By Dan Dobbin.
The view from the top of Stockton bridge tells you all you really need to know about the why’s and how’s of the city of Newcastle Australia.
To the right you get your first viewing of the black blood that courses through the viens of the city and keeps it alive. The super sized machinery of the coal loading operation on Kooragang Island working day and night filling ships with the petrified remains of plant matter laid down during the Permian era for export overseas.
The left offers a view south down the coast over Nobby’s, Main beach, Bar beach, Dixon park and on to Merewether where the WSL Newcastle Pro will take place later in the week.
It’s not taking place at the moment because the mighty Pacific Ocean is a wee bit not so mighty currently. 1-2ft wind chop not mighty to be exact.
Coal and the ocean. The twin motors that drive Newy.
I’m not heading down to the contest site to talk to talking WSL heads. There is no WSL Bodyboarding Tour 2022, you all know that by now, that was just a silly April fools day joke knocked together on a slow work day and a joke taken to far with the proceeding articles.
Instead I’m heading to a Rugby League match at Hunter stadium, named, like everything else in Newcastle, after early colonial governor and serial boat sinker John Hunter.
The people of Newcastle are passionate about their Rugby League and their team, the Newcastle Knights. When the team didn’t win a game for 19 straight matches over two years in 2016-17, the stadium was still filled to capacity each game.
I’m not a Newcastle Knights fan but having lived in the area for almost a decade at the start of the 2000’s they’re almost my defacto second team. Plus I’ve scored free tickets courtesy off a mate who works in, you guessed it, the coal mining industry.
During the game passion abounds. Sweet old ladies yell for blood, grown men rage and yell and say unspeakable things, little children weep openly as the result goes against the home team.
Sport, particularly professional sport, occupies a strange place in the human experience. We cheer and mock perfect strangers, share in the collective drama of the result, fall in love with heroes and detest created villians, endlessly debate tactics and strategies about an endeavour that has no real or lasting impact on our own lives. But we love it.
Professional competition is rally point around which communities can coalesce and create shared memories and experiences. Mike’s huge superman roll, GT trying to kill himself at Pipe in 94′, Hardy’s death spin at Chopes, Kingy’s performance at the Island comp in 01′, Hubbs last minute heroics to snatch victory at Pipe in 09′, Pierre’s huge backflips everywhere, GT trying to kill himself again at Arica, Tristin Roberts defing the odds to win his world title at Fronton in 2019.
While our little WSL email was a fake, the reaction we and others received to it’s possible implications was not.
There seems to be a huge hunger and desire within the bodyboarding community to view and engage with a high level competition featuring the world’s best riders.
The Romulus and Remus of problems standing in the way of course is the current and future Covid landscape, and the financial unviabiity of both running and pursuing a prolonged world tour.
For all the seeming strength of the WSL, it’s also an open secret that, even at it’s best pre-covid, the world surfing tour is financially break even proposition year to year. If it wasn’t deep pockets of billionaire Dirk Ziff funding it’s upkeep each year it basically wouldn’t happen.
Bodyboarding doesn’t have a benevolent benefactor to fund a tour, and with travel and quariantine restrictions likely to be in place globally for the forseeable future, if we want to see top line competition, we’re going to have to be creative, and do it on national, and perhaps regional scales.
This may be the perfect time to get creative. Trial new, innovative and entertaining ways to allow our top riders to showcase their talents.
Online video competitions were a great starting point, but they were missing the head to head component that makes competition so engaging and compelling.
So let’s put our thinking caps on team and start workshopping, planning, running and supporting new endeavours to get high level riding back in our lives and on our screens. Let not wait and hope that someone else, like a WSL, will do the work for us. If we truly are as passionate and keen to see high level competition in bodyboarding return, we’ll need to make it happen ourselves.
Let’s go team!!!