Remember when the Dream Tour was actually dreamy? When qualifying for the big show was exciting both because you were competing for a world title and you got to surf the best waves in the world with only one other guy?
Despite the hype that is sprayed at us on a weekly basis, those days are long gone—and their memory is fading with each location we lose. Cloudbreak/Restaurants are gone, and Pipeline is on its way out. Trestles has been replaced by a wave pool.
Just when Margaret River started to get interesting (with the addition of The Box and North Point), a shark came and threw the whole thing into jeopardy. And according to the pundits, the worst event on tour (Brazil) was “epic” this year because a couple guys made barrels. The dream is dead, and what we have left is a snooze-fest scrambling for some sort of legitimacy—the kind that can only come with the addition of something new and exciting.
The roster of surfers on tour gets shaken up each year with an injection of fresh QS talent, so why not do the same thing with the schedule? Here are six events we’d love to see on tour—and four that we can happily let go.
Remember when Tavarua was the best stop on tour—when Cloudbreak provided one of the most challenging yet rewarding experiences in competitive surfing, and Restaurants melted our minds with its endless perfection, all a short panga ride from an island paradise? Yeah, that was last year, before Fiji was removed from the schedule.
The waves adjacent to Tavarua epitomized the Dream Tour in its hey day, and if they aren’t back in 2019, it will be a travesty—especially since it appears Pipeline will be missing from next year’s schedule as well.
Here’s a question: Why shouldn’t the surfing world champion have to surf big waves? Aside from one or two contest held at bombing Teahupoo and Pipe, and those two heats at XXL Cloudbreak, the world tour has typically been decided in four- to six-foot surf. I say it’s time to make the world’s best start earning their keep. Puerto Escondido got kicked off the Big Wave Tour, but it’s still the heaviest, scariest beach break on the planet. Schedule a one-month waiting period, wait for an 8-foot at 18-second swell, and make the title contenders show us what they can do on rhino chasers.
Any conversation about the Dream Tour has to include the 1997 event at G-Land, when all of the elements aligned to provide some of the best conditions ever seen in a world tour event. The waves were so good that guys were throwing away scores for 10-second barrels, and when Luke Egan won, he summed it up perfectly by saying, “What we saw over the last 10 days is as good as it gets. I don’t care what anyone says, it takes good waves to be able to perform and show people how rad this sport is.”
G-Land is the type of wave this tour needs to get people excited. And even if we don’t score perfection every year, Grajagan on a bad day is still a rippable left-hand point—something that has been conspicuously missing from tour for the past few decades.
The best wave in the world? Check. One of the most difficult to surf? Check. The longest barrel on the planet? Check. A left-hand point for a tour that doesn’t have any? Check. A wave that clearly advantages goofyfoots on a tour that historically favors regulars? Check. A venue that Kelly has never surfed, for a tour that will soon have to come to terms with the post-Slater era? Check.
Skeleton Bay has been the future of competitive surfing since it was revealed over a decade ago. This isn’t rocket science, people.
Ask yourself what the world tour is missing, aside from unbiased commentary, an effective media platform, a sustainable business plan, and equal pay for women. Yep—a heavy, dedicated, right-hand reef barrel. Like Nias, for example.
Aside from the sad farewell soiree that was Ocean Beach, the Search event was everything good about the Dream Tour, all rolled into one—a mobile event that went to a variety of perfect waves around the world, ranging from rippable reefs to urchin-encrusted slabs to the best sandbar we’ve ever seen on tour, all the while keeping us on our toes with surprise announcements about next year’s venue. Now that team captain Mick Fanning has retired, maybe Rip Curl can afford to bring the Search back. Here’s hoping they do.
To make room for new tour venues, we’ll clearly have to let a few of the existing ones go. Here are a few...obvious...suggestions.
Disregard the hype surrounding this year’s event in Brazil. Yes, the waves were contestable. No, they didn’t suck as much as they normally do. Yes, Brazil has more passionate surf fans than the rest of the world combined. No, this doesn’t make Rio a good location for a surf contest.
What do you get when you take nature’s version of an aquatic skate park and replace it with a man-made one? A tour where the fickle yet phenomenonal Lower Trestles has been traded for the predictable, easily televised, highly gentrified, cookie-cutter boredom that we saw during the Founder’s Cup. The Surf Ranch is the best artificial wave in existence, and we’d all love to surf it—but I don’t know that any of us can stay awake for another contest there.
Bells is the longest running professional surf contest in existence, and sits a stone’s throw away from Australia’s “other surf industry capital,” which is why it is never going to get cancelled. But that isn’t to say that it shouldn’t be. Australia has three events on tour, which is two too many. All three are turn-oriented right-hand point breaks, on a tour that has no left-hand equivalents. (Sure, Margaret River is technically a reef peak with two slabby back-up venues, but 90% of the action happens on the right-hand point-like walls at Main Break.
Plus, North Point and The Box will be distant memories within a year, since that event is basically dead.) And the whole argument about Bells’ fat, slopey, boring walls being the “ultimate canvas for power surfing” has been made moot by venues like Keramas, where power surfing is complemented by barrels and airs, rather than being seen as mutually exclusive. This event stopped being interesting about the time AC/DC wrote its theme song. Hell’s Bells is timeless, but Bells Beach’s time is up.
France OR Portugal
The world tour needs novelty and excitement, not redundancy. Back-to-back events in quality beach breaks that can absolutely pump but also be absolutely average tends to turn the end of the season blurry with boredom. Hossegor and Supertubos are basically the same wave, so it is time to choose between scantily clad French folk or Portuguese hospitality, and let the loser slide into the obscurity that is the QS schedule.