" Baker reckons that what we experienced at Teahupoo and Cloudbreak recently won't happen too often.
"We already have a Big Wave World Tour centered around the biggest waves we can find around the world including Chile, Peru, Mavericks, Todos etc. But I think it would be a great idea to throw some big barreling waves in there as well. Places like Cloudbreak, Puerto, Teahupoo and Pipeline would make it more complete," says Baker. "The problem with incorporating it onto the ASP schedule would be actually getting a massive swell like that to co-operate with the set dates again. We have been lucky to see two of the biggest swells ever for those venues in two years, but that’s extremely lucky, and I can’t see it happening again."
The thing is, according to Slater, people really want to see big waves, and sponsors should make use of this more efficiently.
"People want to see 50-footers," Slater says. "They don't want to see 5-footers with 4-foot airs. That doesn’t relate to people who don’t surf. A fifty foot wave will make anybody stop and pay attention no matter how tough you think any other thing in the world is."
Dave Prodan, International Media Director for the ASP, has recognized some significant changes on the horizon after this game-changing scenario that has taken place in Fiji.
"Two of the offshoots I think we’ll be seeing from Friday’s session [the big day in Fiji] are: 1) event organizers evolving their comprehension of what is “rideable” from a paddle-in standpoint, and 2) the ASP Top 34 having the appropriate equipment if such an occasion arises again," says Prodan.
When pushed on the possibility of a big-wave world tour piggybacking a World Tour event should another mammoth swell be forecast during a contest's waiting period, Prodan is open to the possibilities.
"The ASP has had discussions with the Big Wave World Tour and see this as a challenging, but important discipline within professional surfing," said Prodan. "We’re here to assist them in any fashion we can."
Only time will tell if the ASP will seize the opportunity to bring big-wave surfing into the fold. But the reality is that both the Code Red and Fiji swells aligning with World Tour events were longshot coincidences. Coincidences that, regardless of how they are marketed, made it possible for us to witness history as it happened.