Masters and Grommets Unite – Nick Carroll
COASTALWATCH | NICK CARROLL
It’s time to re-connect the force of generations
I’m in no way sentimental about competitive surfing. But watching that WSL Masters thing evolve in the Azores over the past week, I haven’t been so bummed to miss an event in years.
Because, let’s face it, Australians cleaned the contest’s clock.
Bainy! Layne! Dave Macca! Cheyne! Pam! Simon! Dooma! Richo! Glen Winton, damn it!! Sooo sick.
OK, I am a bit sentimental. Hell, they’re my friends. But I wouldn’t be the only Australian surfer getting a lil tingle from this reminder of our surfing nation’s ancient grandeur. If you didn’t care a tiny bit, you never did.
Contrast that with what happened last week in Japan, at the ISA World Surfing Games.
You can feel this event growing into itself in a big way. In a year and a half, it could be an Olympic king-and-queen-maker.
And Surfing Australia got a team result for the first time in ages. Second place! It sure cooked our previous most recent result, of 12th.
But have a look at how we got that second place, and the picture changes.
It was mainly on the back of a big gun CT pro, Sally Fitzgibbons. Sal’s got her eye on that Olympic medal. She came into the field and destroyed it, leading the Oz women, including fellow high-scorers Holly Wawn and Philippa Anderson, to an easy overall win on their side.
The boys had no such CT gun presence. Thus in the men’s division, our top three scores didn’t even add up to Sal’s singular effort. The men beat New Zealand, but not Great Britain. They were thrashed by Japan, USA, South Africa, Peru, France, Spain, Argentina, and, wait for it, Canada.
This is not to denigrate the kids on the SA team in the slightest. But something is not clicking for them.
Let’s take a broader view for a sec. Recently Surfing Australia’s CEO, Andrew Stark, stepped down from the coal-face after a decade in charge. Starky was damn good for the organisation. He raised funds, built things, and got shit done. He connected SA with governments, corporations, and experienced board members.
But for whatever reason, he never quite connected with that primal task of committing it all to the next generation. Head coaches came and went, and they usually went in a dissatisfied manner. Of the two I’ve spoken to, one felt dismissed despite great results, and the other felt starved of resources.
Meanwhile, instead of pouring all its energies into building a great young team, SA has been riding the back of Australia’s pro elite.
Earlier this year, under the aegis of Olympic squad training, they took more than a dozen of the CT big guns to the Surf Ranch for three days of intensive pool training, complete with coaches, shapers, videographers, photographers, the lot.
The surfers and coaches loved it. (See our report here.) They got a free kick at the pool, figuring it’d make a crucial difference in the recent Surf Ranch Pro, and by all accounts they learned a lot. Not that it helped ‘em much there, in the end, but whatever.
The point is: the Surf Ranch’s reported daily rate is US$55,000. This on running costs of around US$11,500 per day.
Of course Surfing Australia would have got a discount, but even if the organisation just covered the pool’s costs, you’re talking over A$40,000 in wave-maker time. Much less the combined airfares, accommodation, and bits and pieces.
It’s got to have been a six-figure gig.
How did that help the grommets in Japan last week?
Yeah, Australia’s first Olympic team will probably be pulled at rote from the top layer of the CT rankings. And yeah, you’ve gotta keep them happy. But where will the second team come from?
It’ll be part of new CEO Chris Mater’s job to re-engage somehow, and help his coaches re-invigorate the once lethal Australian super-grommet machinery. You know, the thing that turned out the CT guns in the first place.
Maybe Chris’s first task on that score should be to go get those Aussie masters — ALL of ‘em — and unleash them on the grommets, at ground level, State Of Origin style. That crew has heaps to give, and you can’t tell me they wouldn’t froth at the chance.
The grommets know how to surf, but the masters know how to WIN.
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