Via a webcast far, far away.
Viewing an entire event on webcast is going to give a certain perspective, and sometimes it can be a little bit jaundiced. Here are some things noticed while watching the Quiksilver Pro solely via screen-time.
The scoring has changed.
When Perry Hatchett left as head judge, there was much exuberance, as some surfers, and other interested parties felt injustice had been wrought upon them throughout his tenure. If this was justified exuberance as a result of victimisation, or paranoid impugning, we’ll never know. It’s a very difficult job is Championship Tour head judge, and the legacy of such a position is short lived.
Richie Porta was always amiable, he was open to discussion, and when asked, he would validate any and all calls made by the judges. The surfers liked him, and he had a good rapport with the public via the webcast team. He surfed. He also paddled out whenever he had a gap, to go and get a few.
However, he did have a tendency to leave himself boxed in at times with high scores. It first came to attention at the Oakley Pro Bali 2013 when Parko picked up a 10-point ride during one classic day at a classic event. It seemed a well deserved 10-pointer. Until he paddled for the next wave, that is. This wave was slightly bigger, he rode deeper, and he sat in the tube for a lot longer. It was way better than his first 10, so it was awarded another 10. Slater was heard saying that the judges had left themselves with nowhere to go.
It carried on from there, and without any conspiracy theory, the highest score was too achievable. At JBay last year the 10’s were raining down. They seemed within everyone’s reach.
Just over a decade ago the International Gymnastics Association found itself stuck in a similar position, and they immediately scrapped the 10-based system, opting for a convoluted judging system that no longer allows for perfection. While the WSL hasn't opted for such strong changes, they have made some changes.
New head judge Pritamo Ahrendt has raised the scoring ceiling. In a previous head judge’s reign, Jordy Smith’s ride against Michael Rodrigues in Round 3 Heat 12 would have gotten the score required, which is why Mr Smith threw his fist in the air after the ride. Two massive power hooks and a closeout re entry on the outside, as well as a series of carves and turns on the inside with a great finish would have seen him post north of the target 8.77. Instead he was awarded an 8.17, and shown the door.
Is this low-score syndrome a good thing? In the long run it is. Surfers are going to have to go harder to get the big scores. Griffin’s 10-point ride in the quarters took three tubes on one Kirra bomb to get the score.
The old guard is tired
Slater (46) is sore, Fanning (36) is done, Parko (36) is waning, Bede (35) has gone, Adriano (31) is stiff and it seems no one is going to mourn these surfers’ fading. It was the legendary four times World Champ runner-up Australian surfer Cheyne Horan (58), who once upon a time mentioned that with surfing, as with many things in life, ‘there is a time to get in, and then there is a time to get out.’ Fanning has acknowledged this, and has chosen his time to leave. With one more event to go, Mick might only have two more heats in his career before he hands over the keys to Eugene (36). We wait to see what Slater is going to do, and hope he’ll stick around for the year. We wait to see what Parko is going to do. Ace however, is still going strong at 35, so there is that.
The events are tighter
With the elimination of round 5, the Championship Tour event has lost a little bit of the drag, the non-elimination rounds that seem to just stretch an event into the abyss of too-long running time.
In practice it’s only 2 hours less competition time, but in perspective there is a lot more going on. Round four is way tenser. This change saw Fanning eliminated, along with Mikey Wright, Kanoa and ADS. It’s a game changer in the most positive way. If the WSL follow on from here and utilise the Kelly Slater overlap system, then it is a sea change to the way events will be looked at going forward. The events could be run off within one swell window, and there could be less wasted waves at perfect locations like Supertubes, and Pipe, in 219.
Nothing much else
With all sorts of talk about enhanced and innovative viewers interaction, VIP headsets and other such tomfoolery, it’s still Joey and Pottz trying desperately to make dead-time or ‘paddle-against-the-impossible-rip’ time more interesting, and to contemplate their navels as Joey endlessly addresses Pottz as ‘former world champion Martin Potter” while competitors bob around waiting for waves.
Turpell and Pottz are great, but they sure do have a challenging job at times, and the changes to the WSL have as of yet not filtered much down to the web commentators, through no fault of their own. These commentators are actually the most vital links to the viewing public.