Are you attempting to watch the Corona Open J-Bay? Perhaps, like many, you’re hoping for a shark attack. There is, after all, nothing that makes a surf fan lean forward in their seats, nothing that makes a surf fan suck in their breath, nothing that makes a surf fan more embarrassingly excited, than the allure of a violent death streamed live to the world. Don’t believe me? Look at the numbers for Mick’s little tussle at J-Bay. Oh, you better believe they’re better than the numbers for a lay day at Rio. Hell, they’re better than the numbers for a finals day at Pipe!
If you are one of those people trying to watch the event, there’s a good chance you have sore fingers. They’re sore because you’ve been stabbing your keyboard with indignant rage all night, sending little frowny faces storming across the WSL’s live Facebook feed of the event, because that’s the only way we can watch it live now. And since there ain’t no place for misplaced, red-in-the-face, vein-busting rage like the internet, we, the surf fans, we the surf-loving public, really let the WSL have it. “Damn the man!” we shouted, fists raised to the sky. “Down with the World Surf League! We are soul surfers with pureness of heart! Corporations ruin surfing!” We say all this as though we are angry at a corporation for ruining surfing, but the only reason we know we are angry is because we are trying to watch that corporation’s broadcast and the broadcast fucking sucks.
We’re a fickle bunch. Remember when we hated the ASP? We called for more professionalism. We called for better webcasts. We called for legitimacy. Now we have the WSL, with its Sophie Goldschmidts and Dirk Ziffs and droning commentators and jerseys with numbers and athlete profiles. We have (had?) a webcast that worked with heats on demand and heat analyzers. We had it! But we hated it. We shouted for change. We shouted for a better viewer experience and we shouted for no experience at all. Now, the WSL’s weird switch to Facebook Live has given us something else to shout about. Here are some real examples of comments that can be found beneath the Corona Open’s live feed, typos included:
“Can only hear commentary again,” wrote Rod Draper. “When are you going to accept that this platform doesn’t work. Put it back on the app or lose fans rapidly.”
“Comp is ON and we can’t watch it!!!” shouted Carlos Cordeiro. “It sucks!!! That’s why true surfers like Mick and Parko are done. Big corporation now manipulating results…only focused on it’s own interest.”
“WSL, you have taken away our ability to watch the heat analizer for heats we’ve missed,” Craig Ryall said. “There was nothing wrong with the way it was. You’ve made the broadcast worse!😡”
“FB is the worst for watching live streaming..” said Jon Pullen. “still scratching my head at this decision. Why change something that aint broke? all i see is angry emojis everywhere…”
There is no pleasing the surf fan, really. There is no pleasing us because we don’t want to be pleased. We love our little chimera. We are cursed with the affliction that drew us to surfing in the first place: an unquenchable desire for perfection (but even perfection gets us down). Oh, to drink deeply at the oasis on the horizon! We’re like a group lost in the desert, and our canteens are out of Purps. We are certain that oasis is filled with sweet tasting water, perhaps fortified with electrolytes. And is that a wave in it? Are those date palms around it? We don’t want to get there, though. We want to suffer through the blinding heat of the desert, yearning for that perfection but never getting there. We want a taste of it—enough to keep on going, but not enough to fill our bellies. Kelly Slater made a perfect wave, and we hated it for its perfection. We want to see perfect waves, yet we are outraged when someone shows them to us. We want pro surfing, but we will always want it to be something different.
The World Surf League, of course, has taken note of the fans’ numerous complaints. While they haven’t responded to requests for comment, they seem to be desperately trying to answer on Facebook, trying to explain, like a boyfriend in the doghouse, that it’s not really as bad as we think with comments like these:
“The Heat Analyzer will be back!” it said. “We have been experiencing technical difficulties and our team is working to get it up and running.”
“It’s a one-time authentication process,” it continued. “Once the app is downloaded on your device or Smart TV you should be all set.”
“TO TURN OFF REACTIONS AND COMMENTS: On desktop: hover over the broadcast and select the “quiet mode” icon in the bottom right corner,” the WSL pleaded. “On Mobile: Swipe to the right on your screen or select the quiet mode icon.”
But, like I said, there is no pleasing the discerning surf fan. It will never be good enough for us because, while we think we want perfection, we don’t want perfection. We want drama like shark attacks and failed webcasts. We want the journey, not the destination, and we want that journey to be filled with pitfalls and mishaps. We want that because that’s what surfing is: not just a perfect wave reeling beneath our feet, but the tumultuous voyage to find it.