This Week In Surfing: The World's Longest Waves, #WSL_Shame, & Hooray For Tyler Wright 'Cause She Rules!
Ten Things From Surfing & The Internet On The Week That Was September 16, 2016
1. Tyler Wins Trestles, Will Probably Be World Champion
Wooooh! YES! T-Wrizzy in the hizzy! Sorry. Sorry for that ridiculous bunch of words, but I am excited. Tyler Wright won her fourth event of the year and in doing so took a commanding lead in the 2016 World Title race as we round the last corner and hit the home stretch of the last three events. That’s four wins from four finals this year, and more significantly, her closest rival in American Courtney Conlogue had a bit of a shocker this event, going down to a return to form Steph Gilmore (who came second) in Round 4, her worst result for the year. Tyler was thrown an opportunity to kick away. And she did. Unlike the fellas, whose world ranking leaders were falling over like school kids who'd had their shoelaces tied together (saw it happen once in Grade 3, hilarious).
We can put Tyler's lead in a little more context as to why it's so exciting, by asking this question: Do you remember the last time someone who wasn’t Carissa Moore or Steph Gilmore won the Women’s World Title? I do, because I Googled it. I had to Google it because the WSL site doesn’t go back far enough, which is pretty weird. Surfing existed before 2010, WSL. Anyway, it was before Steph was even on tour. It was 2006, back when Tom Hanks starred in The Da Vinci Code. The winner? Layne Beachley. Steph and Carissa have had a vice like grip on the silverware for a decade, and finally it looks like that could change, and who better to usher in the new era than Tyler Wright?!
On the men’s side, everyone lost, everyone except for Jordy Smith, who did the opposite of losing (winning). He beat Joel Parkinson in the final, and kinda more importantly, beat the unbackable and form favourite Filipe Toledo in the semi-final along the way. With every title contender losing about a week earlier and getting thirteenths or 25ths, Jordy jumped up a place to fourth and significantly closed the gap between him and John John, Medina, and Wilko. Who’s gonna win? Well this event made everything a little muddier, except for one thing: The confirmation that for the fifth year in a row the World Title will be decided at the Pipe Masters.
SEE ALSO: Weekend Surf Forecast 16-18 September
2. Judges Judged The Surfing and Everyone Judged The Judges and None of It Really Matters
Oh man. Maybe skip this. I accidentally wrote 800 words and all of them are super dumb...
So, this was a real thing this week, a whole big mess. The first little whiffs of controversy arose when Matt Wilkinson was sent tumbling out of the comp against Brett Simpson in Round 2. Sean Doherty summed it up best in how the judges were painting themselves into difficult corners with this paragraph in his Day 2 event report:
"The best four waves of the Wilko/Simpo heat were all clustered within 0.3 of a point of each other, despite all being fundamentally different. In effect, the whole heat was scored within 0.3 of a point in a 10-point scale. How are you going to separate anyone definitively when the scores are clustered so closely and the whole heat is crammed into a matchbox? If you’ve got all these criteria, all these axes, all these reasons to pull scores apart… then pull the scores apart"
But things really went haywire two days later when, following the elimination of World No.1 John John Florence, Gabriel Medina lost to Tanner Gudauskas amongst some pretty questionable judging. Needing an 8.34, Medina surfed the best wave of the heat (probably) and should have got a 9 (probably). Instead, he was given an 8.3, Tanner Gudauskas won the heat, Gabriel Medina sarcastically clapped in the judges direction, and the Internet burned down forever.
“What?!” said Barton Lynch live on the broadcast, having just finished with some expert analysis from the balcony of the competitor's area, as the score was announced.
“I share your shock Barton,” said Ross Williams.
“I thought that had to be a 9.5," Barton followed up with.
The wrath has been furious toward the WSL and, more specifically, the WSL judges, but before we look at that, can we take a moment to enjoy the fact that the WSL commentary team didn’t hold back in expressing their surprise, and disagreement with the score (proof right there that any talk of Orwellian type conspiracy around WorldTitles is so very far off the mark, with the WSL's own voice, the commentary team, asking questions first). Anyway, cue Gabbygate. People were upset. Really upset. #ShameWSL trended on Instagram as fans digitally rioted. But most interestingly, the digital protests were not limited to the fans, with many athletes and notable surfing voices gettng involved in some sour commentary.
Julian Wilson posted a phone shot video of the heat analyser showing a Wilko wave followed by one of his own with the caption: "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."
On Glen "Micro" Hall’s instagram post of the same clip, Jake Paterson commented: "Not sure why the boys are even paddling out!! Already decided who wins it seems."
While 2001 World Champ CJ Hobgood added:
"Maybe it's a tipping point for some accountability."
Even Kelly Slater chipped in, posting to his Instagram a balanced perspective on the matter, saying the heat could have gone either way in the end.
And even though Kelly thinks Tanner may have won the heat on balance, and he knows more than just about anyone on the subject of anything, it's pretty clear Gabriel Medina should have won this heat. But here is the clincher... This doesn't actually matter as much as everyone is making out. Why?
