Eddie Should Know Betterby Andy Davis / 18.11.2009
Back in September we ran an article about how the most prestigious event in the world of big wave surfing, the Quiksilver In Memory of Eddie Aikau, long the preserve of American and the odd Australian surfers, was about to open up their doors to the legion of South African big wave surfers, who rank among the best in the world but are consistently left out in the cold. All you had to do was get online and vote. Thousands did. They led us to believe that the crew of South African big wave surfers actually stood a chance of being included after years of honing their skills at the heavy water breaks that litter the Southern tip of the African continent. For there can be no doubt, the South African big wave surfing community is steadily pushing the boundaries of what is surfable, winter after winter.
So they came out with the list of invitees yesterday and lo and behold there is only one South African on the list. Out of 28 invitees and 24 alternates, there is only space for one South African. His name is Grant “Twiggy” Baker, and on form alone, he probably ranks as the best big wave surfer in the world right now. In the last few years he has won every major big wave surfing event, plus the XXL biggest wave award and overall performance award. They literally could not exclude him. But ther was no place, not even amongst the alternates, for big wave maniacs like Chris Bertish, who has been pushing the envelope of what’s possible in the sport for years. No space for James Taylor, who consistently takes off deeper and catches bigger waves than all the locals and the internationals surfing Dungeons, time and again. No room for Jason Ribbink, Mike Schlebach and most upsetting, no place for Andy Marr, a supremely talented South African big wave surfer who returns to Hawaii year after year, like a devout pilgrim, just to surf the hallowed waves of Waimea Bay.
Out of the 52 invitees and alternates there are 41 Americans, even though Quiksilver seems keen to point out the difference between Hawaiians and Americans, they’re really, legally, the same thing. Deal with it. Then there are the two Australians, Ross Clarke Jones and Tom Carroll, both of them probably too old for professional, competitive, paddle-in big wave surfing, but on the list all the same. And the thing that really gets me fuming is that Twiggy Baker and other surfers from Chile, Spain and France who have made the cut, are categorised under the title of “International Invitees”. While Carlos Burle (Brazil), Tom Caroll and Ross Clarke-Jones manage to get lumped in with the regular invitees. So what’s the criteria here? How come the Brazilian and Aussies are included while the rest fall under the “International Invitee” tag? It feels like in the search for some kind of global recognition as “the world’s longest-running and most respected big wave contest” a la press release, they just tacked on these “International Invitees” onto what is really just a parochial, American big wave surfing event.
This kind of narrow minded provincialism does nothing to promote the sport of big wave surfing outside of the established hegemony of the surf world. And it erodes the credibility of the Eddie. The best thing Twiggy can do is win the whole event and stick it to them, for the rest of us.