Sunday, January 13, 2008

...............On such a winter's day

Big Swells, Tall Waves, Wipeouts and a Perfect Ride - Congratulations to Greg Long, winner of the Mavericks Surf Contest at Pillar Point in Half Moon Bay, California. The Time's story presents its most interesting news with an aside here, an assumption there. You might have missed it if you were sleepy. In this contest, 30 foot waves are considered "medium" size. The medium size waves allow the surfers to relax and strut their stuff.

Only when the waves arrive from the West can you veer left and surf the North side of the wave, which will hold it's shape and not crumble and crash down on you. I will be sure to remember this next time I am surfing a medium size thirty foot wave.

After collecting his check Long announced that the six finalists had agreed to split the prize money evenly while waiting to catch a wave during the contest. Imagine the uproar if a winning golfer announced that the top six players on the leader board after round 3 had agreed to split their prize money evenly before the beginning of the final round. The world of golf would go berserk. Banner headlines would trumpet the scandal. Players would face suspension and shame. Sponsors would withdraw in disgust. In surfing this pact seems to have generated little more than a yawn.

I sometimes play golf alone, without scorecard, just enjoying the feel of the occasional well struck drive or the sight of a long iron shot taking a direct line to the flag, but for most rounds by most players, golf is a game of elaborate rules built by dour Scotsman around the scorecard. The competition for lowest score is the heart of the game. Even players of vastly different skills can compete thanks to multiple tee boxes on each hole and the handicap system.

Surfing was probably developed by joyful Polynesians who wanted to take the thrill of riding an outrigger canoe down a breaking wave one step further. The notion of competitive scoring is a dubious modern imposition, one that seems to ride the waves in a very uneasy coexistence with the heart of the sport. Splitting the prize money pot does not seem to be generating any indignation in the surfing world. In fact it happened once before, in the Red Bull Big Wave Africa a few years ago. So, As Good As News kudos to all the finalists for splitting the prize money, and more kudos to Mr. Long, not just for winning, but for announcing the deal on the prize money and sticking to it. Forget the press conference, surf is still up.

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