A modest proposal: Get rid of priority!

For preventing surf contests from becoming dull affairs and burdens to those watching at home.

The last two days worth of professional surfing have been very dreamy, no? The waves they pumped. The surfers they barreled. Joe Turpel, Pottz Potter, Raspberry, Ross n Ron “Dog” Blakey they treated us to smooth vocal stylings and we swallowed it whole chased, depending on where in the world you happen to live, with either booze or coffee.

But even swimming in that drunken/caffeinated wonder didn’t it seem that, somehow, it could have been more entertaining? Oh the surfing was spectacular and we got the champion we deserve at the end of it all, I don’t challenge the results at all. Gab Medina straight up outsurfed Kelly and JJF lost fair and square to Jeep Yellow Jersey Team Leader Matt Wilkinson.

But still. A slightly sour taste. And I think it has something to do with the priority rules. Let us first read from the official World Surf League rule book:

The surfer with priority has the unconditional right of way to catch any wave they choose. Other surfers in the heat can paddle for, and catch, the same wave, but only if they do not hinder the scoring potential of a surfer with priority. A surfer loses priority once they catch a wave and/or a surfer paddles for but misses a wave. If two or more surfers catch a wave, the first surfer to make it to the take-off zone will get priority.

It seems simple enough, and fair, except it somehow sucks the life out of heats. I suppose the WSL would hope it adds a layer of tactical fun but it doesn’t. It increases the chasm between “good surfing” and “contest surfing.” The distance Rory Parker refers to as “Deadball.”

And, therefore, I propose that it should be disappeared. Surfers in the wild take care of “priority” simply by positioning and a modicum of polite understanding. A gentleman’s agreement, more or less, that recognizes which surfer is in the best/right place.

When a surfer in the wild snakes, burns or otherwise mangles this native priority there are either screams or fights.

How amazing would it be for professional surfing to have a dash of professional hockey? Dream with me for a moment! Kelly Slater and Gabriel Medina sit out the back. Sets loom. They paddle around each other like jungle cats. Kelly gets slightly inside Gabe and puts his head down. Gabe, not wanting to roll over, puts his head down too and sends Kelly over the falls while getting a solid tube and score in the excellent range. Kelly paddles over to him and breaks his board and chases him around the lineup trying to punch his nose.

It would be pure entertainment! And there would be no complaints! If someone was a dick in the water, regularly snaking, the rest of the tour would eat him alive. Just like lineups around the world do with their bad actors.

I think the World Surf League should get rid of priority today. Connor Coffin agrees. Maybe Joel Parkinson does too.

Fiji Pro 2016

Just in: Gabriel Medina Wins Fiji Pro!

Torpedoes world number one Matt Wilkinson in final!

Finals day started with Medina and ADS. Plenty of swell, still a little unsteady from overnight.

Nothing too amazing. Solid surfing, Medina took the win.

Slater completely outclassed Wiggoly. No surprise. Velvet brown pate owns somewhere around three decades Cloudbreak experience. And Wiggly hasn’t exactly been on fire this event. Would’ve been out in Round three is Coffin hadn’t made an error.

Kelly drops “That one was for Michel and Connor” post heat. A little unfair. Wigs beat Bourez on points. Interference didn’t make a difference. Still funny though.

Kelly went on to pick apart his Dantas’s heat. Fucking grand. Slater has so much knowledge to share. I drink in his every word. About surfing.

But I’d be so pissed if I were on the receiving end. Especially because he’s right.

Ace Buchan deserved his win. Took out the wildcard in a solid workhorse heat. Good waves, great surfing. Nothing stupendous.

Quarterfinal four featured new found deadball devotee facing off with unbridled brilliance. I had a sick feeling in my stomach because I knew how it was gonna end.

JJ’s first wave was a foamy bumpy drainer a sane man wouldn’t look at, much less drag ass along and finish with a fuck consequences inside reo. Middle six score because it wasn’t a glassy cover shot.

