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Wave Pools: Good or Bad for the Sport of Surfing?

Monday, June 1st, 2009

surfparkmod11There is no other sport like Surfing. I will go to the grave defending the ever changing dynamic sport that is surfing and how it’s superior to all other sports. Now obviously that’s my opinion, but there is reason to back it up. Every surf session is different. In fact, every wave is different. You can never surf the same wave and never re-create the same session. There are elements that dictate how and when a wave breaks thousands of miles before they reach the shore. In all other board sports, including snowboarding, you can replicate a situation. The kickers stay in the same spot as the run before and they remain the same size, the rails and boxes and planters and stairs will all be there exactly as you left them the day before. Pretty much nothing remains the same in Surfing from session to session.

Here in lies the problem when it comes to commercially advancing the sport. There will be a lot of people reading this that will say, surfing needs to stay core and blah blah blah. The fact remains it is already a commercial giant in terms of selling clothes and overall lifestyle and no matter how big it gets, the core reason as to why surfing is so amazing will never change as long as there are oceans and waves. In a recent ESPN article, Kelly Slater listed somethings he would like to see changed as to the way the ASP runs and operates. I very much agree with the majority of his points and I would like to address a few and see what your thoughts are.

ASP taking more control: As it is currently, the ASP organizes the events but each sponsor is in charge of marketing their events and their athletes.  How much visibility an event gets is entirely out of the ASP’s hands and up to the brand controlling the contest. Kelly mentioned it should not be this way,

“The new governing body should own and run the events, own the media, do the marketing, bring in sponsors. Right now, the ASP doesn’t own any of those things, because it didn’t do the groundwork in the beginning. Sponsors own, run and market the events. That needs to change.”

As things stand, it would not be financially feasible for the ASP to do this because there is one huge piece of the pie missing, ticket sales. You gotta pay money to go see Tony Hawk bust out on a Half pipe, or Travis Pastrana pull a double backflip. The X-Games, the Dew Tour, and all those other similar events all charge for viewing pleasure. They also sell concessions and merchandise and yes all of this doesn’t go directly into the pocket of the event organizers, but enough of it does to make a huge difference in terms of visibility and marketing. You want to watch Chris Ward and Freddy Patacchia go head to head? You walk to the beach, there are no bleachers or box seats. The ASP doesn’t see a dime from fans in comparison to all
the other boardsports and major sporting events.

wave-pool-surfing1Enter the Wave Pool: The reason the ASP doesn’t charge is because the beach is free and I don’t think that should ever change. However, the possibility of adding a wave pool into the schedule of the ASP might be the solution to generating cash to start a marketing division that solely works on promoting events and athletes without corporate brand agendas. A wave pool would provide a setting that would make the sport of Surfing more exciting and real to the everyday person. Think how many people go to the X-Games or Dew Tour that don’t skate or ride MX? They go for the entertainment. Everyone thinks surfing is amazing, everyone wishes they could do it, and everyone enjoys watching people on waves, but not everyone can get to the beach. You bring a wave pool into the mix and all of the sudden you have a format with bleachers, and sky boxes, and concessions and an event that thousands of people can watch live and millions can watch on TV. The controlled wave environment would allow for superior TV viewing as you would not be subject to weather or swells. Now, don’t get me wrong, as I stated above there is nothing that can change the dynamics of surfing and that is why it’s such a powerful experience for those that participate in it. But would adding 3-4 wave pools into the circuit dilute that element? I would say the positive visibility that would come from it would out way the negatives.

You would have a more controlled wave environment that would allow riders to go bigger, ride more waves and truly compete on a skill level as opposed to a “time the sets, take advantage of wave priority” method. Veterans often have advantage in ASP as they now how to use the current format to their advantage. And I am not saying to take that away, but every other board sport has a course that doesn’t change that allows the competition to be based solely on who does better, cleaner more technical tricks with the same opportunity given. Could you imagine watching Bruce Irons, Jamie O’brien or Dane Reynolds in a wave pool with perfect vertical lips, they would be soaring 10 ft in front of you. Riders could take more risks and perform far more technical tricks and that makes for better and more exciting competition. Look back on when the rumors that Tony Hawk was going to pull the first competition 900 at the X-Games, or when Shaun White was going to do a 1260 on the Half Pipe. Or When Travis Pastrana was going to pull a double back flip. There is drama and marketability and something that interests the average non-enthusiast viewer. People that don’t own motorcycles were emailing their friends Travis’s double backflip the next morning at work. We don’t have that yet in competitive surfing.

