Is Slater’s Wavepool Better Designed For Longboards?
Kind of… more from the return of the WSL World Longboard Tour inside.
After one year and seven months off (ehem, Covid), the WSL has officially re-started its World Longboard Tour.
Competitive longboarding is a funny thing in it of itself. If you watched the WSL Finals at Lowers, the overall tone, production, and ‘vibe’ of the competition held over the past two days at Kelly Slater’s wavepool could not be more distant from early-September’s display of cutthroat antics and hi-fi surfing at Lowers… which I believe to be a good thing.
Yesterday’s event Lemoore is one of three that will determine this year’s World Longboard Title. Despite these lofty stakes, all those in attendance laughed, high-fived, and cheered each other on as they took their runs in Slater’s Lemoore oasis. This was made most evident by the camaraderie of Justin Quintal and Harrison Roach, who went blow-for-blow in the semis only to be taken down by the eventual event winner Eduoard Delpero in the final. Clips from longboarding’s top lensman @lograp‘s Instagram story showed the two hilariously jousting with each other in the competitor’s area while competing for surfing’s 23rd-highest accolade (this is the 17th).
I loved every second of it.
If the WSL’s main tour is the cutthroat, overachieving stockbroker of the family, then the Longboard tour is the wholesome, fun-loving little sister who just wants to meet new people and travel the world. The WSL’s acknowledgment that this tour should be fun for both competitors and viewers shows the growth they’ve seen under newly-minted commissioner Devon Howard. This coupled with the fact that both the men’s and women’s finalists from yesterday were exclusively riding single fins is indicative that this tour is in a very good place.
Now on to some light criticism.
If you’ve heard it once you’ve heard it a thousand times: traditional longboard surfing cannot be done whilst wearing a leash.
The Surf Ranch represents not only the world’s first premiere wavepool tech, but a WSL investment worth tens of millions of dollars. While I understand that they need to recoup their cost in a way other than their packed calendar of corporate retreats (at a cost of roughly $75,000 a day), the tour’s current trend toward traditional longboarding is undermined ever so slightly by the fact they are forcing the world’s best loggers to use equipment that they otherwise wouldn’t. Why, you ask? Well, if a rouge board punctures the lining of the pool it would, unfortunately, result in tens of thousands in damages, a potential pool drain and subsequent suspension of competition until the issue was fixed.
Aka: a no-go in terms of protecting their investments, live content and otherwise.
While it sucks, I’d probably do the same. As you can see above, this led to some creative solutions for those who chose to rode boards glassed sans plug. Thankfully it doesn’t appear a leash caused any devasting hindrances in the final series of the contest. In fact, depending on how you look at it, the addition of the leash could have been considered an added layer of difficulty during Honolua’s 10-point switch barrel ride, with Kassia Meador exclaiming that these maneuvers were “so much more difficult with a leash on.” Unsurprisingly, Honolua would go on to win the event.
And as for the wave itself? While one could justifiably believe that this is a perfect longboard wave while watching the world’s best trim endless noserides, the barrel proved difficult for traditional craft. While Justin and Harrison committed to both the outside and inside barrel sections in the semis (resulting in impressive qualifying scores), they both fell in their final series. Eduard, on the other hand, was on a board with a decisively narrower outline and pulled in nose, allowing him to fit the curve of the wave much more easily and aid him in taking both the win and the #1 slot headed into malibu.
The broadcast team signaled another win for the WLT’s relaunch. Consisting of Chad Marshall, Robert ‘Wingnut’ Weaver, and Kassia Meador, their connection with the surfers and pace throughout the broadcast likened much to that of a Sunday golf tournament, with Wingnut’s soothing demeanor contrasted against Chad’s outbursts of excitement.
With the WLT making its long-awaited return to Malibu in a few days to crown two new World Longboard Champions (on October 3rd), we’re in for what is sure to be one of the most exciting longboard contests in recent memory. Feel free to take that sentence as you will.
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