Roots/Art Test (RAT) Match Surfing Championship

Deconstructing competition surfing to redress the loss of purist aesthetics.

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The Roots/Art Test tackles a chestnut issue dating to the Blake vs. Quigg, skeg vs. no skeg debate made publicly problematic at the inaugural Makaha International and continued over the last 60 years of competition. Purist appreciations were not focal in event delivery. 

The RAT mission is to evolve surf culture via underground appreciations. RAT knits mixed surfing arts in the form of “non-events” where humble maestros of differing techniques and quivers throw back to throw forward, bringing heritage and style to the forefront. 

The interim world rankings, RAT1, were established from global sessions last September featuring riders across the spectrum, from the apt return of “Ratboy” Collins to activist Dave Rastovich, and the core in between. Two 90-minute sessions of each surfer were filmed across the world at spots of the invitee’s choice, one at a point or reef, the other at a beach or river mouth. Raw, uncut tapes were dispatched to a remarkable panel headed by Bird Huffman, and included the likes of Skip Frye,  Terry Fitzgerald, Jonathan Paarman, Maurice Cole, Kassia Meador, Sid Abruzzi, Marc Andreini, Wayne Rich, Mikey Meyer, Mike Davis, Kohei Chiba, Christian Beamish, Gibus de Soultrait, Vetea David, Gary Green, and Fábio Gouveia. 

The interim RAT1 determined the initial rankings for 2020’s RAT2, with the higher rankings able to challenge the interim #1 ranking for the first official championship. RAT2, currently being held, is the first foray into challenge/defense match surfing. Any surfer, anywhere, has a shot at the RAT World Championship. Winning seven straight bouts can bring even an unranked, unknown surfer a title shot. Solo, two, four, six, eight, even ten man bouts are on the table. 

This egalitarian system is subject to rights of reply and counter-reply in developing bouts. RAT is non-elimination, low footprint, low travel, bones administration, scant media, no cleared lineup, no prior contest record wanted, no jerseys used, no horn, no ski, no fans, no Internet—just flash “non-events” with only word of mouth of what’s gone down after the fact. And scoring? No scoring, just the “Roman Thumb” method reprised from the fabled J-Bay Country Feeling Dream Sequence of 1991. In getting back to the egg, TSJ and Tracks, in tribute to Steve Pezman and Alby Falzon respectively, will be the official media outlets and provide updates. The RAT invites all interested parties to step up. Contact for submissions and queries.

Feature image: The author, Jeffreys Bay, 2014. Photograph by Alan Van Gysen.