“Among the biggest problems with televising surfing are that traditional surfing contests are too time-consuming, that waves are too unpredictable and that judging is too nuanced for the uninitiated. But recent innovations in the competition format and the development of wave pools that could serve as surfing arenas could help bring competitive surfing to a larger audience.”  NY Times

“We would be able to schedule a contest on Friday at 6 p.m., live on TV. Picture a wave going around in a circle indefinitely. There’s a bridge over the wave for viewing, a Plexiglas bottom so fans can watch guys surf above them, and a crow’s nest in the middle so people can watch the best guys in the world surf the wave all the way around them. Kids could stand on the edge of the pool and get sprayed by their favorite surfers.” Kelly Slater

Wave pool stops should also be in land locked states or big coastal spots with no waves, the ASP could have stops in Vegas, Utah, New York, Texas, Chicago. Once the technology and end product can produce a world class break, surfing will become one of the most widely adapted and participated sports in the world. If you could truly progress your surfing in a wave pool in Vegas and then go to the coast and shred, you will have kids entering the ‘CT from places you could never imagine. Flash backs of Rick Kane from North Shore come to mind. You will see people driving with boards strapped to their roof in land locked states. You will have pro shops and local contests selling out tickets, kids going to school with sponsorship deals. Surfing will reach mainstream media as a sport, which will mean better and bigger events both in and out of the beach, better purses and better paid athletes. The entire sport will change in terms of visibility and exposure.

Whether that is good or bad? Time will tell. For the sport itself I think it will be good, for the core surfers that don’t care about world titles or ‘CT standings it will be annoying as you might be getting dropped in on by a kid from Kentucky with a bad farmer tan.

Posted in Surfing | 29 Comments »

DC’s Bruce Irons Signature Sandal

Monday, January 19th, 2009

dc bruce irons signature sandal

DC Shoes announced last week that they’re releasing the Bruce Irons signature slippas. Check out that link too, because there’s also a new video commercial for the Bruce that’s pretty cool.

For Spring 2009 DC is proud to unveil Bruce Irons’ signature sandal, the first pro model offered to a member of the small, elite DC surf team. An all-new sandal, it’s been built from the ground up specifically for Bruce, the longest standing member of the DC surf team (on for 10 years).

It’s good to be Bruce Irons. Things couldn’t be going any better for his career since announcing he’s retiring from the world tour. Shortly after he won his first ever WCT event in Indo. We also got news that Volcom is shooting a Bruce video this year with producer Bill Ballard (Archy). And now a signature sandal. Not bad. If only retiring was this good on us all.

Posted in Brands | No Comments »

Da Hui Backdoor Shootout: More Pipe Magic On The Way

Saturday, January 3rd, 2009

da hui logoAlthough the 2008 Pipeline Masters ended up looking like a Backdoor Shootout with all of the rights that were taken, the official Backdoor Shootout is just a couple of days away from unleashing it’s magic on the world of surfing. The holding period for the 2009 Da Hui Backdoor Shootout opens this Monday and will run through Jan. 15. The opening ceremony for the seventh annual Shootout will be held Sunday morning at Ehukai Beach Park for anyone one interested in attending.

The Backdoor Shootout is doing a solid job at setting itself up as one of the premier independent surf competitions in the world. Any competition at Backdoor Pipeline is obviously going to generate all kinds of hype and excitement. Mixing in a world class line-up of surfers such as 2008 winner Jaime O’Brien, Makua Rothman, Mark Healey, Danny Fuller, Bruce Irons and many more only adds to that. On top of it all, Da Hui offers up a very healthy prize purse, as Jamie O’Brien took home $50,000 for his efforts last year. Bruce Irons, the ‘08 Shootout runner-up, pulled in $25,000 for his efforts. That 2nd place total stands just a few G’s short of the typical amount seen by winners of ASP World Tour events.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the event will be webcast, which is kind of a downer. There was a staggering amount of web traffic for the Pipe Masters and I’m sure many of those same fans would love to get another Pipeline fix. Hopefully this is something we can look forward to for future Backdoor Shootouts. For those who live on the islands and those visiting over the next 10 or so days, catching a glimpse of this classic event is something that will definitely be worth your time, so be sure to check it out.