Wilko answered back with a perfect beauty. Big pretty fucker. Sits just under cover the length of the ride. Better wave choice, less demonstration of ability. Gets a 7.73. Not ridden as well as John’s, but nicer looking. Putting focus on a different aspect of ability than I really like.

JJs second is a fins out sideways slide into hands off pump your heart out. Barely sneaks under the lip as it runs away. The positioning, technique, ability to read the barrel from the inside, is beyond beyond. Making me gush. Not the judges. 4.43.

Judges miss the finer points of JJs steez. They’re all about picking the best looking wave. And that should count for something, but less than performance. Latter takes practice, first partly luck.

JJ grabbed what could’ve been the best barrel of the event but can’t quite make it out. Needed an 8.13 with three minutes left. Wilko used priority sit on JJ in the dying minutes. Passed up a few good waves.

Won it with better wave selection and more tactical smarts. Which I knew would happen.

Medina and Slater at firing Cloudbreak. Fireworks. Or not.

Medina grabbed the lead with his second wave, a double barrel high speed chandeliering nightmare. Held it the rest of the heat.

Amusing moment when Medina Huntington hopped for a mile on a grower, only to have it stand up and shut down on him.

Slater was game, but just couldn’t make it happen. Missing a bit of his fairy dust, maybe.

Took off under the lip with five and a half left, needing an 8.18 and ate a big ol’ pile of shit. Clock running out fast, he needed a heat winner, and fast.

But it’s Slater, so he could grab a ten with two seconds left. He’s done it before. Multiple times. Just needs the ocean to send something his way.

Which Medina knows well, played hard tactics to beat. Used priority to burn Slater, maybe try to draw an interference with three minutes left. While Slater got worked, Gabby kicked out immediately, snuck back outside. Regained priority.

Interestingly, post heat with Rosie, Slater says he was trying to bait Medina into the wave. Fucked up his positioning. Totally his fault. So many mind games!

Gabe spent the last minute chasing Slater around the lineup, nipping at his heels up like a yipping little mutt.

Slater found the wave he needed, five seconds after the buzzer. Sick laybacklookback barrel with steam coming out of his ears.

I don’t like the new Wilko. Conservative, professional, consistent. Like running into some guy you used to party with and he’s a local bank assistant manager with three ugly children and a stress induced hairline. And he’s totally happy, which is what makes it even worse.

Slow affair. Wilko gets a solid score early, then not much. Both guys get caught inside by a set and spend some time paddling. Buchan catches his first wave just past the midway point. Good barrel to carve/top turn combo. 7.83 puts him in the lead, but Wilkobot only needed a 2.44. Which he outdid easily on his next wave. 7.5 Holds on to it.

Wilkobot/Gabby Final. But first a break while they eat snacks. Kelly’s nibbling on some sort of fruit. Mango? Oranges? Hard to tell.

Maybe it’s just me, but yesterday was a tad better.

Finals started off with a failed barrel apiece, then a big set rolling through the lineup. Medina forced Wilko to use priority, then they get caught out of position again by a big crumbly set. Pretty boring.

Wilko eventually grabbed a nothing and did some good turns, HUGE re-entry. Low score but more than enough for the lead.

But not for long as Medina found a long and deep one to big Curran-esque alley oop to fakie back flop recovery. Which, funnily enough, I remember one of the commentators talking about yesterday.

Then Medina caught fire and ran away. 7.33 for the air wave. Grabs a very big and long and crimped number after that, comes out with a claim for an 8.27. Very out of character for the Brazilian Iceman.

Wilko in a combo with ten remaining attempted to imitate Medina’s last and couldn’t make it.

Then another big set swings wide, third time this heat, and mows them both down. Breaks Medina’s leash. Funny stuff.

In the end there’s not much Wilko can do. Media takes the win. Moves to second place on the ‘CT. Some yobbo holds on to first.

