Opinion: Here’s Why Surfing in the Olympics Will Never Work

The Inertia Senior Editor

Surfing is officially an Olympic sport.  It was a terrible decision, unless a few big changes are made. A few weeks ago when the IOC announced that yes, they’d take our little sport (or pastime, or whatever you want to call it) and all of the problems that come along with judging it, the debate about whether or not it should be in the Games fired up anew. It can, I think, mostly be boiled down to two sides: those that think surfing is a sport and those who do not. I land somewhere in the middle. While I appreciate the talent that comes with pro surfing, all too often the entire judging system completely fails.Surfing, in its current form, isn’t a sport, despite entities like the WSL trying very hard to make it into one, ending the year by crowning the “best surfer in the world.” Part of sports is finding out who’s best, and in its current state, pro surfing doesn’t always do that. Need proof? Look no further than the current world champion, Adriano de Souza. He is, without a doubt, an incredible surfer. But you won’t find many that would agree that he’s the actually best surfer in the world. He is simply the one who got the most points, and the way it’s set up isn’t always indicative of who’s actually the best in the world. It creates a space where strategy is almost as important as talent–which is fine in many sports, but not in surfing.

The way the WSL set up their scoring system–and to be fair, if there has to be one, they’re doing a decent job of it–doesn’t lend itself to finding the best surfer in the world. It lends itself to finding the surfer who is best at racking up the points, points that depend almost as much on the waves themselves as they do on the surfer. But, like I said, the WSL is doing their best to do something that’s impossible, at least in its current state. But there’s a way to change it: wave pools.

For surfing to actually be a real sport–one with clear winners and losers–the playing field needs to be even. To really crown a champion, everyone needs to be able to compete on exactly the same thing. Take gymnastics, for example. When gymnasts are on the pommel horse, they’re all on the same pommel horse. Mary Lou Retton was on the same one as everyone else. If she was on a smaller, wider pommel horse, it wouldn’t be fair (an astute reader recently pointed out that pommel horse is a men’s event… but you get the point.) That’s where surfing is at right now, despite a million little tweaks during heats that try to make up for the fact that the competitors are all playing on a different field, with different obstacles and endless possibilities. A wave pool would give judges the ability to judge the surfer themselves, not the way they surfed the particular wave they happened to catch. In defining a winner, luck can’t be a factor. But that’s just part of the problem.

When surfing hits the Olympics in 2020, it’s going to be in the ocean. Over a span of about two weeks, athletes who’ve been training their whole lives for a brief moment on the biggest stage in sports show what they’ve been training to do–and in sports like track and field, where judging is as simple as a timer–it works. For surfing, though, determining who the best in the world is requires an actual season, because right now, the best surfer in the world needs to excel in all conditions. Unless it’s in a wave pool, and surfers surf the same amount of the exact same waves. Which would basically create a whole new genre of the sport, much like the halfpipe did for snowboarding, or the mega ramp did for skateboarding. Sure, it’ll take away from part of what makes surfing so great, but that’s an unfortunate downfall of classifying it as a sport.

So while much of the general surfing public hates the idea of surfing in a pool, it’s the only way to make competitive surfing fair–and to crown a world champion in the Olympics in any other way won’t be fair to anyone, the winner included.

Here’s Why Surfing in the Olympics Will Never Work



Go placidly amid the noise and the haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence. As far as possible, without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even to the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons; they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs, for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals, and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should. Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be.

And whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life, keep peace in your soul. With all its sham, drudgery and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.

Renewable energy not all it appears

I have been watching Quebec-based Innergex’s Upper Lillooet Power Project and was shocked to see it is actually going ahead. I am a very “fiscally conservative environmentalist” and I hate these Independent Power Projects (IPPs). Hate. Both fiscally and environmentally.


There is an IPP on Downton Lake at James Creek (Gold Bridge Valley) and they have made a mess of the road and watershed. The contractors have just thrown logs around and there is a scar running through the forest for the power lines. I was told that they have an environmental officer on site, but you would never know it with the way that they have done nothing to protect the streams. Plus, I was told that I couldn’t drive on the Downton Lake Road because it was ‘private’. Having spent the past 25-plus years in the area fishing, camping and staying at my friend’s house, I called bullshit to the person telling me that and she backed down admitting it was a public road.

According to the provincial government, 72 per cent of IPPs are located in known or suspected fish-bearing waters. I was not shocked.

But then it was a like being hit by lightning when my fiscal conservative ears pricked up that BC Hydro is contracted to pay a premium to the IPPs that is way more than the market rates. According to a recent editorial in the Times Colonist, “It is sobering to recollect that in the last call for power, B.C. Hydro was required to issue contracts to IPPs for $125 per megawatt-hour — well over double market prices. In fact, B.C. Hydro can currently purchase surplus hydro power from south of the border for as low as $10 a megawatt-hour or less.”

Innergex  is already in our backyard.  They run the Fitzsimmons Creek, Rutherford Creek, Ashlu Creek and Miller Creek hydro projects.

