If you haven’t heard yet, some drama is spewing around the surf world. To spoil the fun, it’s nothing serious, just yet another complaint about judging. Gabriel Medina, 3X World Champion, just sent a harrowing message to the WSL via his Instagram, shortly after the completion of the Surf Ranch Pro. Read:
Please understand the importance of this discussion.
Surfing has been my life and my love for this sport is unconditional. I have put all my heart into and and want to leave a beautiful legacy one day when I look back at it.
However the surfing community, especially in Brazil, is mesmerized with the poor clarity and inconsistence of judging for many years now, but lately it has been even more shocking.
It is quite clear that judging is now rewarding very simple surfing, seamless transitions and have taken critical turns in critical sections off the criteria. This is very frustrating and is stagnating the sport.
Fans and sponsor will not accept this to continue and will in a near future be draw away once all they want is equal and fair judging to the sport.
Also, important to note that many coaches and managers have had opportunity to speak to WSL after heats/events to ask about PROGRESSION and VARIETY in the criteria and the lack of reward for this space. The response given by them is always quite defensive by giving poor examples to illustrate THEIR point.
WSL needs urgently to clarify judging and apply equal and fair judging to save progression of the sport.
Gabriel Medina and Brasil.”
First and foremost, I just want to make clear how completely blown away I am by this. This is a 3 TIME WORLD CHAMPION crying and complaining about decisions not going in his, or his compatriots favor. A flaming bow shot in the dark, aimed directly at the association/league/organization that gave him his career, his credit, his money, his World Titles, pretty close to everything he has. Talk about biting the hand that feeds.
I’m sure Medina is well off enough to say whatever he wants, whenever he pleases. He doesn’t need the helping hand, and it should have been very clear that I was joking. But seriously, this is a competitive animal. He wants to win, badly. He loves to prove his talent and his dominance. The WSL is “the global home of surfing”, so, this is where he’s at. And with this lengthy, heartfelt message, he had to have been holding this in for a while trying not to upset the established order. Might I remind you of this 2015 heat against Mick Fanning, which gave Adriano deSouza his World Title trophy. The judges could have gone wherever they wanted for this score, and they opted in Medina’s favor.
Therein lies my point. The judges could have gone anywhere they wanted with that score. They always have been able to, and they always will be able to, go wherever they want with a score. Surfing is a subjective sport. Of course there’s a ‘scoring criteria’, but there has never been a fair set of rules set. We can’t even scientifically judge how “big” a wave is. Ask Sebastian Steudtner. Even if we have a static environment like the Surf Ranch, there are other elements that come into play. Speed, Power, Flow, etc. As they say, different strokes for different folks. Some people like to see a huge, slow, set-up, lofty air reverse rather than a speedy, deep rail carve.
Look at Skateboarding. They have a set course; it doesn’t move – No variables, just skating. Now, I know they all have different runs, contrasting tricks, and there’s much more variety in skating, but let’s pretend there’s not. Let’s say every skater had to perform the exact same run through the course. I bet you could still pick a winner. I bet if you were in a room full of your friends and you all were scoring the contest, there would also be some range. Some people would like the height of that guy’s ollies, some people would like the fast flip of the other dudes board, maybe your lady likes the speed of the small boy’s grinds. Everyone has their preferences. Surfing is not downhill racing. There is no clear win or loss, because the point system is flawed, just as a human is. And that is the beauty in this “sport”.
As soon as robot umpires are introduced to baseball, I am done watching. And as soon as a point system is applied to surfing, the conclusion is likewise. Let’s play pretend:
Wrap/Cutback = 1.1 points
Snap = 1.3 points
Floater = 1 points
Straight Air = 2.6 points
Air Reverse = 3 points
Barrel = 4 points
This just will not work. We all know that no wave is the same. And again, there are so many factors that are all based off of personal bias: aggression, style, criticalness, etc. It is an impossible task.
So what should be, what could be done? Do you agree with Medina’s stance? What should the judges do, add an automatic 0.5 to each wave that is stood up on by a Brazilian? Apparently Filipe Toledo and Italo Ferreira both feel the same. Might I point out that these surfers have taken the last 4 consecutive World Titles. Are we going to hear complaints after any event or heat not won by a Brazilian? As last years World Champion Filipe Toledo put it, I’m tired.
I have heard (read: Rumor) that Medina has been partnering with a certain wave pool technology and will be bringing some basins across his home country of Brazil. Unsure of how many there will be, if there will be any variety in the pools, that kind of stuff, but in light of this situation we have at hand, maybe it is plausible that Gabby starts his own Wave Pool Tour? He can control the judging criteria and handpick all of the champions based on his preference.
I don’t know. This shit is old. Complaints about judging just keep rolling in. In this day and age of cancel culture, Social Media and people all brandishing “my truth”, I think everyone is a winner in their own head. What do you say?