For those that don’t have 10 hours, the interview is at the 8:20:05 mark.
Writing about surfing is a weird thing to do. As I’m sure is the case with most other people who make paltry sums writing about splashing around in the water and pretending it’s a very serious thing, I started doing it because I love to surf. I love watching people surf. I love waves, and surfboards, and that feeling of paddling over a wave that’s probably too big while a strong offshore blows the top off of it. And part of writing about surfing is writing about the professional aspect. In the end, we all got into it because we love surfing.
Surfing has this weird, insular aspect to it that’s much more obvious than in most other sports – it’s a relatively small world, in terms of how many athletes are on the tour, and there is a relatively small amount of people writing about it in mediums that reach a larger audience. If you follow professional surfing, you probably know the name Ben Mondy. One of the many things he does behind a keyboard is write some of Surfline’s Power Rankings. While I’ve never met him in real life, he’s a good writer with good insights and the ability to put his opinion into his words, which is important. Opinions get people talking. Without them, we’d be stuck in the blandest place in the world. So writing about surfing can be difficult, sometimes.
There’s a thin line to walk between writing something critical and keeping the door open for interviews, which is part of the game, for both the writers and the surfers. And on the other side of the coin are the pro surfers, who read what these random people are writing about how they surf. Writing about their livelihood and judging something they’ve put their heart and soul into. No one likes unsolicited criticism.
Ben wrote a few things about Jeremy Flores in the Power Rankings that, while they weren’t exactly nice, were his opinion. And, as always with opinions, some agree with them and some don’t. Flores was in the latter camp, for obvious reasons.
After the Trestles contest, Ben wrote the following: “I can tell you why Jeremy Flores is 33rd right now and it’s not because of judging rants, suspensions or social media callouts (although none of these will send you up the rankings). It’s because there isn’t a surfer on the Tour who falls off as much as Jeremy. Now, I’m no supercoach, or even a coach, but I’m pretty sure falling off your board affects your heat totals. Instead of #bringonthehaters and #whatanupset maybe he should go with #don’tfalloffsomuch.”
I agree with Ben, in this case. And, like Ben, I think that Flores is an incredible surfer. But I could criticize Kelly Slater’s surfing, or Gabriel Medina’s (although I’ll admit, criticizing his surfing terrifies me), or John John’s. There is always something to be picked out, no matter how good the surfer is, and that’s part and parcel of writing about professional surfing. On the second day of the Cascais Billabong Pro, Ben and Jeremy met for an awkward post-heat interview. Jeremy had surfed against Carlos Munoz in round five, and he had a few bones to pick with Mondy. The interview itself is at the 8:20:05 mark in the video above.
After a very brief intro, Ben asked Flores what he needed to do. “I don’t know,” Flores answered. “Maybe you should tell me, because I’ve been reading all the stuff you’ve been writing about me. So maybe you should tell me how to surf.” Ben, of course, looked a little awkward. He was being called out on a live broadcast. Well played, Flores. “Tell me,” Jeremy continued, “what was I supposed to do?” In the end, they made friends again. On camera, at least. Mondy told him that he should do exactly what he did. “What you did, mate,” he said. “Go attack it.”
If you’re one of the thousands who comments on surf sites, you know that the amount of vitriol on comment boards can be pretty over the top. It’s much easier to get riled up behind a screen than in front of someone’s face. The interaction between Mondy and Flores is a great example of what would happen if all those people who yelled at each other silently through their keyboards were to actually meet: not very much. And you know what? That’s pretty damn good to see.