We all are very happy to be able to say that our Fitzsimmons powers the mountains. But, the Fitzsimmons Creek Hydroelectric Project is not owned locally in Whistler. Did you know that it presently receives a $10 per megawatt hour (MWh) incentive from the Government of Canada?

There’s more.

BC Hydro MUST buy all of the power generated by the project until the year 2050. Interesting to note that the Mount Currie Band and the Squamish Band are entitled to royalties and are also entitled to an incremental share of gross revenues exceeding a yearly threshold of gross revenues. In English, taxpayers are also subsidizing the bands indirectly.

According to documents filed with the Toronto Stock Exchange, the average price per MWh paid by BC Hydro for power generated at Fitzsimmons in 2012 was $90.58. Using Ontario as a baseline, the 2012 average price for power according to the Canadian National Energy Board was $30 per MWh. Nice Profit. Don’t forget to tack on the extra $10 per MWh in federal subsidies.

Innergex had an EBITDA in 2012 of $108 million on revenues of $180 million all attributed to provincial crown corporations. Let me spell that out. Innergex’s only customer is the government and their profit margin is a whopping 60 per cent. Outstanding numbers on the back of subsidies being paid for by taxpayers!

Do we need this extra project? Do we need the extra power? B.C. Hydro is forecast to lose a billion dollars over the next four years because it has a surplus and is committed by contract to the tune of $54 billion in energy-purchase agreements to IPP’s.

Sea to Sky residents have two options. Voice their concerns immediately with politicians or buy stock in Innergex on the TSX where it is rated a “strong buy.”

Patrick Smyth



Patrick’s Top 5 Surfing Movies

“The best surfer out there is the one having the most fun” – Unknown

It’s a cold December morning here in Vancouver, and being unable to snow board with my recent shoulder surgery I find myself thinking about surfing.  And so without much ado, here are my five favorite surf movies:

#5  – Surf’s Up  – 2007

“You know, we’ve known each other way back since, like… yesterday, I think it was.”

chicken joe

Except for the annoying voice of Shia LaBeouf, this 2007 parody of surfing documentaries, such as The Endless Summer and Riding Giants, with parts of the plot parodying North Shore teaches a lot about the surfing culture to non-surfers.

“So, Cody, when you take your first wave, and the whole island’s there to watch, what’s it gonna be like? ”

It’s gonna be amazing. Honestly, it’ll be the best wave of my life, and I hope the cameras are rolling because you’re gonna want to watch it over and over and over and over again. It’s gonna be awesome”

Codie’s wipe out when he first challenges Tank is something every surfer has experienced.   We think we have mastered the ocean and the waves are there for our taking, only to be dropped and crushed by the weight of our ego’s.  And be reminded of it over and over by your bro’s over a cold beer.

And who, but a surfer understands this line?   “You should have been here yesterday. We had a sweet swell yesterday.”  This is the typical sarcastic comment you get if you missed out on a session by your bro’s and dudettes, and believe me, almost nothing can be as frustrating as getting told how great the session (which you missed out on) was.

And we all know a ‘Chicken Joe’.

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d1RH866AvJQ

#4 Bra Boys: Blood is thicker than water – 2007

“the surf has saved so many kids around here, and led them to a lifestyle in the ocean instead of a lifestyle in crime”.

bra boys patrick smyth

My friend Rudi introduced me to this film, a 90 minute documentary film about the surf gang based south about an Australian gang founded and based in Maroubra, an eastern suburb of Sydney.  The film details a story of the Bra Boys from the viewpoint of the gang, particularly Sunny Abberton who wrote and co-directed the film with Macario De Souza with actor Russell Crowe providing narration. The film’s official cast included 49 well known surfers from Bra Boys members Evan Faulks and Richie ‘Vas’ Vaculik to ten-time world champion, Kelly Slater, and surfing legends including Mark Occhilupo, Bruce Irons, and Laird Hamilton.

The film is rough and shows some of the seedier sides of the Aussie surf culture.  And it really highlights something that is hard to explain to non-surfers; the almost blood-bind surfers have in common.

Trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lmyJYIYPo_0

#3 Morning of the Earth  – 1971

“One Ocean once covered the world … it was The Morning of the Earth.”

morning of the earth

Turlough introduced me to this film not too long ago.  The film portrays surfers living in spiritual harmony with nature, making their own boards (and homes) as they travelled in search of the perfect wave across Australia’s north-east coast, Bali and Hawaii.  It features great footage and some excellent tunes from the early 70’s

Michael “MP” Peterson (24 September 1952 – 29 March 2012) is featured in the film.  As a professional Australian surfer, he was considered one of the best surfers in Australia during the early to mid-1970s and was recognized for his deep tube riding skill, especially on the Gold Coast, Peterson won the Australian championship in the 1972 and 1974, along with won many other major surfing competitions. Peterson became a heavy drug user, and his friends reported increasingly erratic behavior, hostility towards others (including friends) and paranoid delusions in which he believed that others were plotting against him.  While he did do drugs, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia .

Watch the movie for the music.  And watch it again for the images of a simpler life, something we surfers live every time we shred.

Trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KT9kjQ3LLH0

#2 Step into Liquid – 2003

“It’s like the Mafia. Once you’re in, you’re in. There’s no getting out.”

step into Liquid

The name of the movie says it all.  Step into Liquid. When non-surfers, like my folks, ask what surfing is all about, I ask them to watch this documentary about surfing directed by Dana Brown, son of famed surfer and filmmaker Bruce Brown. The film includes surfing footage from the famous Pipeline, the beaches of Vietnam, Roca Bruja (Witch’s Rock) in Costa Rica and some of the world’s largest waves, at Cortes Bank. Featuring a litany of surfers including Robert August, Taj Burrow, Laird Hamilton, Gerry Lopez, Rob Machado and Kelly Slater.

The movie rings true for me in so many ways.  One of my favorite quotes that only a surfer will get is Dolphins, seals and Pelicans are the best surfers.”

Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YqzHvcwJmQY

Point Break – 1991

“Surfing’s the source. It will change your life.  Swear to God.”


This movie was the reason that I moved to Los Angeles, and eventually to Costa Rica.  This is what started it all for me.  It took me years to realize my dream and become a decent surfer…okay, pretty good surfer?  But I got there, and it was this film that inspired me.

Directed by Kathryn Bigelow and starring Patrick Swayze, Keanu Reeves, Lori Petty and Gary Busey, the movie is about a bank of surfers who rob banks, and the FBI agent charged to catch them.  No it’s not.

It’s about a man realizing that his life is empty, and finds solace and love through surfing.   And it’s about how surfing really does change your life.  And the action scenes are totally awesome dude!  Surfing, Skydiving, and Shootouts!

“Look at it! It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity, man! Let me go out there and let me get one wave, just one wave before you take me in. I mean, come on man, where I am I gonna go? Cliffs on both sides! I’m not gonna paddle my way to New Zealand! Come on, compadre. Come on!”

Trailer:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AVk3mR2UhgI


This is an old blog post, but since I cannot type very quickly in an arm sling, we are recycling materials.  (I had rotator cuff surgery last week)

The leaves here have turned from green to orange to brown in the weeks that I have spent up in Saltspring. I had forgotten how beautiful Fall is in Canada, and had definitely erased the memory of being cold. Funny, because I never used to find this weather cold, and played rugby most of my life in conditions worse than it has been. That’s what happens when you move to the tropics.

Fishing has been slow, although yesterday I managed to hook into a decent size salmon only to have it throw the lure. Up here, we use barbless single hooks to make catch-and-release easier for the fish…but it also has the effect of making fishing much more difficult when you are fighting a beast that jumps into the air to when trying to escape.

Work has been keeping me busy, and it’s really great to have 3G wireless and a BlackBerry. Unfortunately, I have become too used to the technology and must resolve the fact that I will be back in Costa Rica soon where internet connections are sketchy at best. The great thing though, is that I will be back working out of my office and keeping regular hours again rather than being available 24/7. I just don’t get the mindset of people demanding replies immediately. Something like this:

Start the clock

 Rob emails me a document.

T + 2 minutes

 Rob text messages me, “did you get my email”

 T + 5 minutes

 Rob text messages me, “are you there? you aren’t answering your texts”

 T + 6 minutes

Kyle texts me, “Are you awake?”

T + 7 minutes

Silvio (Rob ’s Partner) texts me, “Did you get the email from Rod?”

 T + 10 minutes

 Rob phones me, “did you get my texts and my email?”

 T+ 12minutes

 Silvio phones me, “Did Rod get a hold of you?”

 T + 13 minutes

 Kyle calls me, “everyone is looking for you”

Meanwhile, I have just woken up because it’s midnight on a school night and have had to go pee before looking at what kind of person would be so desperate to get a hold of me. Notwithstanding, have you ever tried to digest a legal document with the sandman on your shoulders?

It will be great to be home and not have that availability. So, for all you reading in North America, I will be back to market hours again soon!

The thing that I am missing most is the warm water, and of course, surfing. Hope to see some of you out there! (ps – November’s best spot to surf is between PlayaImage Grande and Casitas…a place called Palm Beach or Marker 26)

“Surfing On The Break”

Surfing on the Moon

Giant breaths are what you take
Surfing on the break
I hope I don’t wipe out
Surfing on the break
We could surf forever
Surfing on the break
We could live together
Surfing on, Surfing on the break

Surfing back from your house
Surfing on the break
Surfing back from your house
Surfing on the break
Feet they hardly touch the board
Surfing on the break
My wake don’t hardly make no sound
Surfing on, Surfing on the break

Some may say
I’m wishing my days away
No way
And if it’s the price I pay
Some say
Tomorrow’s another day
You stay
I may as well play

Giant breaths are what you take
Surfing on the break
I hope I don’t wipe out
Surfing on the break
We could surf forever
Surfing on the break
We could be together
Surfing on, Surfing on the break

Some may say
I’m wishing my days away
No way
And if it’s the price I pay
Some say
Tomorrow’s another day
You stay
I may as well play

Keep it up, keep it up

(to the music of the Police Walking on the Moon)