Posted in Surfing | No Comments »

Julian Wilson Gets His Own Surf Flick

Tuesday, December 23rd, 2008

julian wilson sushi roll

Young Gun, Julian Wilson won’t be chasing a world title anytime soon. Instead, he’ll be spending the next year doing what he does best, chasing swells and blowing minds as he stars in his own surf movie that’s backed by Andy and Bruce’s production company, Irons’ Brothers Productions.

“I’m not going to do the ‘QS next year; I’m going to do a movie,” Wilson said. “I’ll do a few events I can get wildcards into through Quiksilver, but I’m definitely not chasing them. It’s going to be all over the world. We’ll pick some locations, wait for the best swells and fly there. I’m excited about it.”

I’m pretty excited about it too. Julian is on his way to quickly becoming one of the best surfers in the world and is probably already one of the better air specialists, if not the best. His surfing style doesn’t mesh well with the ‘take-it-down-a-notch’ surfing that’s needed to compete on tour. He’s more comfortable pushing the limits and taking surfing to levels never thought possible, as you can see in the video below.

Julian doesn’t need judges to put limits on what he can and can’t do on a surfboard. The only one that should be putting limits on his surfing is himself, and so far it doesn’t appear he’s put much of a limit on it at all.

Posted in Surfing | 5 Comments »

The 2009 Dream Tour Line-Up

Monday, December 15th, 2008

asp world tourWith the Pipeline Masters coming to a close last Friday, the dust has now settled and next year’s ASP World Tour picture is becoming clear. The departure of Andy and Bruce Irons from the 2009 door has opened the door for Marlon Lipke to become the first ever German on tour.

Speaking of Andy and Bruce, with both of them failing to end up in the Top 10 on the final ratings, this is now the first time in it’s 32 year history that no surfers from Hawaii ended ranked above the 10 spot. Freddy Patacchia was the highest ranked at #12. Hopes of bringing the title back to the islands will now be resting on his shoulders as he is the only Hawaiian returning from 2008. Kekoa Bacalso and Dustin Barca round out the rest of the small Hawaii contingent for 2009.

Take a look at how the 2009 ASP World Tour is set to be stacked-

ASP World Nos. 1-10:
1. Kelly Slater (USA),
2. Bede Durbidge (AUS),
3. Taj Burrow (AUS),
4. Joel Parkinson (AUS),
5. C.J. Hobgood (USA),
6. Adrian Buchan (AUS),
7. Adriano de Souza (BRA),
8. Mick Fanning (AUS),
9. Bobby Martinez (USA)
10. Jeremy Flores (FRA).

ASP World Nos. 11-27:
11. Luke Stedman (AUS),
12. Fredrick Patacchia (HAW),
13. Andy Irons (HAW),
14. Chris Ward (USA),
15. Kai Otton (AUS),
16. Tim Reyes (USA),
17. Tom Whitaker (AUS),
18. Kieren Perrow (AUS),
19. Dayyan Neve (AUS),
20. Bruce Irons (HAW),
21. Mikael Picon (FRA),
22. Dane Reynolds (USA),
23. Taylor Knox (USA),
24. Damien Hobgood (USA),
25. Heitor Alves (BRA),
26. Jordy Smith (ZAF)
27. Ben Dunn (AUS).

The Top 15 ASP World Qualifying Series (WQS) surfers in ranking order are:
1. Nathaniel Curran (USA),
2. Chris Davidson (AUS),
3. Michel Bourez (PYF),
4. Gabe Kling (USA),
5. Jihad Khodr (BRA),
6. David Weare (ZAF),
7. Josh Kerr (AUS),
8. Nic Muscroft (AUS),
9. Kekoa Bacalso (HAW),
10. Greg Emslie (ZAF),
11. Tim Boal (FRA),
12. Dustin Barca (HAW)
13. Tiago Pires (PRT),
14. Phillip MacDonald (AUS)
15. Drew Courtney (AUS).

