As you are probably aware the ASP recently announced that the wildcards for the 2014 World Tour are Tiago Pires and Owen Wright. Most of the discussion concerning the announcement centered on the omission of Glenn” Micro” Hall, especially up against the case of the successful Pires. Hall had broken three vertebrae whilst competing in the Volcom Pro Fiji and many thought had a strong case for a wildcard position. The ASP, to clarify, has stated that, “It’s not an ‘injury’ wildcard per se. It’s simply a wildcard that is allocated to the most deserving surfers. It is often allocated to injured surfers. In the event of multiple deserving applicants, the wildcard committee reviews technical aspects of a surfer’s career accomplishments.”
That committee consists of Men’s Tour Manager, Renato Hickel, Al Hunt, Kieren Perrow, with Adrian Buchan as an advisor. They decide the two places with the help of a doctor and physio who make recommendations to them.
Many fans in the Micro camp have pointed to the severity of his injury (he didn’t surf at all for 6 months) and the fact that it was sustained surfing in an ASP event, as reasons that Micro had a stronger case than say Tiago. Tiago injured his knee whilst free surfing and then returned to surf at various stages later in the year.
However while these reasons seem to make sense, they are not part of the criteria. The ASP’s Dave Prodan has gone on record as saying, “Comparing injuries becomes immaterial once both are proven to have dry-docked the athletes.” In effect it doesn’t matter what the injury is or how it happened. If it stops both surfers from surfing, then the injuries are treated equal.
However further complications when there was some some confusion over whether the injury did in fact dry dock Tiago. He surfed in one event, the Azores Pro in August, albeit for one heat only, whilst was also seen free surfing throughout the year. This has led to speculation and accusation that he deliberately didn’t surf in the WT events towards the end of the year as a means to further his case for the wildcard.
For example one internet commenter stated, “Tiago Pires half faked the majority of his injury period. He kept surfing at home, went on a surf trip to the Maldives with a group of Portuguese surfers and an article on that trip actually ran in SurfPortugal magazine. He also competed in the Azores prime and kept updating his Facebook and Instagram status telling his fans that he wouldn’t be able to compete because his knee wasn’t healed yet before each WT event.”
Tiago is honest about the timeline of the injury stating in announcement in December after the wildcards was awarded that, “I started doing physiotherapy right way (after the initial injury in May). And it was a twice-a-day kind of deal for about three months before I restarted surfing. Then in September I had another episode where I landed on my knee again and it got worse again. After surfing for two months with the same pain I decided to change doctor and went to Barcelona to get another person to look at it. After I got back from Spain and with an infiltration of Plasma done in my knee I was forbidden to surf until today (mid-December).”
So Tiago was indeed surfing at some stages throughout the last six months, but there is no doubt that it was the same injury that kept him out of competing in the last 8 WT events. While he did surf in Azores Pro, the same injury flared up in a warm up and that injury was assessed by the ASP medical committee, and it was determined that he wasn’t sitting it out so he’d have a better case for the wildcard.
The career achievements, another important part of the criteria, also weighed in Pires’ favour. The ASP told Australia’s Surfing Life that, “The split in the decision boils down to technical accomplishments which include performance on tour. Glenn was at a disadvantage as he was a rookie. Glenn was in disadvantage both on WCT and World Rankings when it came to analyzing the past year’s in comparison with Tiago.” While you may easily argue with the criteria that heavily favours experienced surfers over rookies, you can’t argue with the way criteria was applied.
Of course that doesn’t help Micro much, a man who had spent 10 years to reach his dream of qualifying for the World Tour, only for it to be destroyed by injury. In his blog he wrote, “6 months from the date of the accident and I’m sitting hear consoling my distraught wife. We have spent 6 months eagerly waiting to find out if my dream of being a WT surfer is over. It’s been in the hands of the ASP to decide if I get the injury wildcard for 2014. The outcome is decided. Jemma has put as much effort into my career as I and this news is as heartbreaking for her as it is for me.”
Micro will be the replacement for any injuries through the year, but coming on the back of a truly horrendous year, it was another kick in the teeth for the pint sized Irish-Aussie, who is one of the most liked on tour. Yet this is not an emotional argument, but a criteria based one, and who is to say Hall’s dream is any less important than Tiago’s? Each year a couple of injured surfers miss out on the wildcard place and each year the arguments rage on who is more deserving. If if it seems so subjective, maybe its time they get rid of the wildcard spots all together? Maybe for the surfers it might be shit happens, so deal with it?
We’d be interested to hear your thoughts on the matter.