I’m not one to casually point a finger, or a rant, at the WSL judges. I think that their job is incredibly difficult and I think they do a great job at it — I even publicly backed their perfect scoring of Kelly’s 4.17-point mistake. The judges probably cop more heat than all of us in our respective careers (except maybe me…we’ll see how this piece goes) and let me tell you, it’s not fun to have the entire internet pissed off at you (I’m kidding, it totally is). So I’m not here to tee off on the men in the booth. I’m just here to have a conversation.
Red Bull recently put out this clip of Mick Fanning and Adriano de Souza (with a quick flash of Julian Wilson’s godliness) freesurfing Lowers. As we all know, Lowers is one of the most high-performance waves on tour. As we all know, Adriano de Souza got 2nd at the Lowers Pro and Mick Fanning won. And as we all know, those names aren’t exactly the first two that come to mind when you think of the word progressive.
Honestly, I think the judges got this contest right — but I think they got it right for the wrong reasons. Surfing is subjective and it always will be. Good surfing can be anything. Good surfing is Matt Meola’s 540, it is Joel Parkinson’s carve, it is Ryan Burch’s eccentricity on a twin-fin, it is John John Florence’s late takeoff at Teahupo’o, and it is all these things at the same time. The point is that there are so many different shades of good surfing and the WSL can only score a select few shades of the full spectrum — they can’t invite every shade in, because how could you ever judge a Bede Durbidge VS Alex Knost heat?
So judging will always be subjective and it will never factor in every facet of good surfing.
Still, the WSL has given us a criteria and they have given us years upon years of heats to look back on and see exactly what they’ll deem worthy of a high score. Countless times, they’ve shown us that they have no problem with dolling out a high 9 for a series of turns, even at a wave like Lowers, and even with guys like Julian in the draw. The formula is there, but the formula is starting to feel kind of tired. Watch the clip above and try telling me that in this day and age, the surfing that Mick and Adriano are doing is the surfing that you want to see win Lowers in 2015. Seriously, try to tell me that — the comment section is below.
I appreciate Mick and Adriano’s surfing as much as the next guy (as long as the next guy isn’t a WSL judge). I think that they are both incredible athletes and incredible people. I think that both of them have put so much work into their craft, and that both of their crafts have changed surfing for the better. I’ll forever praise them….but neither of them are doing the surfing that I want to see win at a wave that has been described as a skatepark so many times that it has actually become cliche.
I can’t hate on either of them for succeeding here, and I can’t hate on the judges for scoring the Hurley Pro as they did. It really isn’t the fault of the judges. Like I said, they’ve shown us their formula. It’s in plain sight. But it’s in plain sight like a CVS or a 7-11 is in plain sight on a hip urban Main Street — in other words, it feels generic. And maybe it’s time for it to change. —Brendan Buckley