6 WCT VENUES WE’D LOVE TO SEE BACK ON TOUR
Barra de la Cruz, G-Land, J-Bay, Mundaka, Sunset, The Rip Curl Pro Search... come back!
If you glance down the list of ASP World Championship Tour venues for 2014, surf fans have very little to be upset about. Snapper, Cloudbreak, Teahupoo, Keramas, Pipe... these are without question some of the world’s very finest surf spots, and great places to run contests.
But! Surfers love a bit of 'Shoulda been here yesterday' a sprinkle of bittersweet lament for days of yesteryear, and we're no exception.
Here are 6 venues that we'd really love to see back on tour...
JEFFREY’S BAY, SOUTH AFRICA
J-Bay has been luring wave riders from all over the world for the last 40 years, and first figured as an ASP world tour event 1984. At that same first event, Supertubes provided four days of incredible 8-10 foot surf, leading Al Hunt to rate it as 'One of the best surf contests of all time'.
Jumping forward to more recent ASP world tour times, J-Bay is of course where a certain 19-year-old Joel Parkinson recorded a spectacular maiden WCT victory as a wildcard entry in 1999. The early naughties then saw the South African right-hand pointbreak play host to much of the heated rivalry between Kelly and AI. Kelly winning in 2003, Andy winning in 2004 with a perfect 10-point ride, and 2005 providing the most dramatic finish of all: Kelly beating Andy 30 seconds before the hooter on the final day of the waiting period.
And then, of course, it’d be rude not to mention home favourite Jordy’s Smith’s win in 2010, right before main event sponsor Billabong negotiated to have the event down-graded to a WQS 6-star event due to being up financial shit creek without a stand up paddle.
Home to what was the African continent’s sole world tour venue, we’re not even going to argue why it should be back on tour.
BARRA DE LA CRUZ, MEXICO
If we were going to replace Brazil with another Latin American stop, Barra de la Cruz would be it. Making a brief but mind-blowing appearance in 2006 as one of the Rip Curl Pro Search venues, Rip Curl initially copped considerable criticism for exposing what many still considered a ‘secret’. But Huey didn’t give two (runny, Mex-style) shits! The right-hand point came storming out the gates and delivered a 3-day run of incredible swell with some of the longest and heaviest barrel rides in the history of the WCT. The event proving a true revelation to most, Rip Curl couldn’t have hoped for anything better to highlight their concept of “The Search". The wave’s outstanding backdrop and supposed secrecy all helping to fuel the hype.
To add to that, the Rip Curl Pro Search Mexico remains etched in many people’s memories as the peak of Andy Iron’s illustrious career (for those who didn’t see the 3-time world champion’s win at Pipe in 2003).
Today, much has changed. With other big surf brands such as Quiksilver choosing to base ad campaigns around the location, Barra de la Cruz (and its surrounding right-hand points) is arguably Latin America’s most documented surf destination. That said, with Mexico’s reputation as still being a very chaotic country, where logistics always prove a nightmare, the probability of a brand putting in another bid for Mex any time soon is less than likely.
RIP CURL PRO SEARCH, EVERYWHERE
As a mobile specialty world tour event, whose venue was only announced shortly beforehand, the Rip Curl Pro Search injected that unknown X-factor to the tour every year. Spanning seven consecutive years in a row, it proved the most exciting stop on tour for many of those. It exposed new waves, explored new regions and stoked the world’s best surfers. But it also set the clocks back to zero for competitors on tour, most of whom remained unfamiliar with the locations. Tour veterans and rookies alike competed on a more level-playing field.
Largely scheduled during the latter part of the World Tour season in its final years, The Search played a key part in the final stages of the world title race if not deciding it. In fact in 2011, due to a minor misjudgement by the ASP, the San Francisco edition got to see a world champion crowned twice! A first in surfing history.
