Surfers Enact Coup Against WSL Judges

photos sherm2259
Gab’s smile indicates this was taken before his Rd. 3 loss.

Boy oh boy, those sparks they are a flyin’!

The second and third days of the men’s event at Lower Trestles had their fair share of controversy. On day two, Matt Wilkinson and Julian Wilson lost in consecutive heats in exceptionally tight heats. Both surfers had opportunities to turn the decision late in the contest, but both scored just under the required number.

Following those decisions, Wilko and Jules left the beach feeling cheated and disgruntled. Julian demonstrated his frustration by posting the following comment on a WSL Instagram post:

"The Judges might need to take some responsibility for their scores over the past two days. Might be time to put them under the microscope, like they do to us."

The following day, Gabriel Medina lost another close one to Tanner Gudauskas. The context here was even more potent, because John John Florence had just lost an easy decision against Brett Simpson. John’s early loss gave Gabby a huge opportunity to steal the yellow jersey from John, but first he had to beat the local boy. The heat was a high-scoring affair, with Tanner garnering four 8s and Gabby getting two of his own. Needing an 8.34 (a number that would eventually grow as Tanner bettered his scoreline with a wave at the buzzer) with less than ten minutes to go, Gabby caught a perfect Lowers right and tagged it about seven times. The announcers unanimously agreed that it was the best wave of the heat and likely a 9-point ride. He got an 8.3.

The people of the world instantly went up in arms, claiming the WSL was rigged, they only want John to win the world title, etc. etc. #Corruptjudgeswsl is a trending topic on Instagram, along with some weird WSL fork image that I can’t seem to gather any meaning from. It is mostly Brazilians who post it.

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Is it like, “Fork you, WSL?” Brazilian readers, please enlighten us.

After these proceedings, Gabby took to his own Instagram to vent. He said “Hora de ir pra casa. Muito triste, eu dedico ou dediquei minha vida pra isso…to cansado, cansei!”, which translates roughly to, “Time to go home. Very sad, I dedicate or have dedicated my life to it … so tired, tired!”*

We won’t speculate about the “Or have dedicated” part too much, as it’s likely there’s a language barrier or at most he was blowing off steam, but we will keep an eye on Gabby’s next social media move as it could prove interesting in regard to his career with the WSL.

Next up, Julian took to his own Instagram to blast the WSL judging panel once more. Under a video of his, Wilko’s, and Gabby’s not-heating-winning waves he states, “When sleepless nights, countless hours of preparation and learning hard lessons from past upsets, it’s hard not feel frustrated when not getting rewarded in key moments like this. Might be time to break down what the judges see and understand as good surfing in comparison to what the best surfers in the world see and understand as good surfing, as it could be a little different?”

A fair call. Anyone who watches enough surfing in their life should have the ability to score a heat in basic terms, but you can’t argue that the people doing the best surfing in the world should also be the ones defining it. Maybe it’s time the surfers on the CT sit down with the judges in an open forum and explain what they want to see getting scored and why. I can’t imagine anyone would be opposed to that, right?

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“Is this not good enough for you?!” Julian implores.

Anyhow, Matty Wilko chimed in on Jules’ post to add his two cents. “It is hard to accept when they make decisions that decide people's lives and don't take care to make the decision right and are not at all held accountable”, Wilko declares. The accountability of the judges and the WSL seems to be a major theme amongst the surfers, but what does this really mean? Do they want judges fired, or fined, every time they make a “bad call”? This would set a dangerous precedent, because surfing is judged from a standpoint of subjectivity, meaning there is no true right or wrong.

The most recent contributor to the crusade was Jeremy Flores, who found comedy in the whole ordeal, as he has faced a lifetime of what he considered to be “bad calls” that nobody seemed to give a shit about. He said, “Hahahahh too funny now I see everyone posting shit about bad judging and all on social media everywhereeeee…. I’ve just Been saying it for the last 6 years & got fined a million of Times for asking explanations. Now everyone is finally waking up. The judging at the moment is way too amateur for How big the sport has become. We have contracts, debts, sponsors, bonuses, We dedicated our lives to this sport. We have all contributed to progessing our sport. Don’t get me wrong, it must be tough to be a judge, it’s a hard job but If there isn’t good enough judging then there shouldn’t be that much money involved. Simple as that ! #IshutUpForTooLong #TannerRips #MedinaRips #EveryoneRips”.

Jeremy’s mention of fines sparks another thought. Jules and co. could actually get in trouble for this backlash.

According to the WSL rule book:

“Article t171: Damage to Surfing's Image

Individuals bound by this Policy shall not engage in any conduct which could cause damage to the image of the sport of surfing. For purposes of this Article, "damage to the image of the sport of surfing" is defined as any act, regardless of time or place, which casts the sport of surfing or WSL in a negative light. Without restricting the application of this Article, "damage to the sport of surfing" will include any comments or broadcast from social media accounts that the Surfer is responsible for. Any Surfer found in violation of this section shall be subject to the following disciplinary action: (i) Monetary Fines and Disqualification.

The monetary fine amounts for an offense of this Article ranges from $1,000 USD to $50,000 USD per offense. (ii) Suspension and Expulsion.

Any offender under this Article may be subject to suspension and/or expulsion from an WSL Tour upon the first offense. Where multiple offenses occur within one or more concurrent seasons which demonstrate a pattern of unacceptable conduct, the Surfer may also be subject to suspension and/or expulsion from the WSL.o the image of the sport of surfing" is defined as any act, regardless of time or place, which casts the sport of surfing or WSL in a negative light. Without restricting the application of this Article, "damage to the sport of surfing" will include any comments or broadcast from social media accounts that the Surfer is responsible for.”

Yeesh. A lot to think about. With that in mind, we have some questions for our readers:

– Wilko, Jules, and Gabby: who was ripped off, who was not, and why?
– Should the surfers be punished for their social media outbursts, as per the WSL guidelines?
– What can the WSL do to avoid situations like this in the future? Is it even possible?

*Translation comes via Google Translate, an almost-always fallible source for its one and only job.