The Unfiltered Trestles Preview

11 09 2009


Much like real estate a surf contest has three steadfast rules—Location, location and location. In 2000 the ASP ditched crowd-friendly beach arenas of Huntington and Oceanside as World Chapionship Tour events and embraced Lower Trestles. Now, Trestles is the only location in the US that hosts a WCT event.

Walking down the trail to the San Clemente pointbreak is like entering a time machine. It’s one of the few parcels of undeveloped coastline in Southern California. Whenever I make the trek I’m reminded of the stories my dad and his friends used to tell me. There was no trail. They had to traverse swampy terrain and massive amount of brush to get to the break. On the way back they usually had to elude Marines with automatic weapons. Boards were often confiscated. It was an adventure. No so much today. Now we are spoiled. We  park, walk and enjoy unmolested.

The 2009 Hurley Pro Trestles marks a first for the Nike-owned surf brand. This year’s event will be its debut as the main title sponsor of a WCT event. Last year they shared the markee with Boost Mobile. That leaves Volcom as the only brand in the elite 5 (Volcom, Quiksilver, Rip Curl, Billabong and Hurley) who doesn’t sponsor a WCT event. Curious you might say. Volcom is either the savviest company in the boardroom, or the dumbest.

Last year, Bob Hurley upped the winner’s purse from $30,000 to $75,000 right before the final that was eventually won by Slater. According to the official ASP heat draw, the winner will get a meaty $105,000 later this week, making it the largest winner’s check in ASP history.

Unfortunately the waves may not cooperate during the Trestles waiting period (September 13th-19th). I read several previews of the event and all were hyping the swell. Each had a quote from Surfline’s Sean Collins, who interestingly enough, is one of the event sponsors. Smelling a conflict of interest, I decided to ask an independent source. According to Adam Wright, long-time surf forecaster and operator of, the surf probably won’t get much bigger than shoulder high.

“Overall the surf for the Trestles contest isn’t looking great,” Wright said. “It will be playful but never really firing. There will be a mix of swells in the water at the beginning of the waiting period, but at this point none of them look very big and the different swell angles, while playful at the beach breaks, may be a little too crossed up to set up the classic Lowers lines.

For the first few days we can expect a mix of shadowed NW swell (290-300) and some smaller, less consistent SW swell (200-220). Waves will be in the waist-chest high range but with a few chest-shoulder high sets sneaking in. Near the end of the contest the SW swell will shift a little more southerly (190-210) and strengthen as the NW swell drops out. Looks like we should see more consistent chest-shoulder high sets by the 18-19th as the new pulse of SW energy filters in.”


–Six surfers with the best chance of winning

Kelly Slater
As far as I’m concerned there are only three certainties in life—death, taxes and Slater making the final at Trestles. He won the event in 2008, 2007 and 2005. Was second to Bede in 2006 and second to Parko in 2004. Couple that with the fact his girlfriend lives just up the road, providing a home-away-from-home atmosphere and we might as well just throw our arms in the air and declare him the winner already.

Adriano De Souza
With Pat O’Connell off the tour and in the contest director’s perch, the fate of surfing’s “little people” rests squarely on his shoulders. The Brazilian sits at third in the WCT rankings and has a home in San Clemente.  I like his chances, especially because there should be smaller surf and morning high-tide conditions bogging down early heats. If he doesn’t make the final, I expect no less than a quarterfinal berth.

Joel Parkinson
Rumors are circulating that he may not show. Is this Slater-esque gamesmanship or a clue he may not be 100 percent healthy. Nevertheless, skipping the event is a huge gamble for his world-title campaign. If he’s there he’ll get no less than a 3rd.

Dane Reynolds
Dane had an equal 3rd at JBay and a quarterfinals appearance last year at Trestles. He just may pull of his first-ever WCT win at Trestles. Who knows? Everyone thinks his upside is untapped—including me. What is Dane’s secret weapon? It’s a vibrating ab-belt to increase his core strength and a shitload of beer.

Jordy Smith
I saw a video recently of Jordy and Taj surfing a reef in Indo. On this day Jordy clearly surpassed Taj’s surfing, and that’s saying a lot since most consider Taj’s surfing some of the most progressive on tour. But he hasn’t gotten the competitive results to back his potential…yet. Something tells me he’s going to have a big result here.

Taj Burrow
Taj finished second last year. A lot of people actually think he won. If he can stay clear of the San Clemente pubs at night, expect him to do just as well. His surfing is perfectly suited for the skatepark sections.

–The longshots who may make noise

Dean Morrison
I like Dingo’s chances and his Hemmingway beard. He’s not exactly a longshot but I think he’s under the radar and not a popular pick per se. He should have some success with the long skateable walls at Lowers. Predicted finish–equal 5th.

Heitor Alves
The Brazilian goofyfoot will be on his backhand most of the time. If the lefts are working, expect him to pick off a few of those morsels and do damage. He’ll probably make the fourth round at the very least.

Brett Simpson
Hold the laughter. If his ankle has healed, he will do well. The waves most likely won’t get above shoulder high and Simpo may surprise, feed on the momentum gained at Huntington and pull off a few upsets. Unless he runs into Parko or Slater early. Then he might as well get on the 5 freeway and head north back to the aforementioned beachbreak.


Fixing Professional Surfing from a Fan’s Perspective

12 08 2009
Is Fixing Pro Surfing that Hard? Pic: Myles McGuinness

Is Fixing Pro Surfing that Hard? Pic: Myles McGuinness

There has been a lot of speculation and talk about a new Rebel Tour taking the wind out of the sails of the current ASP system. The hype and stories are all over the Internet. Gra Murdoch of Australia’s Surfing Life even made a hilarious video on the subject.

My guess is Kelly Slater is leveraging the ASP to make the system better for the future generation of surfers. Rather than “Bustin’ Down the Door,” he’s going through an open window. The current ASP system may be broken in the eyes of the surfers and the fans. But I think it can be fixed and here are some ideas to make it better.

Endemic Sponsorship, Control and Money
Why do three or four surf companies basically control professional surfing? Every other major professional sport has no problem finding advertising dollars from the outside. Why doesn’t Louisville Slugger or Rawlings control professional baseball? Because it’s a ludicrous concept at best. Can you imagine if the NFL gave up all the control to Under Armor or Nike and let them market the events exclusively? The ASP needs to wake up. How freaking amateurish is that?

Having too much endemic sponsorship would go against the soulful dynamic of surfing, wouldn’t it? Well, I have news for you. These surf companies (Quiksilver, Billabong, Rip Curl and Hurley) are multi-million dollar corporations. They have stock holders and bottom lines. Just because they make boardshorts and wetsuits doesn’t automatically make them cool. At the very root, these surf companies have one interest at heart. To make money. To sell you products so they can profit and make more products to sell you. Where is the soul in that? Why does that make them different from Target or Microsoft or Budweiser? More endemic sponsorship may also increase the prize money. And really, that’s what it’s all about isn’t it? 

Let’s face it. If you are a professional surfer you have already sold out to a certain extent. In reality, you’re just a whore. I’m not saying your pimps are bad, but there just might be better pimps out there willing to give you a larger cut of the money.

Marketing Wizards
The ASP has never marketed the sport well. For chrissakes, hire some marketing pros, not a former surfer with a marketing degree from San Diego State and a wicked cutback. The sport needs pit bulls who will market the brand ferociously. Is ASP CEO Brodie Carr that pit bull? Only time will tell.

If you want a laugh, take a look at Really? It looks like a third-grader who bought “An Idiot’s Guide to Selling Product on E-bay” is running the site.

The Feeder Tour
The WQS surfers should compete in the trials of each event to vie for wildcard slots. Why even have separate events at all? Have the WQS events before the WCT events with fewer surfers. Sure this would take up a lot more time and it will piss off the locals, but the locals are pissed at the ASP circus when they come to town anyway.

Involve the Free Surfers
One aspect that makes surfing unique is the free surfer or video pro. Years ago I had a conversation with Brad Gerlach about the subject. Although his “Game” concept never really caught on and was niche idea at best, he was extremely articulate and passionate about the subject. He said surfing is different in that you don’t have to compete to become a pro surfer and that’s great. There should be an opportunity to do that. But Kobe Bryant doesn’t tell Nike “Yeah…I’m over the NBA. Just not feeling it anymore. I’m just going to shoot hoops at the local playground, maybe go to New York and play at Rucker Park a few times a year. But I’ll still wear your shoes and bring a cameraman.” Can you imagine trying to pull that off?

Some of these pro free surfers are considerably better than the guys on the WCT tour. And they are more exciting to watch in many cases. Fans should have the opportunity to see them surf in these events. Some may not want to, but if the money is right they will come.

Slater at Jeffreys Bay

Kelly Slater is a rare example of a true spokesman for the sport who is also the best in the world. Surfers should be better spokesmen. Tony Hawk is a fantastic example of an individual who promoted his sport well. Tom Curren never had it in him to promote the sport. Neither does Andy Irons. Most of the top guys don’t. Someone should teach these guys how to be media savvy. Maybe the problem is most professional surfers drop out of high school or never go to college. I would probably do the same if I had the opportunity. But more often than not, those who don’t make it on the tour or have limited success end up being the team manager for a second-rate surf brand. If the NBA has mandatory seminars on how to avoid gold-digging groupies and how not to shoot yourself in the leg, the ASP can certainly have some sort of training in dealing with the media.

