Illustration by Matt Shiffler

OPINION: Aerials promoted by airheads

The World Surf League is once again being egregious

The World Surf League is once again being terrible

At this point, you may think I sound like some crotchety old surfer who likes to complain, but if the WSL is going to keep taking advantage of viewers with stupid competition formats I’m going to keep bitching about it.

If you’re not up to date, the WSL brought back an all-aerial competition last July in France where 18 surfers competed for the title of King of the Air. In typical WSL fashion the format was a mystery until days before the event.

The silence finally broke when Arial Commissioner Josh Kerr announced there would be two 30 minute semi-final heats of nine surfers. The top three in each heat would advance based on their best two waves to compete later that day in a 40-minute final.

Kerr promoted the event by promising 540’s, backflips and once-in-a-lifetime airs, all live. Many surf and sports fans were excited, picturing aerialists like Italo Ferreira 15 feet above the lip spinning with a smile on his face. A fool’s dream if you ask me.

Because let’s bring some logic into this. There are nine surfers in the water, all with the same goal. Not just surf the best two waves of their lives but the best two airs of their life, in a matter of only 30 minutes. It’s not too plausible if you think about it.

The competition was a complete disappointment, as surfers of all skill levels tuned in to watch professional surfers struggle in sub-par surf and chop-hop their way to a forced one-foot air that you see in regular competition.

Graduate Student Taylor Team was let down by the event.

“It just didn’t make sense,” Team said. “I wasted two hours listening to announcers hype up airs that never happened.”

I don’t think the WSL understands who their viewers are, because none of the competition formats represent the average surfer’s ability and don’t give the viewer a chance to relate to what they’re seeing.

The average surfer can’t do an air. They will tell you they can, and they’ve landed one. In reality, there’s a select group of surfers with the skill and practice required to successfully land these tricks.

San Francisco surfer Mike Krakauer can’t do airs and doesn’t care.

“Airs are something you mess around with for fun at the end of a wave,” Krakauer said. “Why would I want to watch an event where I can’t do anything they’re doing?”

The WSL’s stupidity and lack of relatability will soon be their downfall. Arial competitions will not last because people don’t care, there will seldom be the right surf conditions for this competition and the surfers aren’t doing anything out of the ordinary for their standards.

That’s why there should be just three competitions a year, all in Hawaii and all from December to February. I’m talking about the historic, prestigious, triple crown of surfing.

In 1970 the Pipeline Masters was created. This event served as the Superbowl of surfing as it was once a year, winner takes all. The event ran successfully for 12 years before Haleiwa and Sunset beach were added to the circuit, to create the triple crown.

This circuit was perfect because surfers would congregate to the north shore, the mecca of surfing, when the waves were the best to show who the best surfer truly was. The best would be the one who placed highest in the three events with the highest cumulative point total.

The three waves that make up the triple crown are not suitable for airs, bringing me back to my question to the WSL: How on earth is an aerial surfing competition relatable or relevant?

The Red Bull King of the Air needs to go, and the WSL needs to take a step back and realize who their audience is. Their audience of around 1000 viewers is mostly average surfers who don’t ride the same surfboards and don’t paddle out in crappy, blown out conditions.

The people watching are not dreaming of paddling out into eight-foot closeouts, nor do they want to take off with the sole purpose to do an air, because the average surfer would fucking hurt themselves.

There isn’t an audience for this silly event. If you logically think about the probability of an aerial competition going right, you will realize how many factors there are against the surfers and viewers, because too many things have to go right for the event to be a success.

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One Comment

  1. JS Leonard JS Leonard Tuesday, May 5, 2020

    Aerials have and are ruining surfing. Guys are wasting entire waves just pull off single aerial. Where’s the soul? Nope surfing is turned into nothing but pure speed and a silly aerial at the end of a wave.

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