World Surf League holds media at arms length as Kelly Slater’s wave pool gets put to the test

Updated September 20, 2017 20:18:47

Photo: One of the first images of Kelly Slater riding a wave at his wave park in 2015. (Source: Kelly Slater Wave Company)
Related Story: ‘Ever folded your foot backwards?’: Kelly Slater suffers brutal break in South Africa

Map: United States

Journalists were left to peer over the fence as the World Surf League conducted its first “test event” at a wave park it purchased from 11-time world champion, Kelly Slater.

Brazil’s Gabriel Medina and Hawaii’s Carissa Moore were deemed “winners” of the event, held at the multi-million dollar facility in the Californian city of Leemore.

A select group of pioneering professional surfers and celebrities including Pearl Jam frontman Eddie Vedder watched as most of the elite world tour competitors rode the artificially created waves, which sent the surfing world into a frenzy when footage first emerged in 2015.

External Link: Kelly Slater at the WSL’s test event

Slater, who has been sidelined since breaking bones in his foot at Jeffreys Bay, donned the competitors jersey to ride some of the waves.

“I don’t care if it takes an extra month to heal,” Slater said of his injured foot after his heat.

“It was worth it.”

Word the event was due to be held began circulating earlier this week, with the surf media’s ire directed at the World Surf League for it’s decision to keep it a “closed event”.

The World Surf League’s newly appointed CEO Sophie Goldschmidt said while she was aware “many of you” were “undoubtedly curious” about the wave and event it was “still very much a test.”

“Today we’ve brought the a cross-section of the world’s best surfers here to test this ground-breaking new WSL facility, technology and also showcase what an event can like and we’re very excited,” Ms Goldschmidt said.

“Having the ability to replicate, even partially, the power and shape of ocean waves for anyone in the world, in any location and at any time is a truly magical thing.”

Pioneering competitive surfer Ian Cairns was one of several to witness the event, describing the waves as “incredible, powerful, complex and challenging”, further suggesting it has a “chance of reshaping surfing”.

“It’s an elite wave, perfect for high level surfers,” Cairns told the ABC from California.

“The park, the hospitality, the wave quality and the audience all indicate that it’s a very serious business push that has the chance of reshaping surfing on a global basis for another 30 years. World Surf League have a hit in its hands.”

Media takes matter into own hands

Multi-national title Stab Magazine took matters into its own hands, hiring a scissor lift to peer over the fence while also deploying a drone to feed footage into an accompanying online blog.

Editor of surfing website Beach Grit Derek Rielly said his US colleague Chas Smith had considered doing the same but had to abandon plans at the last moment.

External Link: Stab Magazine took to the sky to witness the event

Rielly said although it was “ultimately and understandably up to the WSL” as to who it allowed into its events, it did run the risk of alienating its “core audience” by not inviting the surf media.

“The whole concept is incredibly exciting and definitely a step in the right direction,” Rielly said of the concept.

“But it’s really important that the WSL doesn’t forget surfing will probably never, ever be as big as sports like snowboarding or skateboarding and not to alienate it’s core audience, as horribly overused as that term is.”

Like many, Rielly watched the competition on the WSL’s Facebook feed and said while the footage was initially “incredible” it did expose limitations to what an artificial wave can offer.

“For the vast majority of surfers wave pools will offer a far superior oceanic experience in terms of learning to surf,” Rielly said.

“But as far as a surfing contest goes, by the fourth wave, I thought there wasn’t much else to do on the waves themselves other than ride a few barrels, some big turns and airs.

“Don’t get me wrong, it is amazing, but as far as a competitive vision, I think it could lose it’s lustre very, very fast. At lot of what makes the sport are those little quirks of the ocean.”

Topics: surfing, sport, united-states

First posted September 20, 2017 18:31:41

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