Nick Carroll: The World's Ending

13 Mar 2020 4 Share

Nick Carroll

Senior Writer

CJ Hobgood holds aloft the 2001 ASP World Title trophy – the last time a Championship Tour got called off due to global events..

CJ Hobgood holds aloft the 2001 ASP World Title trophy – the last time a Championship Tour got called off due to global events..

COASTALWATCH | NICK CARROLL

Don’t worry, though, someone’s gonna score

Nobody knows.

It’s an odd state of affairs, in a world where everyone usually has an opinion and makes damn sure we all know it. But right now, it’s true. Nobody knows what’s next.

Two days ago, the WSL was full steam ahead on the opening stanzas of its world tours. Today, as sporting and public events worldwide threw in the towel, the WSL surrendered to the glaringly obvious, and pulled the plug.

Now the whole of March is an empty calendar, and we are all spared the gruesome array of jokes sure to have tormented the Corona Pro at Snapper Rocks if it had actually gone ahead.

Small mercies I guess.

This afternoon, Australia’s Chief Medical Officer advised the Federal Government to halt all public gatherings involving more than 500 people. If this is put into play — and the Government, perhaps not trusting itself too much after failing to listen to the bushfire experts a year ago, has pretty much followed the CMO’s advice to the letter — then you’ve gotta think it will put paid to Bells and maybe Margaret River as well.

And if there was no Bells contest at Easter, the world itself might end. I mean what’s it been, 58 years?

If things got to that pass, the WSL might have to begin to consider the un-considerable: calling off the entire 2020 CT.

Three events gone from a roster of 11 (boys) and 10 (girls)? Could this be fair? Can you get a world championship out of that?

They did once before — in 2001, the last year everything well and truly turned to shit.

Let’s take a lil trip down memory lane on this one.

2001 started with a flourish, despite Kelly Slater, six time world champion, still being on vacation at the time. The men’s prizemoney had doubled, and a grommet wildcard, Mick Fanning, swept Bells before him. There was a sense of the new. Well, more than a sense, here they were — Mick, Joel, Cory Lopez, Taj, the Hobgoods, and a resurgent AI lurking.

Then September came, and the twin towers fell, and everyone freaked out.

Back then the surfers called the shots on tour, via their ginger group, World Professional Surfers (WPS). WPS had driven the ASP to do that prizemoney doubling stuff. Now they exerted their muscle in precisely the opposite direction.

The core Americans, flabbergasted by the events in NYC, decided they didn’t want a bar of overseas travel. After a few days of back and forthing, the WPS decided to back them, and the entire European tour was ka-blooey.

CJ Hobgood ended up winning the world title based on five events, including the Rip Curl World Cup at Sunset Beach, a CT event back then. But nobody was happy, really, not even CJ.

Maybe a bolder organisation at the time would have pushed back at the surfers — would have said, “We’re surfers! Strike a blow for freedom! Go to Europe!” Maybe the whole thing shoulda been canned for the year right then, and saved the sport an asterisk, one that CJ never deserved tagging him the way it did. He could have won that year no matter what.

Anyway, weird … except it gives us a glimpse of what may lie ahead here, after the tiny little virus stops playing havoc with the human race.

Because a few months later, by mid-2002, the whole thing was more or less forgotten. The next three years were possibly the most dynamic and exciting in tour history: AI’s blood and thunder, and Kelly, broken and rebuilt, bringing him down.

That’s one thing I know: soon enough we’ll have forgotten all this.

Meanwhile, in the background, there’s been a peculiar and perhaps telling turn of events. Some of my boardmaking buddies have noticed a surprising uptick in surfboard orders. This uptick seemed to begin about three weeks ago, and it’s pan-Pacific — it’s happening in the US too.

The sorta thing that occurs when people are thinking about surfing, a lot.

Here’s another thing I know: surfers are opportunists.

And while I’m sure a lot of people are postponing or cancelling their family surf holidays to various foreign resorts, I’m also pretty sure there’s a lot of dirty bloody frothers out there waxing their credit cards. Because the next six months will surely be the least crowded time in the lives of the world’s great waves in, what, 30 years? 

While the organised world falls apart, we might be on the edge of Paradise.

(Stay tuned next week for part two in Nick’s series, The Plague — what’s happening with surf travel in the age of the Virus?)

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