The three 2009 tour wildcards went to injury applicants, Dean Morrison (AUS), Aritz Aranburu (EUK), and ASP WQS No. 16 Marlon Lipke (GER). Lipke will be the first German ever on the Dream Tour.

Posted in Surfing | 1 Comment »

Pipe Masters Update: Pipe Passed Today, Possible Friday Finale (VIDEO)

Thursday, December 11th, 2008

andy irons pipeline masters

As expected, the rain and Kona winds have kept the 2008 Billabong Pipeline Masters from running it’s final day of action today. Conditions at Pipe are a sloppy, wind-blown 2-3 ft; nothing even close to being worthy of crowning a champion for the prestigious event.

Fresh off chasing swell in the Caroline Islands, 9x world champion Kelly Slater showed up just in time for his 3rd Round heat against wildcard Ezra Sitt. He promptly busted out his 5′10″ and proceeded to cruise to an easy heat win. A victory at Pipeline for a record 6th time would be icing on the cake for Slater, but he doesn’t appear to be too concerned about the event, and that could be trouble for the rest of the Pipe Masters hopefuls. “A win at Pipe would be great, but to be honest with you, it doesn’t really matter at this point,” Slater said. “Not that Pipe doesn’t matter, but I’m just enjoying not having the constant contest stress. If I win it is definitely a huge bonus, but in a way, I’d like to see somebody else win, someone who hasn’t won it before. I’ve got a couple, Andy’s got a couple, Bede won one last year. Maybe it’s Parko’s year or maybe Brucey will pull off another win here to finish his year off.”

The Brucey that Slater referred to would be the one and only Bruce Irons. Bruce looked completely in form in his first heat, but lost a very close heat to Tom Whitaker in Round 3. While he won’t be leaving full-time tour duties on a winning note, he has made it clear he’ll be back to compete soon enough. “I’m sick of people saying this is going to be my last event. I’m not going to be on tour officially, but I am still going to surf the Tahiti and Pipe events. You can’t get rid of me that easy.”

With only one full day needed to crown a champion, Randy Rarrick is hoping for a classic Pipeline finish. The swell forecast is showing a possible swell for Friday and another for early next week. Stay tuned to 5ones updates, and check out the vids below for some of the top 2008 Pipeline Masters footage so far.

Billabong Pipeline Masters Round 3 Results:
Heat 1: Marcus Hickman (HAW) 14.56 def. Mick Fanning (AUS) 13.83
Heat 2: Luke Stedman (AUS) 7.34 def. Damien Hobgood (USA) 5.50
Heat 3: Joel Parkinson (AUS) 20.00 def. Dusty Payne (USA) 15.16
Heat 4: Tim Reyes (USA) 14.83 def. Fredrick Patacchia (HAW) 10.56
Heat 5: Kelly Slater (USA) 17.77 def. Ezra Sitt (HAW) 7.90
Heat 6: Kieren Perrow (AUS) 14.83 def. Taylor Knox (USA) 10.50
Heat 7: Aritz Aranburu (EUK) 11.50 def. Bobby Martinez (USA) 6.60
Heat 8: Jamie O’Brien (HAW) 16.50 def. Jeremy Flores (FRA) 9.86
Heat 9: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 18.26 def. Daniel Wills (AUS) 17.94
Heat 10: Adriano de Souza (BRA) 13.83 def. Kekoa Bacalso (HAW) 12.16
Heat 11: Tom Whitaker (AUS) 16.24 def. Bruce Irons (HAW) 16.10
Heat 12: Kamalei Alexander (HAW) 12.56 def. Taj Burrow (AUS) 9.00
Heat 13: Chris Ward (USA) 17.27 def. Kai Otton (AUS) 13.83
Heat 14: Bede Durbidge (AUS) 13.93 def. Shane Dorian (HAW) 12.63
Heat 15: Evan Valiere (HAW) 18.13 def. C.J. Hobgood (USA) 16.60
Heat 16: Andy Irons (HAW) 14.37 def. Dean Morrison (AUS) 13.17

