OPINION: We Need a Barrel Tour

Matt Rode

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Updated 310d ago

The Margaret River Pro has begun, and normally that’s nothing to get excited about. The Australian leg of the season is always rather sleepy.

Snapper Rocks is usually pretty small, with maybe one day of pumping Kirra mixed in if we are lucky. Bells is a yawn fest, at best. And 90 per cent of the heats at Margaret River are run at Main Break, which is probably the least exciting wave in the world to surf or watch, unless it’s humongous or you are John John Florence.

In fact, recently retired three-time world champ Mick Fanning quipped last week that he is “definitely not going to ever paddle out at Margaret River again, anytime in this lifetime.” It doesn’t bode well for spectators when even the athletes can’t be bothered to show up for events.

But the other was actually worth watching, for two main reasons. First of all, the event went mobile to North Point—and North Point is the best barrel in southern WA. And second, Jack Robinson snuck in as an injury replacement for Caio Ibelli after winning a surf-off minutes before the event began—and Jack Robinson is arguably one of the best barrel riders in the world.

Between Jack, John John, and the fickle, difficult-to-decipher slab that is North Point, day one of the Margaret River Pro was actually watchable—even if everyone else struggled to find nuggets, and most posted single-digit heat totals. It was watchable because the guys who chose the right waves were getting drained—and if you can’t be getting shacked yourself, then the next best thing is watching the world’s best do so.

This got me thinking—why can’t we have a barrel-riding tour? We have a big wave tour, a qualifying tour, a championship tour and a longboard tour—there was even once a such thing as an air show tour. And I wouldn’t be surprised if we have a wave pool tour within a couple of years. But really, how exciting is any of that?

This year’s Nazare event pretty much killed the allure of big wave competition, and I’m not even sure if the WSL live-streams longboard contests (or if anyone would watch). The QS is a grovel fest, the CT is only exciting when it lucks into good waves (read: barrels), and air shows died a long time ago when everyone realized that telegraphed reverses get very boring very quickly.

And how about barrels in heavier waves? It's doable...

And the wave pool concept? As far as I’m concerned, anyone who pays money to sit in bleachers and watch the Surf Ranch event deserves to have their boards taken away.

Why not give the people what they want—the hardest-charging, most technically adept tube hounds on the planet, surfing the heaviest, hollowest waves in existence. John John Florence, Jack Robinson, Kelly Slater, Jamie O’Brien, Owen and Mikey Wright, Mikala Jones, Kieran Perrow (put him back in a jersey!), CJ and Damian Hobgood, Anthony Walsh, Alex Gray, Aritz Aranburu, Koa and Alex Smith, Russell Bierke, and a handful of local wildcards at each spot. Four-month waiting periods, same as the BWT—except the events actually run when the waves are pumping

Teahupoo, Cloudbreak/Restaurants, Pipe/Backdoor, Skeleton Bay, North Point/The Box, Shipstern’s Bluff, P-Pass, and a mobile event in the Mentawais. Four-month waiting periods, same as the BWT—except the events actually run when the waves are pumping, and not when it’s convenient for the local government and sponsors.

Remember when contests used to be something we looked forward to? When we’d stay up late at night to watch them? Give us back the Dream Tour, and let’s crank it up a notch.

Cover shot of Teahupoo by Emmanuel da Cruz