There’s barrels full of World Surf League drama going on.
In recent days, Brazilians Gabriel Medina, Italo Ferreira and Filipe Toledo — all former world champions — have vented on social media their disdain for the WSL’s judging of the Surf Ranch Pro in Lemoore, California.
Griffin Colapinto of San Clemente, California, won that event Sunday, beating Ferreira in the final.
And now, WSL CEO Erik Logan has sent out a social media “letter to the WSL community” defending the judges.
No matter who’s right or wrong, it’s not a good look.
The Brazilians’ questioning of the judges is nothing new and it has led to sparks before. But now the sparks appear to have turned to a full-on fire.
Here is what Medina wrote on Instagram (translated from Portuguese):
“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.”
Medina’s post came after a quarterfinal loss to Australia’s Ethan Ewing, who reportedly received a death threat after the Brazilian surfers spoke out.
And this is what Ferreira wrote on IG (translated from Portuguese), and his words are much more indirect than Medina’s:
My intuition is not to attack, hurt, take into credit and judgment, but silence consumes me. The surf that gave me and gives me everything I live by this if I need to prove it yet. My looks and my energy and what they carry says it all. On my part, surf, I give you my all. My devotion My day to day that only me, my team and my family know. And so we shall continue. In the moment of sadness, indignation, reverse and look forward, transform, inspire people. Joy is bound to prevail The weight I carry in water doesn’t float for a second. It’s mine and I have the honor to carry it, and make it happen. I learn everyday that I have to build myself up, improve myself, it’s a continuous process, as an athlete, and as a human being! A big part of this is this union of my Brazilian colleagues and friends of the tour, and of everyone who is in it for the surf! But let me talk about the strength, the same as my look. This is ours! Plural! And from here on out it’s going to make yourself more present, and in the most positive way possible. The focus is on development. The focus is on progress. The focus is on the goal, and let it be clear that nothing will be built against it in my way. And if you doubt, look it in my eye!”
And now, here are comments (translated from Portuguese) from Toledo, who lost to Colapinto in the semifinals:
“For the love of sport,
“* To all Brazilian surfers and to those who feel included in this message :*
“After a long day, of many thoughts, analysis, news and arguments, I realized that I am tired, psychologically exhausted. It’s not easy to spend 10 years swallowing dry.
“I’m a surfer, original and roots, who grew up among real surfers, and fair has always been one of the main points of my life. Thats why i feel tired
“For the love of sport I’m still firm and strong. And, now, I am feeling happy to see the posts of Gabriel Medina, Italo Ferreira, and many others, who can still join the idea that what we seek will always be the evolution of sport, with justice and transparency.
“We want nothing but fair. Nothing but what is rightfully ours. We need our voice to be heard and respected, because after all, we are the protagonists of it all!
“Finally, I hope that everyone, family, friends, fans and sponsors, understand my position on this situation and are supporting me in the best way possible!
“Ps: I want to make it clear that other surfers, regardless of their nationalities, have nothing to do with this. Like me, they are also fighting for their dreams. And attacking them or disrespecting them won’t change anything, it just gets worse for us Brazilians!”
On Tuesday, the WSL’s Logan put this out on Twitter, defending his organization and the judging and saying that no one person or group of people is above the integrity of the sport:
A letter to the WSL Community, from CEO Erik Logan.https://t.co/8gksAP35zs
— World Surf League (@wsl) May 30, 2023
The full text:
“To the WSL community,
“I want to address the conversation that happened in our community following the recent Championship Tour event at the Surf Ranch. As you likely know, a small number of athletes made statements questioning the judging of the competition and the final results.
“I want to respond directly to those statements, however, we first need to address a much more important issue. In recent days, a number of surfers, WSL judges, and employees have been subject to harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence, including death threats, as a direct result of those statements. Those things should never happen in our sport or any sport, and we’re devastated that members of our community have been subject to them. It is an important reminder to us all that words have consequences. We hope the entire WSL community stands with us in rejecting all forms of harassment and intimidation.
“In terms of the statements made, we completely reject the suggestion that the judging of our competitions is in any way unfair or biased. These claims are not supported by any evidence.
“Firstly, the judging criteria are provided to the athletes ahead of each competition. All athletes competing at the Surf Ranch Pro received these materials on May 20th. Every athlete had the opportunity to ask questions about the criteria at that time. None of the athletes who made these statements took advantage of this opportunity at the Surf Ranch Pro.
“Secondly, our rules allow any athlete to review the scoring of any wave, with the judges, and receive a more detailed explanation of how they were scored with the judges. This process has been in place for a number of years, and is the direct result of working with the surfers to bring more transparency to the judging process. It is not acceptable, and is a breach of league policy, for surfers to choose not to engage with the proper process and instead air grievances on social media.
“A number of athletes at the Surf Ranch Pro received points for elements such as progression and variety, so it is simply incorrect to suggest these are not taken into account in the judging criteria. Furthermore, our rules have been applied consistently throughout the season, including at events this season that were won by athletes who are now questioning those same rules.
“Surfing is an ever-evolving, subjective sport and we welcome a robust debate around the progression of our sport and the criteria used to judge our competitions. However, it is unacceptable for any athlete to question the integrity of our judges who, like our surfers, are elite professionals.
“No one person or group of people are above the integrity of the sport.”
For those who are interested, you can check out this side by side look at the waves of Colapinto and Ferreira in the final — by BeachGrit.com:
So, what’s next? Hopefully, this rift doesn’t tear the whole league apart.
The next stop (No. 7 of 11 events on the Championship Tour) is June 9-18 at the Surf City El Salvador Pro. Then it’s on to Brazil for the Vivo Rio Pro (June 23 to July 1), to South Africa for the Corona Open J-Bay (July 13-22), to Tahiti for the Shisheido Tahiti Pro at Teahupoo (Aug. 11-20), and to San Clemente for the Rip Curl WSL Finals at Lower Trestles (Sept. 8-16).
Yes, the schedule calls for the GREAT SURFING to continue. That in itself is the good news.
The hope from this vantage point is that somehow the WSL and its competitors and fans find the right wavelength to bring ALL PARTIES of this feud back into harmony — for the sake of the sport.
With his win at the Surf Ranch, Colapinto moved up the rankings three spots to No. 1.
After that event, Brazil’s Joao Chianco dropped a spot to No.2, and Toledo (the defending world champion) also went down one spot — to No. 3.
Medina, the world champion in 2014, 2017 and 2021, is No. 6, and Ferreira, the 2019 world champ, is No. 11.
Hawaii’s John John Florence, who won world titles in 2016 and 2017, is at No. 7.
Only the Top 5 surfers make it to the season’s final event at Lower Trestles, when the 2023 world title will be on the line.
ALSO AT BedrockSportsHawaii.com: