At one event, in the makeshift awards ceremony on the beach, Dora was announced the winner. There was applause and there were hoots. He stepped up, received his trophy—and tossed it into the sand. At another event, he rode a 12-foot tandem board in the final (the surfing equivalent to running a 10K in ski boots). At yet another event, the 1967 Malibu Invitational, he dropped his shorts at the spectators, media, and especially those five dudes sitting with clipboards and pencils. His point? That surfing is far too poetic and expressive to be judged.
At the recent Hurley Pro at Trestles there were flickers of this. Judges were taken to task. Top pros expressed their disenchantment on social media. “Time to go home. Very sad, I dedicate or have dedicated my life to it … so tired, tired!” wrote a pissed off Gabriel Medina. “It is hard to accept when they make decisions that decide people’s lives and don’t take care to make the decision right and are not at all held accountable” from world title race leader Matt Wilkinson. And this from Julian Wilson: “The Judges might need to take some responsibility for their scores over the past two days. Might be time to put them under the microscope, like they do to us.”
I showed up on the final day, a sunny Wednesday on which there were only six heats remaining: two semis and a final for both the Mens and the Womens. The surf had dropped, and though it was the climax, there was something anticlimactic about the day.
The crowd was thin. Long lulls elicited yawns. Title contenders had died out. The winners, Jordy Smith and Tyler Wright, surfed spectacularly in the slightly wind-chopped rights.
“I have a hard time concentrating at art museums. The people always upstage whatever’s hanging on the walls.” I can’t confirm that Bob Dylan ever said this, but he might have. Similarly, I loved what I saw the athletes do across the waves at Trestles, but most memorable for me was not a giant carve or screaming slash, but the much more classical image of the two surfers exiting the water (think Colosseum, circa 8th century). Both the Mens and the Womens finals presented the same scene: The winner exulting, hands raised triumphantly over head. The loser slithering out the side, moving hurriedly, doing whatever is the opposite of savoring the moment.