5 Most Controversial Heats

The most contentious matchups of the season

No World Tour season would be complete without a little vitriol. Relive the five most contentious heats of the season.

Billabong Rio Pro Quarterfinal No. 2: Gabriel Medina (16.43) def. Ace Buchan (14.93)
[Quarterfinal starts at 1:02, priority debacle at 1:41]

We’ve heard there are plenty of distractions on the beach in Brazil, but this was on a whole new level of absent-mindedness. The person in charge of switching the priority placard forgot to flip it to indicate that Gabriel had priority following an exchange. So when a left came through with plenty of scoring potential, Ace took off only to be burned by Gabriel. The heat went on with no call. Afterwards, contest officials and the surfers engaged in an intense backstage discussion over whether or not a re-surf was in order. Instead, they gave the official heat win to Gabriel, prompting many to question if a re-surf would cause an already passionate hometown crowd to boil over.


Billabong Pro Tahiti Final: Ace Buchan (18.94) def. Kelly Slater (17.90)
[Slater’s input at 0:16]

If there’s a such thing as “priority-karma,” this is it. Ace, who had a questionable priority call go against him in Brazil (for those of you that skipped over the above, see above), was on the winning end of this one though. After sitting with priority throughout a long lull, Ace made a fairly committed paddle for a wave, leaving Slater and the commentators wondering why priority didn’t change. The next set comes in and Ace utilizes priority to get a 9.27, which went into his final scoreline. It’s impossible to say what would have happened had priority shifted to Slater, but keep in mind that the difference between first and second place is 2,000 points and Slater just lost out on a twelfth World Title by 250 points.


Oakley Pro Bali Round 5, Heat 1: Joel Parkinson (20.00) def. John John Florence (19.20)

I can only imagine that judging this heat must have been like judging the Miss Universe pageant. Just when the judges thought they had seen the best Mother Nature had to offer, she produces something even better, leaving you wishing you had held off on busting out your perfect 10 card a moment longer. Parko’s first 10 was an amazing wave, but perfect 10s need to be reserved for those in which the surfer doesn’t fall doing a roundhouse in a critical section. Regardless, Parko deserved to win this heat because, top-sided judging scale aside, his two scoring waves were better than John John’s.


Quiksilver Pro France Round 2, Heat 3: Joel Parkinson (16.50) def. Marc Lacomare (15.90)

The webcasters in question, Damien Fahrenfort and Jake Paterson. Photo: peter_mel
The webcasters in question, Damien Fahrenfort and Jake Paterson. Photo: Peter Mel

Top seeds must despise Round 2 with a passion. Other than the obvious fact that it’s one more chance to lose early, they often face someone with more experience at the wave. In this heat, Frenchman Marc Lacomare used his local knowledge of the tricky conditions to put Parko in a tough position with time running out. The last few minutes saw a flurry of waves that had most thinking the World Champ would fall short to Marc. But pro surfing is a subjective sport and this heat really could have gone either way. The real point of controversy came from the webcast booth. While waiting for the official scores to drop, commentators Damien Fahrenfort and Jake Paterson bet beers over the outcome and even suggested that the judges would give Parko “World Title points.” This irked the ASP so much that they effectively fired them.


Billabong Pipe Masters Quarterfinal No.1: Mick Fanning (17.03) def. Yadin Nicol (16.90)

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Was Mick Fanning’s World-Title winning 9.77 really a 9.77? Or did Yadin deserve the win?