Surfers drop their bottom two results by the end of the year. Between the subjectivities of judging a surfer's perfromance on a wave, and the random playing environment of the ocean, there are going to be things that happen in surfing that are unfair on a competitor. But the WSL has already allowed for that with the dropping of each competitor's two worst results. You even get two chances to lose in each event with the stupidly redundant Rounds 1 and 4 heats. There is way more than enough leeway for bad luck, strike that, unfair results. The destiny of the 2016 World Champ is still very much in the hands of the person who will end up hoisting it in December.
Perhaps the best analysis of this issue comes from Nick Carroll's very excellent piece, pointing out the ridiculousness of these millionaires, and their fans, gunning for the people in surfing who aren't millionaires, and who have no fans: the judges
"At such times you’ve gotta feel for everybody involved — especially the judges. The five guys who don’t want to rule your life, but kinda do, because that’s how it’s set up.
They’re getting paid construction worker wages for propping up the entire edifice, on behalf of people a lot richer than they are, and right now they’re copping a social media shellacking worthy of a Kardashian on a bender."
And after all this huff and puff, one thing is for sure… this will be so quickly forgotten when the World Title trophy is hoisted on the sands of Pipeline in December. There will be no asterix on the end of the name 2016 World Champion.
3. Kelly and John John Partner Up For Taylor's New Movie
We’ve all got that mate. The one who, just when everyone is ready to go out and have fun, has lot his keys, or his jacket, or his wallet, and then you all have to pretend to care and pretend to look for the thing. This is another behind the scenes clip from Taylor Steele’s awesome looking upcoming film, Proximity, that puts two iconic surfers together on their own surf trips, this one being Kelly Slater and John John Florence in the Marshall Islands. And on this trip that mate was Thundercloud director and world class water cinematographer Talon Clemow. Talon lost his backpack. Dammit Talon!
4. Ry Craike's Selfie Stick
Selfie sticks are pretty cringey. Right alongside vapes and hoverbvoards, selfie sticks kinda sorta scream "kook". But then someone like Ry Crake takes one out in the heavy hollow lefts of his home coastline out west somewhere and throws the "selfie stick = kook" paradigm right on its head. Serious barrel riding and epic POV footage right here.
5. Hurley Pro Trestles Freesurfs
When the world’s best descend on a famous surf break for a week of competition, we’re bound to get some sweet as footage of them surfing said wave without heat rashies. All we can hope for is that the filmmaker that compiles them into a three minute edit puts an enjoyable song over the clip. Kurt Vile? Yessssss. Another nice thing about this Lower Trestles edit is the seamless inclusion of waves surfed by Carissa Moore and Stephanie Gilmore tearing the bags on a pretty similar level to the world’s best men. How good is that Ryan Callinan wave to end the clip too? Mate can’t buy a decent result. #shameWSL
6. Brendon Gibbens Joins Epokhe
South African free surfer and Cluster alumni, Brendon Gibbens is rarely seen on the surfing internet without his crew of Dion Agius or Kai Neville or Mitch Coleborn and the like, so you’d be forgiven of think he was already on their sunglasses team, Epokhe. But apparently not, apparently he joined the team this week. And seeing as Epokhe is owned and run by Kai Neville (with Dion Agius and Mitch Coleborn) we get the lovely benefit of an A-grade Kai Neville produced clip to welcome him.
7. Kai Lenny's "World's Longest Waves"
Pfft, these waves aren't that long. I once caught a wave from behind Lorne Pier all the way to the beach. That's over 1.2 kilometres. I mean, I was on a clubby surf ski, and basically had to paddle the whole time, but stilll... Really though, Kai Lenny’s hydro-foil kick is pretty impressive. Bringing it out of the world of stand-up paddling, or tow-in surfing, to being able to paddle for waves with one, is certainly groundbreaking. And now being able to surf his small hydro board on open-ocean bits of unbroken swell, well that’s next level again. It does look like you have to be Trevor Hendy-style fit to be capable of doing it, however.
SEE ALSO: Late Season Indo Continues To Deliver
8. Morgan Maassen's Growing
Morgan Massen, one of surfing’s best and brightest photographers and filmmakers, got a little sentimental this week and put together a surf film that chronicles his evolution as a filmmaker the last 13 years (he’s only 26, still). It’s, as you’d expect from Morgan, very good. If you want to see his best work, however, click through his Vimeo and find the film titled A Clockwork Warren. GOAT!
9. Carlos Munoz, Hair To The Throne
Rob Machado had the best hair in surfing, then Costa Rican Carlos Munoz came along, and became hair to the Machado throne (I did a pun!). Some nice airs in this four minute clip of the man who everyone got stoked on at this year's Volcom Pipe Pro back in January.
This clip is a bit over a week old, which in Internet time makes it ancient, but Kobi Clements is just one years old and already charging G-Land. One years old! That’s so young. The Narrabeen super grommet is blowing minds and making all other one year olds look... oh, wait, hang on, I read it wrong. He's 11 years old. That's heaps old and a completely appropriate age to be charging G-Land. As you were...
Bonus... Weak Wrap
In case you missed it last week, here's Surfing World's Weak Wrap, the best summary of the week in surfing on the Internet ever! Plus there's a cat in this one. A CAT!
And that was this week in surfing. Have a good weekend everyone.
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