Billabong Pipeline Masters Round 4 Match-Ups:
Heat 1: Marcus Hickman (HAW) vs. Luke Stedman (AUS)
Heat 2: Joel Parkinson (AUS) vs. Tim Reyes (USA)
Heat 3: Kelly Slater (USA) vs. Kieren Perrow (AUS)
Heat 4: Aritz Aranburu (EUK) vs. Jamie O’Brien (HAW)
Heat 5: Adrian Buchan (AUS) vs. Tom Whitaker (AUS)
Heat 6: Adriano de Souza (BRA) vs. Kamalei Alexander (HAW)
Heat 7: Chris Ward (USA) vs. Bede Durbidge (AUS)
Heat 8: Evan Valiere (HAW) vs. Andy Irons (HAW)

Posted in Surfing | No Comments »

Dane Reynolds Speaks On His Injury/Return

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008

dane reynolds air

There are few young surfers in the world who get me amped about what’s possible in surfing and the direction our sport is headed the way Dane Reynolds does (Clay Marzo and Dusty Payne being a couple of the others). When Dane went down with an ankle injury following the Billabong Pro Mundaka, he left a noticeable void on the Dream Tour. With Kelly wrapping up the world championship so early and Bruce and Andy Irons going on sabbatical, Dane was one of the few guys left that really made the tour exciting to watch. Just like Slater, you really have no idea what you’re going to see on every wave he takes off on. Dane is single-handedly progressing the sport the way few others have.

Dane is working on making his way back from the brutality he imposed on his ankle. For the first time since injuring himself in Spain, Dane has opened up on his blog about the injury and where he’s at in the recovery process. Check the video, the very wave he injured himself on is a testament to how talented Dane Reynolds is.

His goal is to make it back by the time the Pipeline Masters rolls around and he seems cautiously optimisic about it. We look forward to his recovery and wish the best for the man Slater calls “the best surfer in the world right now by a mile.

Posted in Surfing | No Comments »

Freesurfing Vs. Competitive Surfing

Monday, December 1st, 2008

While the freesurfing vs. competitive surfing debate has been going on as long as I can remember, 2008 has seen the ongoing contrast of ideas and views on the issue reach a fevered pitch. Bruce Irons deciding to bail on the ASP World Tour, Kelly Slater continuing to establish his unimaginable legacy on that same tour, and Dane Reynolds having a debate with Dane Reynolds on his future with the Dream Tour are just some of the examples of why the freesurfing vs. competitive surfing debate has been especially fresh on our minds in ‘08.

rob machado big air

In my eyes this debate has always been an easy one. There’s plenty of room in this world for both to thrive. A healthy freesurfing movement allows guy like Dave Rastovich, the Malloy brothers, Jamie O’Brien, and Donavon Frankenreiter to continually blow our minds, each in their own respective way. I really dig the fact that it is becoming more common for the big boys like Billabong and Volcom to sponsor guys and just let them do their thing. I have the sneaking suspicion that we’re going to see truly incredible things from Bruce Irons as the gates of the WCT pen open up and he’s able to roam about the globe and single-handedly progress the sport in ways that only he can.

While Bruce goes about his business, the ‘CT will continue on without him. As it does, the storylines and the rich history it produces year after year will go on right with it. This is what makes competitive surfing such a beautiful thing. In fact, the whole motive for this post came as a result of 22 yr. old Michel Bourez’ victory at the first leg of this year’s Vans Triple Crown of Surfing. The Tahitian not only claimed victory with his inspired performance at the Reef Hawaiian Pro, but he also secured a coveted spot on the 2009 Dream Tour with his win at Haleiwa.

When you follow surfing, it can be easy to forget the real life aspects that take place with the surfers who have battled to get to where they are at today. Competitive surfing is full of inspiring stories of hard work, dedication, perseverance, broken hearts, and the realization of dreams. In the euphoric days following the Reef Hawaiian Pro, Michel Bourez told his story in his own words. In doing so, he once again reminded myself, as well as thousands of others, what it is that makes the world tour and competitive surfing so special.

michel bourez

“I still have that picture in my mind of coming in from the water and seeing the crowd and seeing all my good friends running down to see me and that was such a good feeling and something I’ll never ever forget. To win an event in Hawaii under that pressure was just incredible. I keep repeating myself here, as I still can’t really believe it.” -Michel Bourez-

So as far as the competitive surfing vs. freesurfing debate goes, it’s pretty simple….there’s plenty of room in my world for both. Hopefully this is the case for you as well. Both aspects of surfing are full of stories, images, history and so much more, all of which you don’t want to miss.

