The Most Wonderful Scams In Surfing
When reality and expectation marvellously misalign.
You ever been duped? Swindled? Hoodwinked? Suckered into an investment opportunity by one Bernard Madoff?
Probably. From timeshares to subscription boxes to medical remedies that have never been proven by any study at all ever, scams dot this dirty earth like venus fly traps in the tar-heeling heat of the North Carolina summer. Nothing thrills quite like a good old fashioned Ponzi scheme.
Our beloved surfing has had more than its fair share of instances in which expectation and reality marvellously misalign. I decided to honour some of my favourite below.
The World Qualifying Series
It’s not a scam, they say, it’s a gateway to the dream tour. Which is true — for 10 people a year. Not so much for the other 1086. A membership to compete on the QS costs $275 and individual event entries are usually around $200. After a glance at this year’s ratings, I found a few competitors on the wrong side of 600th place that have competed in over five events this year. Which means it costs over a grand to say you’re the 617th best surfer on the WQS. Madoff would make a great beach marshall.
This was an absolute dominance of the scam game. You have to tip your cap. Power Balance convinced the entire world that a shiny sticker embedded in a rubber band would make you better at things. It got so popular that some people even started glassing them into boards! The only shame about the whole ordeal is the lawsuit — they had to shell out $57 million, which is bullshit. If you paid money for a piece of rubber with a fucking sticker in the middle, that should be on you. Call it financial Darwinism.
“Advanced” Surf Coaching
Beginner coaching/surf lessons will teach you the basics of surfing. Professional coaching wins people world titles. But in the middle? That is some strange territory. There’s nothing wrong with letting a friend point a few things out or doing the Hurley Surf Club for free — those things can be hugely beneficial. But I have seen focused teenagers return from “advanced” surf coaching seminars in Costa Rica in a state of utter dismay, and I have seen a dear friend become an “advanced” coach. Saw him the other week actually. We got very drunk and he kissed a French person and the next morning, I watched his client nosedive on three waves straight. “Don’t lean forward so much,” he kept saying. “Don’t lean forward so much.”
This is a hot one right now; this is the scam of the future. I think some wave pools will succeed greatly, but I also think way too many are going to be built and that there are going to be some disgusting green pools filled with impotent machinery in a decade or three — can you imagine trying to sell a wave pool right now? All you’d need to do is make up some numbers about how many people surf, build a powerpoint about how quickly the sport is growing, throw in a picture of a shark, find rich people, wear a stained short sleeve shirt with a tie, shake hands, then take a massive amount of commission for a wave pool that will be birthed and destroyed all within the span of 10 years. The American dream is still alive, folks.
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