There’s a book/film called Before I Go to Sleep. Have you seen it? It’s about a woman who wakes up every day to discover that she can’t remember anything from the day before. She doesn’t recognize her own home, she has no idea who the man she is lying next to is, and she has no memory of her adult life.
That woman is a bit like surfing right now. Instagram and the WSL would have you believe that woman is you: Forget everything you think you knew. Things are different now.
But are they really?
In the film, the woman eventually discovers that the man claiming to be her husband is lying and the whole facade begins to unravel. I suspect, once we’re over this hype cycle that the WSL have (admittedly cleverly) engineered, once the wavepool has been open for a few months and we’ve all had a shot, and once we’ve seen the same surfers rip the same wave to bits in the same, predictable way, I suspect it’ll all be a bit passe.
I can’t pretend it doesn’t look attractive right now, and I can’t pretend it’s not a bit discombobulating, but the sheen will wear off. The Insta clips will be swamped by the rest of the shit in your feed and you’ll forget about it. They’re already getting boring. That’s the world we inhabit. You won’t care about wavepools tomorrow.
It’s the cloak and dagger element that’s unsettling everyone. That’s the main appeal. It takes us back to a simpler time – a time when you didn’t know everything instantly. When the whole world wasn’t streaming live. The Test was like the hushed and muffled tones of Adult Conversation when you were young. It’s appealing because it’s secret.
But you grow up and realize it wasn’t anything interesting.
People are always rattled by what they don’t understand. You’ll hear that Kelly’s pool is the single best and the absolute worst thing to ever happen in surfing, and every shade of opinion in between. Matt Warshaw, in his typically quotable manner, suggests that: “We’ve traded magic for perfection, and it’s heartbreaking.”
Kelly and the WSL have duped us into thinking that they’ve captured magic, that they’ve got your dreams in their hands, but they haven’t really. When presents are unwrapped the mystique disappears.
It’s all very well seeing JJF and Filipe surf these waves for the first time, but will it still be entertaining the 400th time?
There are limits to what wavepools can be. Maybe the bottom contours can be altered to change the shape of the wave a bit, as has been reported, but there endeth the variation. And is that even exciting when the sections will still be predictable? I’m pretty sure the size of the wave is also limited by Science, so that’s a ceiling.
I’m sure John John and Filipe et al had a shit load of fun yesterday, but are they now planning their next trip to Lemoore? Probably not. I’m sure there are places they’d rather go. You know, real places with real waves ‘n stuff.
So despite the hype, it’s as you were, really. Wavepools will likely spawn some new iteration of competitive surfing. Some people will like it, others will hate it. Much like pro surfing right now, in fact. The novelty of “perfect” waves on tap may even re-calibrate what surfing is, but just for a short while. Nature will continue to provide us with the most exciting waves, and that’s not going to change. Not in our lifetime.
Editor’s Note: Views expressed by contributors are their own.