The Most Bizarre Day Of Competitive Surfing Ever?

Wiggolly Dantas, on his way to knocking out Joel Parkinson. Photo: WSL

Is there something in the Coolangatta water supply? Or mixed up in the sand being pumped out the mouth of the Tweed River into the Superbank, perhaps? Or is it just the cumulative effect of so many lay days — the waiting, the uncertainty, the questionable calls, the extension of the waiting period — followed by such underwhelming conditions? Whatever it is, I wish somebody would bottle it, because yesterday saw probably the most bizarre day of competitive surfing in recent years — and in spite of the absence of quality surf, one of the most entertaining.

I went to bed yesterday night — it was late, I was tired — after three heats of Round 3. Even at that early stage, there had already been a number of talking points. These included:

– Kelly Slater and Joel Parkinson were both out, eliminated by rookies. Kelly, a 4-time Quik Pro Gold Coast winner, had chalked up a meagre 8.77; Parko, a 2-time winner and finalist for the last two years running, hadn’t fared much better.

– All three heats had been won by blue jersey-wearing, goofy-footed Brazilians, namely Italo Ferreira, Miguel Pupo and Wiggolly Dantas. I was fully expecting to wake up today and find that all of the six Brazilians left in the draw — only Jadson Andre failed to make it to Round 3, and he was knocked out by Pupo — had made it to Round 4, which would surely have been some sort of record.

– Josh Kerr, the other red jersey eliminated, threw a tantrum. Don’t you just love it when a surfer throws a tantrum, especially when it’s a surfer who’s usually so calm and collected? Kerrzy went Kerrazy, punching the deck of his surfboard repeatedly — and these weren’t half-hearted punches either, the kind you or I might throw at our boards when we’re pissed off but not quite pissed off enough to forget that unlike Josh Kerr we don’t have an infinite supply of surfboards, and that it might actually hurt a bit if we did it any harder. I wouldn’t be surprised if Josh broke a knuckle. He later wrote in an Instagram post: “Frustration/anger are emotions I really try to stay away from! Today that didn’t work! #tantrum #ontothenextone @wsl @miguelpuposurf good job!” This post has since mysteriously disappeared from his Instagram page. Is this part of the WSL’s campaign to erase all evidence of anything that happens which is vaguely interesting? Probably not.

– Parko also threw a tantrum. A minor one, admittedly, especially by yesterday’s standards, but a tantrum nevertheless. He stormed the judges’ tower after his heat — don’t you just love it when a surfer storms the judges’ tower? — complaining that Wigglesby had intentionally got in his way and should have been called for an interference. Wigglesby denied any such intent, and did so fairly convincingly.

So that was yesterday. You can imagine my surprise on waking up today to find that the only Brazilian of the six not to make it through to Round 4 was the reigning world champion. Here, then, are a few of the things that happened while I was sleeping:

– Medina got knocked out.

– Medina threw a tantrum. This was a tantrum of the post-heat interview variety, and you can watch it here. We can probably classify it as a major one.

– Freddy Patacchia threw a tantrum. This tantrum involved surfing into a rock, on purpose, and you can watch it here. Don’t you just love it when a surfer surfs into a rock on purpose? It’s my new favourite kind of pro-surfer tantrum.

Now, a word about Medina. Clearly it wasn’t the wisest post-heat interview to give, and in the interests of consistency he should receive some sort of punishment. But I’m not hating. Yes, it’s important to lose with grace and dignity, which is something that Medina has yet to learn. But what he said was passionate and it was entertaining and it deviated from the script, and that is arguably even more important.

The script in question is co-written by the WSL, and this particular deviation was so entertaining because it involved the script’s protagonist telling the world that its surf league had fucked up. The point is this: I don’t particularly want a WSL-flavoured world champion. What does a WSL-flavoured world champ taste like? Not very much, essentially — a little bit sweet and a little bit sickly, but it is a dish ultimately devoid of flavour. This episode, in contrast, exploded on the tastebuds. The slightly bitter aftertaste that followed it is all part of the fun.

And nor am I hating on the WSL. I understand that being the WSL is a very difficult job, and furthermore that to demand the WSL taste like anything other than the WSL is probably unreasonable. But I do wish it would stop being so ridiculous and let us see heats 5-8 on the heat analyzer, rather than trying to pretend that the whole thing never happened. At the time of writing, if you head to the heat analyzer on the WSL’s site, you will be greeted by a picture of Gabriel Medina on the video player screen, accompanied by the words: “Medina’s Back.” Except that Medina is not back. I suppose it may just be a coincidental technical fault, in which case I take it all back, but the heats in which it all happened have been taken down. The WSL may own the webcast, but is does not own the past, and it would do well to remember that — although I hear that it’s currently preparing a bid. It would also do well to remember that we are an audience, and that as such we desire to to be entertained; it would do well to realise, in other words, that its stock may just have risen.


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