It was a good handshake. Three seconds, with eye contact.
And it even birthed a bet. I was watching the WSL Fiji Pro at the SURFING office when Gabriel Medina caught this wave. Drunk with excitement, I bet Sean Benik -- who edits our videos and is a halfway decent man -- 10 dollars that the wave was a 10. Then I waited, chuckling at his foolishness and my fortune.
It came in at a 6.97.
In hindsight, excitement got the best of me. It wasn’t a 10. But it sure as hell wasn’t a 6.97.
The wave didn’t give Gabe the best barrel. Not too heavy. Not too deep. Not too special. If he’d kicked out upon exit, it probably would’ve been valued at 4 or a 5. Which is to say that his next maneuver -- a full-rotation alley oop at sizable, grumpy Cloudbreak -- was worth very little to the judges.
I can’t see where they’re coming from. I’m not on a tower in Fiji with Richie Porta pretty much pushing the buttons for me and I actually like progressive surfing. But even though I can’t see where they’re coming from, I can surmise.
It was the first heat of the morning and they didn’t want to blow their load too early, so to speak. They wanted to set the scale for a good day of great surfing -- to set a precedent, to challenge the competitors to excite them. I get that. I just don’t get how Gabriel’s wave didn’t excite them.
I’d also guess that they only wanted to award high scores to barrels at Cloudbreak because Cloudbreak is a barreling wave and you’re only supposed to get barreled at barreling waves because they barrel and hur durr durrrr. Really, how dumb is that? And how backwards is it?
You’re essentially saying that the competitors -- the best surfers in the world -- should stick to formulas for waves that were set decades ago when boards were different and brains were different and bodies hadn’t yet figured out how to do what we now know is possible. No! How about you interpret that formula in a modern way and splice in some new elements of surfing that have developed since Cloudbreak was first surfed forty years ago?
That’s what Gabriel did today and the response was disappointing.
Regardless of the fact that he had two waves that scored higher than a 6.97 in the heat, the wave we’re talking about is the only the WSL has uploaded to YouTube at this point. So, basically, they’re acknowledging the fact that it was the most interesting and exciting wave of the heat.
Too bad those two words aren’t part of the judging criteria.