Fiji Pro Final Results:
1 – Gabriel Medina (BRA) 15.60
2 – Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 6.34

Fiji Pro Semifinal Results:
SF 1: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 14.67 def. Kelly Slater (USA) 12.03
SF 2: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 13.33 def. Adrian Buchan (AUS) 12.00

Fiji Pro Quarterfinal Results:
QF 1: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 10.86 def. Adriano de Souza (BRA) 8.83
QF 2: Kelly Slater (USA) 18.70 def. Wiggolly Dantas (BRA) 9.40
QF 3: Adrian Buchan (AUS) 14.60 def. Mick Fanning (AUS) 13.40
QF 4: Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 14.63 def. John John Florence (HAW) 10.93

WSL Jeep Leaderboard Top 5 (after Fiji Pro):

Matt Wilkinson (AUS) 32,500 pts

Gabriel Medina (BRA) 24,000 pts

John John Florence (HAW) 23,900 pts

Italo Ferreira (BRA) 20,500 pts

Adriano de Souza (BRA) 20,400 pts

Man bites shark! Shark bites man!

Who is at fault? Who cares! It's great viewing!

I know that you are watching the Fiji Pro right now. Matt Wilkinson is so tired! Gabe Medina is so not! But it is any man’s game. And real quick, is Matt Wilkinson better than John John Florence? This should have been JJF’s day, right? Big throaty tubes? Scared everyone else? But Matt drilled him twice.

And is today’s Gabe Medina better than Kelly Slater in his prime? Let’s deal with that tomorrow. But for right now, before we crown Gabe Medina champion of the Fiji Pro, watch this!

A spearfishing diver goes out and, I think, shoots a shark. Do you spearfish? I wish I did but don’t. Rory Parker does and does it often, I feel. I asked him what equipment I should buy when I was in the Red Sea last and he gave very good advice.

In any case, the shark proceeds to bite the man. How many times do you get to see that? Not many. You hear many and read many but not see many. Does it change your “If I get attacked by a shark…” strategy?

Stop looking at me! Look at the waves!
Stop looking at me! Look at the waves! | Photo: WSL

Watch Now: Finals Day at Fiji Pro!

It's voluptuous!

Are you at work, in bed, perhaps coiled into the curvy gams of an utterly nude sweetie, the yellow glow of sunrise peering into your room?

Shuck work, shuck bed pal, and flip open your phone, your laptop.

Because it’s quarter-final, semi final and, soon, finals time at the Fiji Pro and Cloudbreak is selling its body!

Gabriel just beat Adriano.

Right now, Kelly Slater is swinging into hands-free tubes hither and yon.

It’s a Gabriel, Kelly semi.

Ace Buchan beats Mick Fanning!

Wilko beats John John for the second time in two days!

Ace v Wilko, second semi.

Come, click, watch! It’s the best event all year! 


The Gra Stapelberg Academy™

For Excellence in Surf Journalism!

Three months ago I suggested that the surf journalists of the world should form an academy and awards worthy of our high calling. That honored our very important craft. I have thought much about it since then and would like to officially announce The Graham Stapelberg Academy for Excellence in Surf Journalism™

The categories for consideration are:

The Brodie Carr Award for Best Contest Reportage

The Sam George Award for Being Unnecessarily Poetic 

The Richard M. Nixon Award for Best Headline

The Billabong Award for Best (biggest) Industry Schill

The Negatron Award for Best Commenter

The George Clooney Award for Best Profile

The Zach Weisberg Award for Best Story about Avocados/Surfing Pugs

Story of the Year

Editor of the Year

Lifetime Achievement

It is an edge-of-the-seat affair that depends on your input! Who would you like to see holding a coveted Grahmmie™ at the end of the night? Who would you like to heap praise upon? Some names to mull…

Steve Shearer

Matt Warshaw

Rory Parker

Jed Smith

Brendon Buckley

Taylor Paul

Morgan Williamson

Nick Carroll

Cori Schumacher

Sean Doherty

Tim Baker

Sam George

Marcus Sanders

Joel Patterson

Chris Cote

Tell us below! The Grahmmies™ will be announced to the world on July 4th.