WSL Surfing SENIOR TOUR Would you Watch?
IT WORKS FOR THE PGA — MAYBE IT WOULD WORK FOR SURFING, TOO
There are so many amazing surfing senior surfers world wide that would be so excited and stoked to surf on a surfing senior tour. And Kelly and Tom Curren would be huge calling cards.
Imagine this, for a moment: Surfing Senior Tour surfing flawless, eight-foot Honolua Bay, turquoise barrels spinning off down the point, just four surfers in the water, all of ’em in contest jerseys. It’s a Senior WSL heat featuring Tom Carrol, Shane Dorian, Gerry Lopez
and Sunny Garcia, all of them translating decades of surf experience into swooping down carves, expertly traveled tubes, and old school, vertical power-surfing.
“Now imagine those same conditions, but the contestants are Kolohe Andino, Miguel Pupo, Conner Coffin, and Leo Fioravanti. Which of those heats would you rather watch? There’s not really a right answer here, but I’d choose the first one, no question. I suspect that a huge portion of the WSL audience would too.”
There’s nothing wrong with the performance-level of the WSL right now. It’s the best it’s ever been when it comes to the technical difficulty level. But it’s also about as far from relatable as pro surfing has ever been. Hard-training surf athletes on equipment most regular surfers would struggle to ride, doing things many surfers can not do. Cool to watch, sure.
But there’s something…I don’t know…sophisticated about how an older surfer approaches a wave. Less flitting about getting from one power section to the next. The Surfing Senior surfers have more confidence and assuredness leading into driving turns. Anytime I’m surfing a long, lined-up wave like Three’s on Oahu or maybe one of the points in Rainbow Bay or Greenmount on the Gold Coast, I’ll give a brief glance when a 20-year-old ripper gets to their feet and starts hacking around on the face, but I’ll stop paddling and sit up on my board in awe when a 45-year-old power surfer who’s been around the block a few hundred times paddles into a bigger set wave and starts swooping around the wave like royalty. Maybe that surfer isn’t blasting their fins out or throwing multiple alley-oops on one wave, but the decades of experience shows, and, frankly, is more enjoyable—for me—to watch.
A Surfing Senior WSL Tour—with the likes of, let’s say, Slater, Dorian, Taj, the Hobgoods, Sunny and Tommy Carrol as the “young bloods” and a middle tier of Freddy P, Bede, then maybe a Master’s class with Tom Curren, Occy, MR, Shaun Tomson, Gerry Lopez—would probably make more money and have more viewers than the standard format WSL.
And in the Womens surfing senior tour still surfing Joyce Hoffman, Terry Eselun, Jericho Popplar Bartlow, Nancy Emerson, Becky Benson, Brenda Scott, Lynne Boyer, Elaine Davis and Linda Benson. A middle tier you have Lisa Anderson, Pam Burridge, Rochelle Ballard, Serena Brooke, Megan Abubo, Amee Donohoe, Melanie Bartles and Sam Corish to name a few.
“You’d have the immense star power of world-famous icons and all the branding possibilities that would present, plus, the events could be held at tropical resort dream locations that would probably pony up the event costs for the exposure.”
There’d need to be some kind of age-leveling of the playing field, of course. Maybe everybody rides the same board, or judging is based on how well somebody surfed for an entire heat, relative to their age.
“One of the attractions of the Senior PGA Tour, so I’m told, is that the golf, while still world-class, more closely resembles the kind of good golf that your average duffer can still aspire to play. I imagine that it’s a little more inspiring for your game when you see somebody on TV, especially when it’s a golf legend, making shots that you yourself would actually attempt, rather than watching a weight-lifting 25-year-old kid hit 250-yard draws around trees with a four-iron.”
“Same could probably be said about Filipe Toledo’s double alley-oop at J-Bay earlier in July. Exciting, sure. Important for competitive surfing, of course. I’m not taking anything away from that. But there’s also room for watching surfing masters, who would approach a wave totally differently than Toledo—more like you and me, actually—go at the J-Bay canvas with a different set of brushes and artistic instinct.”
Sure, the ISA has masters divisions, but the real surf legends aren’t entering those events. Put the full attention and pageantry of the WSL behind them though, and I think we’d have a winner.
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Aloha! And see you again soon, Happy Surfing!