Posted in Surfing | No Comments »

Get Ready for the Eddie Aikau: Video

Monday, December 1st, 2008

eddie aikauThe “Eddie”….the sound of those two words alone carry with them a mystique and level of respect that few other surfing competitions throughout the world come even close to matching. Otherwise known as the Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau contest, the Eddie is still, as it has been since it’s inception, the premier big-wave riding event in surfing. And it is now officially open to run whenever Mother Nature decides to cooperate.

The call to run the Eddie hasn’t been made since 2004. That was the year Bruce Irons shocked the surfing world and claimed victory with an incredible winning wave at Waimea Bay. The standards for the Eddie are as high as any with one day of at least 20-foot surf needed for the call to be made. With all of the early swell activity seen on the North Shore already this year, hopes are high that the revered event will end it’s 4-year hiatus.

The names of those invited to participate are listed below. One that stands out is South Africa’s Grant “Twiggy” Baker. Twiggy added his 2008 Red Bull Big Wave Africa victory earlier this year to his stunning win at Mavericks in 2006. A win at Waimea Bay would be huge in securing his spot as one of, if not the premier big-wave surfer in the world right now.

Regardless, there is so much more to the Eddie than just a big-wave surf contest and I strongly recommend those who are unfamiliar with the story of Eddie Aikau to make an effort and seek out as much knowledge as possible regarding one of surfing’s greatest stories.

2008 Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau Invitees:

1. Andy Irons (Hawaii)
2. Brian Keaulana (Hawaii)
3. Brock Little (Hawaii)
4. Bruce Irons (Hawaii)
5. Carlos Burle (Brazil)
6. Clyde Aikau (Hawaii)
7. Darryl Virostko (California)
8. Grant “Twiggy” Baker (South Africa)
9. Greg Long (California)
10. Ian Walsh (Hawaii)
11. Ibon Amatriain (Spain)
12. Jamie O’Brien (Hawaii)
13. Jamie Sterling (Hawaii)
14. Kelly Slater (Florida)
15. Keone Downing (Hawaii)
16. Makua Rothman (Hawaii)
17. Mark Healey (Hawaii)
18. Michael Ho (Hawaii)
19. Noah Johnson (Hawaii)
20. Peter Mel (California)
21. Ramon Navarro (Chili)
22. Ross Clarke-Jones (Australia)
23. Rusty Keaulana (Hawaii)
24. Shane Dorian (Hawaii)
25. Sunny Garcia (Hawaii)
26. Takayuki Wakita (Japan)
27. Tom Carroll (Australia)
28. Titus Kinimaka (Hawaii

Previous Winners:
1985 – Denton Miyamura (Hawaii)
1986 – Clyde Aikau (Hawaii) – Eddie Aikau’s younger brother
1990 – Keone Downing (Hawaii)
1999 – Noah Johnson (Hawaii)
2000 – Ross Clarke-Jones (Australia)
2002 – Kelly Slater (Florida, USA)
2004 – Bruce Irons (Hawaii, USA)

Posted in Surfing | No Comments »

Sunset Beach Heaving for O’Neill World Cup of Surfing

Sunday, November 30th, 2008

The prestigious Sunset Beach has a way of separating the men from the boys. And that’s exactly what the famous North Shore right-hander is doing for the early rounds of the 2008 O’Neill World Cup of Surfing.

sunset beach

The scene at Sunset today was heavy. A building swell was adding to the already 7-10 ft. waves that were rolling through the wind and the rain. It was the type of Sunset that leaves many of the contestants wondering why in the hell they even signed up for this event in the first place. And that’s just how the Occy’s, Bruce’s, Sunny’s, and Kamalei Alexander’s of the world like it.

Those four, along with a couple of young hawaiian upstarts in the form of Dusty Payne and Torry Meister, stood out from the rest today as the second leg of the Vans Triple Crown got moving. The first two rounds of the event are now in the books and Rd. 3 will likely get the call tomorrow morning. Forecasters expect the swell to continue building throughout the night. If the weather clears up, we could be looking at an epic Sunset tomorrow. With some juicy heats on tap and everyone scratching for points in the final WQS 6-star event of the year, here is to hoping Mother Nature cooperates.

Posted in Surfing | No Comments »

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