It’s been a big couple of years for big wave surfing. Back in 2011, midway through the Billabong Pro in Teahupoo a monster Code Red swell appeared and with conditions way too gnarly to paddle, an expression session was beamed live via the webcast to the watching world. Nathan Fletcher’s wave, Bruce’s wipeout etc, this surely had to be the most compelling and addictive piece of surf theatre ever broadcast.
Until of course the Volcom Pro in Fiji last year. When again with the event proper not run, the global gathering of big-wave riders put on a show in perfect 25 feet cartoonesque tubes. It was again webcast live, and with 25 feet tubes and Kelly Slater commentating, life in webland was about as good as it gets.
Both big-wave sessions tended to make the subsequent World Tour events look a little lame. Twenty feet megatubes verse five foot Restaurants? There is always going to be only one winner.
Was this the future of surf broadcasting? Ian Walsh and Red Bull thought so, and created a new Jaws paddle event, called Paddle at Pe’ahi, whose webcast and imagery says Walsh, “Will be far superior to anything we’ve ever seen in surfing.”
Add the Eddie, the Big Wave World Tour Events in Peru, Chile, Mavericks, Oregon and Todos Santos, one offs like the Mullaghmore Tow-in comp plus rumoured events being organised by Mark Mathews at some slabs in Australia, and you see the opportunity for a series of big wave events and webcasts that might suck in more people, and generate way more mainstream interest, than Parko, Slater etc and the ASP World Tour.
The formats can be tweaked to recreate a free surfing feel, and anyway the competition side of things is not important when guys are putting their lives on the line. The spectacle itself generates the excitement, not the scoring. All it would need is a blanket sponsor, a shit load of logistical genius, and some friggin’ big waves. What would you rather watch?