Maybe it's an East Coast perspective, but with Rip Curl bringing The Search Pro to Puerto Rico, it left a lot of us wondering what was in Puerto Rico that hadn't been searched more thoroughly than Amy Winehouse at airport security.
Rip Curl has a license to hold its "Search Pro" event at an exciting new locale every year. It plays into the travel and adventure spirit of surfing that we all value so much about our pastime. Each year they keep it a secret, dropping cryptic hints about what region of the world it will be held in. Then a month before the event (if it hasn't slipped) they announce the specific coastline.
Maybe it's because surfing's world championships were held in Puerto Rico in 1968, or because every East Coaster had already been to Puerto Rico by 1997, or that it's a US Territory, that it didn't seem like a spot that required much "searching."
But really, the Search hasn't broken some exotic new wavescape to the world in some time. In 2009, the contest was held in Ericera, Portugal. The ASP already had a Star event there. In 2008, it was Uluwatu, a spot that every ten-year old grom had heard of. Where was the Search element?
The original idea was phenomenal. Rip Curl would use its tried and true "Search" Campaign, a groundbreaking series of travel films and stories, to scour the globe for a new surf spot and bring the world on a virtual trip with photos, video, and webcast of the best surfers in the world clashing in some brand new location. The first one took place at Reunion Island in 2005, but the theme really caught on when Rip Curl scored a mythical barreling right point in Mainland Mexico in 2006 called simply "Barra."
Most of the general public had never seen Barra de La Cruz, and the long dreamy barrels made The Search a hit. Rip Curl followed up with The Search Pro Chile in 2007. While a colder, angrier, and shifting wave, it was still a spot that most surfers had never seen in the mags or on DVD's, and therefore keeping us on the edge of our digital seats.
But then Rip Curl seemed to opt for breaks that had been put on the maps of our global collective for the past few years. Seemed they could have easily picked some remote new wave somewhere else in the Indonesian archipelago for 2008.
"It's impossible for every place we go to be more unknown than the previous," says Rip Curl Media Manager, Dane Sharp, "As you'd understand, relocating an ASP World Tour event, year in and year out is not an easy mission. It can be a logistical nightmare, but to the credit of Rip Curl event managers, it's been handled with five stars for the past five years."
That's understandable. Rip Curl has tight criteria when choosing locations.
"Obviously the wave has to be A-Grade plus. We need to have the backing and support of the local surfers and the backing and support of the local governments. The location would need to be logistically capable of hosting an ASP World Tour event. The event would need to be environmentally-positive to the location and the event has to be true to the Search.
From the outside, it looked as if perhaps the backlash of "breaking" Barra to the masses forced Rip Curl to reconsider. One year it's a secret destination for the hardcore viajaro in a 4-WD, the next year WaveSlaves Travel Inc. could have an all-inclusive package deal from LAX. There was some online fallout with accusations that Rip Curl had let the gato out of the Barra bag, "exposing" one of the great secrets of the underground traveling surf world.
But Sharp contends that Rip Curl hasn't stopped looking for secret gems for fear of blowing them up. After a few articles condemning Rip Curl for, he returned in late June of this year.
"I was happy to find that although the waves were pumping for three days, the place wasn't over-crowded like some US media has over-hyped," says the Australian, "The number of surfers sat at approximately 10 to 15 max throughout the day at all times. Everyone was happily sharing waves during each session my friends and I had there. I also caught up with a bunch of the local Mexican surfers, who we met four years ago during the contest. They're all still ripping. We caught up for dinner and cervezas. It was really only some Americans that made an issue."
He insists that Rip Curl has not changed its mission, part of which is to simply bring the best surfers in the world to a community that has never seen an ASP World Tour event.
"No matter who you are, there is nothing like having Slater, Fanning, Steph, Taj, etc surfing in your backyard," he points out.
There's also the matter of perspective. In the Western Hemisphere, we see Indonesia as more exotic than Australians do. In that same respect, the Aussies are very excited to check out the storied Caribbean. Outside of the Floridians, most of the Mens and Womens Tour have never been to Puerto Rico. To them, this is a bit of a Search.
The Trestles trail is kind of exciting if you're from Florida. If you're from Orange County visiting a friend in Brooklyn, taking the train out to surf Rockaway, NY, would be some cool searching.
So that seems to be it. Sharp is in Puerto Rico now, where the locals are nothing but happy to host an event. For now, surf fans will have to enjoy seeing the top shredders dice up Middles, even if they've already surfed it themselves.
"I have worked a lot of events," says Sharp, "and this one is unique."