Mick Fanning and Gabriel Medina recently met in windy bowls for the final of the 2013 Quiksilver Pro France. Gabriel, just 19 years old and from Brazil, attempted to win the judges over with a hasty mix of airs. He executed perfectly and landed some of the most exciting hucks of the event. Mick, 32 and from Australia, focused on stringing together big turns. He was essentially doing the same maneuvers we've seen since the days of Cheyne Horan, but he was doing them so powerfully and so 2013. You already know to whom the trophy went.
After Mick's win, debates sprouted up all over the place. Did Gabe, with his airs, get robbed? Did Mick, with his rail, put the kid to shame? Furthermore, could it be time for a paradigm shift in the ASP? And if we continue to reward the same old type of surfing, are we hindering progression? Chas Smith and Brendan Buckley duel on what good surfing is, what it isn't and where surfing should be headed.
Chas Smith: Do you know what I love?
Brendan Buckley: Scarves and pumpkin flavored coffee?
CS: Yes! And also rail surfing smashing air surfing.
BB: Do you know what today’s date is?
CS: I can’t be exactly sure. But after watching this year’s contests I’d guess 1985. And I love it!
BB: Well if it were ’85, I’d be quite happy with the judging and thank the head judge with tickets to a Bon Jovi concert. But it is not. It is ’13. And in ’13, airs should be what get a judge hot.
CS: Let’s be honest here. Any kid can fling himself into the air. They can try the same air and try it again and again until consistent landing becomes inevitable, but it is on the wave where surfing happens. On the wave. Not in the air. This whole “air” thing is going to disappear like Flojos. Remember them? They hung on for, like, ten years or something but now they are gone. Rail surfing, though, is forever.
BB: But why stay on the wave? Did you know that you weren't allowed to dribble in the original version of basketball? Everything needs to evolve; just ask Flojos. And airs are a necessary step forward for us. We've got to wholeheartedly embrace them and keep on pressing forward. But when judges vacuously support the same surfing we've seen for years, evolution will be hindered. The best surfers want to win and the current system encourages them to not take risks.
CS: I agree that the sport must and should evolve but is mimicking skateboarding and snowboarding evolution? There is, of course, a place for the air but real REAL surfing is betwixt lip and trough. Where surfing needs to evolve is in style and in linking turns with style. Dane was on his way until he decided to focus on making movies. The future of surfing was Dane Reynolds two years ago. And it's John John Florence today. Sure, he boosts like a genie but look at those turns!
BB: I’ll be tarred and feathered for marring anything JJF, but you have to look at turns as his weak point. And now I bet he works to improve them just to please the judging criteria when he could be out there shattering ground. He could be introducing us to the new, but instead he'll be perfecting the old. Look at someone like Kolohe Andino. Before he qualified, he’d always put out these mind-blowing edits. He was stomping stalefish revos while the rest of the world was just figuring out the slob. But once he got on tour, his focus shifted back to the rail. And I’d say he’s regressed.
CS: As far as John John goes, if his turns live up to the potential they exhibit in his clips he’ll be able to spray me whilst I am drinking whiskey cocktails in Hollywood all the way from his home on the North Shore. And how fun will that be?
BB: I don’t think it really matters if JJF gets better at turns. Excitement is in the air and there are too many new grabs, too many tweaked rotations, too many new flips to care about the rail. I think the ASP ought to realize that before somebody starts a revolution.
CS: It has already begun! It is called the Rail Revolution and it is being lead by the ASP itself. Web commenters can cry all they want. They can cry until Mick Fanning smashes them in the face with a giant roundhouse carve. Surfing is prettier on the wave.
BB: It was in 1985, but so were MC Hammer’s pants. Times change and now we must change the criteria and focus on the air. We must apologize to Gabriel Medina and tout the ariel, then we will watch the progression rate soar. And if we don't, we're all going to end up like Flojos.