'It's pretty much committing 100 percent that you're gonna get licked' -- Ian Walsh
So why the hell would you do something like that? My theory? Walsh is a great big wave surfer, but not the biggest name nor biggest personality in the game. His bosses at Red Bull know his vids will get clicks from the core audience, but a core audience does not a viral video make. For that you need something next level, you need...a pool toy
Walsh on inflatable hot dog: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LOHSkure4s8
Of Course, Walsh merely adopted the pool toy. It was Jamie O'brien who popularized this style of spectacle by bringing it to Pipeline. A lot of people in internet land have been writing off O'brien lately because his latest webisode series featured much more partying and assorted idiotry than it did actual surfing. I can see where they are coming from, but I also like the implicit idea that surfing, even in serious conditions, shouldn't be taken too seriously. When we get too caught up in the make believe mysticisms and pseudo spirituality of it all, it's easy to forget that it's just a baby step above sloshing around in the bath, albeit a large, and somewhat dangerous bath.
Jamie o'brien on a soft-top surfboard at pipeline: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2D5ugxEVBXA
Perhaps more outlandish than either Walsh or O'brien are the shark riding antics of Mark Healey, especially given the the video he released lst week of himself stiff arming an over-eager tiger shark. The vid was an outtake from his latest go-pro add campaign features himself helping the Italian glamour girl Roberta Mancino ride a tiger shark. Healey told surfing magazine that he makes shark riding videos to change people's perceptions of sharks. It's a noble goal, but it's slightly lost on the viewer as the camera is more focused on Mancino rolling around the in the water and blowing kisses at the camera
Check out the videos here:
These stunts are part of a phenomenon that I like to think of as the spectacularization or Red Bullerization of surfing. Every clip has to be crazier than the last, every wave bigger, every stunt more fanatical. Of course the athletes are working under their own volition, but eventually someone needs to start thinking of the ethical implications of throwing money at young men and women so that they'll put themselves in increasingly dangerous and outlandish situations just to titillate your viewers.
Don't get me wrong, this kind of thing has it's place for some people. Jose Angel used to backflip off the lip WAimea just for kicks. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jJRnGhbrR3I). I mean, we all need to get through the day somehow, and If Walsh, Healey and O'brien are into reckless thrill seeking in their own time, I support that. I don't necessarily want to spend too much time hanging out with them, but I support it. The problem is that when they do it for the camera it feels really forced and sort of silly.
Surfing pipeline in an inner tube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KPo9UfbvyB8
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