Sean Doherty On: Quarter Finals Day, The Show Goes On

13 Sep 2016 0

Sean Doherty

Senior Writer

COASTALWATCH | Hurley & Swatch Pro, Trestles CA

Day three of Gabbygate and everyone is so very tired.  

The outrage following Gabriel Medina’s controversial loss has finally sunk to the lower strata of the Internet, the insubordinate tour surfers who publicly complained have been rounded up and taken to the tower, the conspiracy theories – from the WSL staging the world title to the WSL staging the moon landing – have become less outrageous with each day. The Brazilian Storm has been reduced to a Brazilian flood of tears.

But this controversy has run hot. Real hot. Hashtag “shame” and the dogshit emoji have had a good run this week.

Everyone’s had a chew on this, it seems, with the only exception being the judges at the centre of it who’ve maintained stony radio silence. It seems that line of communication – once a regular part of the broadcast, the judges openly talking what’s scoring, what isn’t, and why – has it seems been permanently severed, and the judges only public appearances in future will be limited to comedy skits only.

SEE ALSO: Sean Doherty On Day 3, Tell It To The Judge

Whether a public explanation of the scores across all those controversial heats would have dispersed the virtual lynch mob, or simply provoked them further, we’ll never know. Transparency has never been the WSL’s strong suit… and we saw another glimpse of it today, when the first girls quarter was called back to the beach due at first – officially – to deteriorating conditions. It took a few minutes (and the news to break elsewhere on social media) before the real hold up was acknowledged – a big effing great white shark performing Sea World acrobatics in the lineup. From that point it took approximately 0.73 seconds for the first Tweet to appear suggesting the judges immediately be sent out for an expression session.

In all seriousness though, it’s been a tough time guys in the tower.

Scoring controversies and the online jihad aside, in the midst of it all they’ve had to deal with the passing of the WSL’s Head of Security, David Wood. There are guys on the panel who’d been close friends with Woody for almost 20 years, travelled the world with him, so to have this shit fight compound the loss of their mate has been particularly cruel. No, it hasn’t been much fun in the judges tower this week, and they’ll be pretty happy to get the hell out of San Clemente. 

The path is clear for Tyler Wright, Photo by WSL/Rowland

The path is clear for Tyler Wright, Photo by WSL/Rowland

The judges, of course, know what they sign up for, and they understand from the start the best they can ever hope for is to be utterly unloved and invisible… and that’s when they get it right. But while they’ve had to deal with the occasional unruly mob or volcanic pro surfer in the past, you sensed this week plumbed new depths. They’ll get over it, they’ll move on, all the time knowing the next predictable controversy is lying just around the corner.

SEE ALSO: Nick Carroll On, The Judges Are Never Wrong

What’s undoubtedly troubling them more though is the fact the surfers openly mutinied. En masse they called them out publicly, and it was clear there’s been a broad loss of faith in the judging panel amongst the surfers. There’s an argument that controversial decisions work in the wider interest of the sport – global uproar over a few scores is preferable to galactic indifference, at least someone out there gives a shit – but losing the surfers strikes at the heart of the game. How this issue gets handled in the week ahead will be interesting, but I wouldn’t be expecting any of it to play out publicly.

Oh yeah, surfing. Remember that thing we used to do before decanting venom into the Internet? Yeah, that.

While in the wake of the controversies and carnage the men’s world title is now clear as mud, the women’s world title today crystallised perfectly.

Steph Gilmore has played little or no part in the title race this year, having somehow not made it past the quarters in any event. Today however she did, and in doing so cleared the way for Tyler Wright. By taking down Courtney Conlogue and Carissa Moore in successive heats, Steph has made the title Tyler’s to lose. And if Tyler did win, well, it would be one for the ages, considering how much of her year she’s devoted to her brother Owen, helping him bounce back from a serious brain injury. There wouldn’t be a dry eye in the house if she wins.

After today the only eventuality I can see for the men is Filipe Toledo winning in a trot. On the last breaths of a dying swell his fast twitch fibres saw him surfing twice as quick and twice as high as anyone else today. The sprocketty Brazilian ended Kelly’s run with a series of ninja reverses, and it seems nothing short of a six-foot swell, a tweaked groin, or a cataclysmic judging event will stop him winning at Lowers. 

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