With the Quik Pro just around the corner, do we remember the best or worst of Lowers 2016?
It’s been two weeks since the events of the Men’s Hurley Pro rumbled out from California in true San Andreas style, bringing to the fore an underlying dialogue about corrupt judging that quickly became a heated debate among the surfing community. With the Quik Pro looming, has #corruptjudgeswsl done anything at all for the sport?
Following Tyler Wright’s display of complete domination over the Swatch Women’s Pro where she earned her fourth event win this tour, things weren’t quite so straightforward in the Men’s Hurley Competition. Matt Wilkinson lost to wildcard, Brett Simpson by just 0.26 of a point in their round two heat, one that ended with him throwing water and curses at the judges.
Trestles was Matt’s chance to narrow the gap between himself and current tour leader, John John Florence, but instead, he slipped backwards down the rankings and arguably took some of his respectability with him.
Surfers have fought for years to fight off negative stigma and have surfing recognised as a specialized sport, because it requires a tonne of athleticism. This journey from rebellious soulful sub-culture to respected professional (soon to be Olympic) sport was a big transition and it now has a continually growing global audience of all ages. With this status comes the responsibility to behave in a sportsmanlike manner, so when heats don’t go to plan and scores are disappointing, is it really ok for surfers to throw “f***k you” at the judges?
Julian Wilson then fell short by 0.5 of a point to tour rookie, Alex Ribiero, but it was Medina’s loss to Trestles local, Tanner Gudauskas that caused the most uproar. With a score just under what he needed to take the win, Medina was understandably gutted and the surfing community made it clear through every social media channel possible that the judge’s decision was unpopular. #corruptjudgeswsl trended on twitter over the next few days. Wilko and Julian might well have got themselves in hot water with the WSL after their passionate outbursts on the topic because of their contractual obligations to maintain the positive image of the sport. Having surfed solidly throughout the competition Jordy Smith was the rightful Trestle’s champion, but his rise to the top might’ve been tougher had the upset others gotten through to challenge him.
So the question of corruption within the judging of these heats has been raised, but should the judging system be changed? And if so, how? The very nature of surfing is fickle, and isn’t that why we love it? Changeable elements make wave-hunting fun and it’s the unpredictability of surf that makes a good surfer so skillful. Controversial scores are part and parcel of these conditions. Of course there is a way to judge surfers purely to a skills criteria in a controlled environment; Wave pools remove all the uncontrollable variables of surf, but they have about as much controversy surrounding them as Trestles did.
So with two events left on this year’s tour before it concludes at Hawaii’s famous Pipeline, it looks likely that the judging dilemma will remain an on-going discussion. Does anyone really know how it could be solved?
The Quicksilver Pro France will start on October 4th at Landes, Nouvelle-Aquitaine where Medina will attempt to defend his 2015 title.
All photos © WSL