Mother Nature and Webcasting
Surfing is unlike any other sport. Mother Nature is a wildcard. Surf contests, if done correctly, can’t be on a set schedule. Waiting periods have become the norm and that’s a good thing. The Dream Tour has done a good job at having events at the best breaks in the world for the past several years. That is also a good thing. Part of the reason soccer has never caught on in America is because it’s one of the few popular sports that doesn’t cater to TV timeouts and commercials. Surfing is similar in that respect. To bring in revenue, the ASP should sell the television rights and webcasting rights to a media conglomerate with the tools and money to do it right. Don’t let Billabong or Quiksilver do it alone. This should be ESPN’s only involvement. Let them buy in just like they do with professional soccer, baseball and football. Give them too much control and those bastards in Bristol, Connecticut will eat you for breakfast.

Less is More
The so-called rebel tour is rumored to consist of just 16 surfers. This takes out the element of the Cinderella story. Forty-eight surfers might be a little too much. Perhaps 32 or 28 could be the magic number.

Subjective Old Guard Judges
How does one evaluate soul and style? What about progressive maneuvers? It’s difficult isn’t it? Well, not really. My understanding is the same 5-10 judges work each and every event. Why is that? Maybe they should mix it up a little more. Select the judges from a larger pool. And don’t tell me there’s a lack of individuals who can accurately judge the sport. That is a cop out. Judging surfing isn’t rocket science. It’s just surfing.

The 2009 US Open of Surfing

29 07 2009
The hometown kid wins $100,000. photo: Hurley

The Hometown Kid Wins $100,000. photo: J. Klein

A wise man once said or maybe it was David Lee Roth, “Money can’t buy you happiness, but it can buy you a yacht big enough to pull up right alongside it.” Hurley not only anchored the yacht right beside the barnacle-encrusted pilings at the Huntington Beach Pier, it brought the money with it. 
The hype started nearly two weeks ago. The swell was going to be big. Really big. The Internet was buzzing. Texts were exchanged en masse. Twitter accounts were exceeding the 140 character maximum. The surf industry was foaming at mouth like a Jewish dog at the end of the Yom Kippur fast. Surely the city had already hired an engineering firm to design a new pier, because certainly this one wouldn’t withstand the might of the impending swell. 
Then there was the money. A record $100,000 first-place check would go to the winner. Meanwhile, some half-retard on meth wins millions for driving in circles for three hours. Sure, most surfers are half-retards, but usually they aren’t on meth. Perhaps someone should alert Slater or ESPN about the missing ingredient to immediate riches. It works for NASCAR.
As it turned out the swell peaked late Friday, maxing out at a few feet overhead, but it sure as hell beat the typical Huntington two-foot slopfest won by a Brazilian or a midget or both. For many (including myself) the Huntington event is a love/hate thing. Think of it as a bacon-wrapped hot dog bought on a Tijuana street corner at 2 a.m. The stomach says no, but the stomach is no match for the mind after that much tequila.
The money or the swell, or maybe it was boredom, brought a bevy of WCT surfers and icons that have been skipping this event for the past five years or so. The 100 grand was a smart move. People waned to see Andy Irons, Mick Fanning, Taylor Knox and Slater. Gony Zubizarreta and Wiggolly Dantas sure aren’t driving webcast traffic.
Slater was clearly the stand out surfer on Friday and Saturday. In the round of 48 his carving 360 on massive closeout sent Artiz Arramburu home. Later he called it one of the best he’s ever done. Impressive yes, but hardly worth the 9 for one maneuver. Then there was the 10-point barrel on Saturday. He was toying with the conditions and his opponents, eventually losing to De Souza in a wave-starved quarterfinal.
Let’s pretend Joel Parkinson is Luke Skywalker, a young ultra-talented surfer who has the future of surfing resting on his shoulders. That would make Parko’s coach, Luke Egan, Obi-Wan Kenobi. Now let’s say Huntington Beach’s own Brett Simpson is Anakin Skywalker. Would that make Ian Cairns Jabba The Hut? Well, you have to give Ian the Hut credit. Simpson’s coach is doing something right.
The 24-year-old Simpo disposed of Nate Curran, CJ Hobgood and Mick Fanning on Sunday en route to the win. Along with Slater, Fanning, CJ, Curran, Pat Gudauskas and De Souza, Simpson was one of the most progressive surfers all week. Conspiracy theorists may think it’s a little too convenient that a Hurley surfer took home the big money. But Simpson won fair and square. He earned it. Now Simpson sits at 5th in the WQS ratings, basically securing a spot on the CT next year. He proved he is a formidable threat, no matter the opponent, in breachbreak conditions. But, then again, there aren’t many beachbreaks on the Dream Tour.