I lived in Brooklyn, New York for two years and have surfed Long Island more times than most of the people involved with the Quiksilver Pro New York combined. I also love surfing Long Island, which is probably something they’ll never feel about that particular stretch of sand. I love the autumn nor’easters and the anticipation of a hurricane swell. I love catching waves beside the jetties and discovering sandbars that are perfect for an hour then disappear forever. I love the surfers, the shapers, and the entire, crazy community that is loosely affiliated with the waves. I love the A train that ferries city surfers all the way out to Far Rockaway. I love that Rockaway is the only surf spot with a hip hop dance named after it.
But I don’t want to watch an ASP World Tour contest in New York.
Surfing, at its highest level, achieves transcendental greatness. Its raw elements of beauty, power, and finesse combine to create moments equal to or better than any comparable sporting achievement. Mountain climbing, big game hunting, fly fishing, skiing/snowboarding – none of these canonized outdoor pursuits can legitimately claim aesthetic or athletic superiority to the wave of the day at Pipeline, the drop at Teahupoo, or the lines drawn through the Super Tubes section of J-bay. But this greatness, this absolute purity of form and function, cannot, by my estimation, be achieved in Long Island – nor any similarly mediocre beachbreak. They simply do not produce the greatest waves in the world, and no Quiksilver campaign insisting otherwise will make it so.
In all fairness, there are very good surfers who don’t receive a monthly check from Quiksilver who say that occasionally Long Beach, and indeed every beach, has spectacular waves. A friend of mine calls Lido (a spot on Long Beach) “Lido Escondido.” I’ve never surfed waves that similar to Puerto Escondido on Long Beach, but if by some act of God the competition actually gets better waves than the ones I ever rode in two years of surfing it, then I will eat my words.
If it doesn’t, however, why would any surf fan want to watch? The analogies are so legion I almost feel guilty making one. It’s like holding an Olympic downhill skiing competition on a bunny slope. Yes, there will still be outstanding surfing, great maneuvers, and maybe a barrel or two. But Long Beach on its best day can’t compete with a bad day at Pipeline, or Teahupoo, or the Super Bank, or most any beach facing the Pacific and/or Indian Ocean.
Of course, the wave quality is not the reason Quiksilver has put a competition there. And insofar as its merit as a business decision, I agree one hundred percent. But we must separate the business of surfing from the act of surfing. Otherwise this thing that we all love is nothing more than an all-encompassing marketing campaign in which the beauty and the bravery that define it become secondary to the market shares of the small cadre of people getting rich off selling your kids $150.00 board shorts. I’m not interested in pro surfing because of the business of it. I’m interested in watching incredible athletes harness the untold power of nature’s most beautiful and brutal creations to streak across the very fabric of time and space. Certainly that is worth more than $1 million.