Other epic locations during its time included Reunion Island, Mexico, Chile, Indonesia, Portugal, and Puerto Rico. Puerto Rico to be always remembered as the tragic emotional roller coaster it was. Marred by Andy’s passing, Kelly would go on to win the event and in the process claim a historic 10th world title, and Steph Gilmore her fourth.
While the event has been shelved, since 2012 Rip Curl promised to be back. Originally in 2013. But that didn’t happen. With the ‘floating licence’ being so closely tied to Rip Curl’s ‘Search’ slogan, it’s unlikely any other brand would back the concept. Its fate is therefore lying in Rip Curl’s financial future.
MUNDAKA, BASQUE COUNTRY
Ok so we might be a little biased on this one, but did you see the run of swell the Basque left-hand river-mouth scored this winter?! It hasn’t stopped.
On tour for a decade, this super hollow sand-bottom left-hander certainly had its moments. A goofyfooters wet dream, Bobby Martinez won it twice: as a rookie in 2006, beating Kelly in the final, and again in 2007. After being put on ice in 2005 when a local sand-dredging project caused the wave to disappear, the miraculous return to its former glory also made for a good story.
Unfortunately, the wave’s fickle nature meant during its ten years on tour epic conditions were extremely few and far between, critics often referring to it as the Billabong Bakio Pro, after the venue’s very average back-up location. The pros, despite publicly gushing about how much they loved 'the culture', used to moan to all buggery in private about being cooped up in an essentially surfless town. Cancelled definitively in 2009 (for that very reason), the advent and huge success of the Rip Curl Pro Portugal that same year meant that Europe has retained its two stops on tour.
So actually, on reflection, do we really want to see Mundaka back on tour? Hell yeah!
This edit epitomises much of Mundaka’s time on tour. One week after a very sub-par 2009 edition, this happened....
Ok, so Indonesia already has a cracking stop on tour. But if Europe’s allowed to have two... well how many should Indo have? Five???
An extremely long, world-class, barrelling left-hand reef break located in a nature reserve on the south east of Java, G-Land featured on tour for three successive years in the mid-90s. Such was its success that the 1995 inaugural edition (won by Kelly who went on to claim his 3rd world title that year) is credited for spawning the concept that would later be dubbed the ‘Dream Tour’. However, the event then came to a sudden halt due to mounting political instability and civil unrest in the region.
In 2011, rumours emerged that Quiksilver was in negotiation with the ASP to return to G-Land to fill a 2-month mid-season break. In the end, nothing came of it. But were it to feature back on tour, G-Land would once again favour the world’s elite goofyfooters much in the same way Mundaka used to. But in contrast to Mundaka it’s a wave that’s extremely consistent in season due to its exposure to juice generated by lows off the Antarctic.
So what are G-Land’s chances of really finding itself back on tour? Well with there still being a one-month gap in world tour action in July, G-Land would fit in just sweet after Bali but challenging logistics, a continued threat of terrorism and a still very subdued surf industry will all need to be addressed.
SUNSET BEACH, HAWAII
Most of the top WCTers surf the ONeill World Cup anyway as the last QS of the year, but it should be back on the WCT. Why? Because it's the world's finest straighthander. Because we love seeing the flyweight blowtail starlets getting 20ft whitewaters on the head, surfing uncharacteristically big boards to handle the raw power.
If it's big and burly, Sunset is a proper challenge to pretty much everyone on tour (less so the Hawaiians and a select crew of Aussies who seem to stand out). It would also provide a bit of proper big wave umph to balance out your Trestles and your Rio. We love seeing beautifully spun fin chucks, etc, but not as much as love seeing carnts just trying to just make the fucking drop. If surfing really wants to garner the mainstream sports fan love, it's dramatic, man size Hawaiian surf at maxed-out Sunset that will draw the gawpers, not ultra-tech chest high wiggle wiggle spin. In fact, while we're at it... bung The Bay on the WCT too, let's get the Eddie on Tour!