The Margaret River Pro was canceled last week but who's fault was it?
The Oi Rio Pro kicks off in just a two short weeks and can you even wait? Are you thrilled? I would imagine these days are going by very slowly for the powers at The World Surf League. The dust has almost settled from the near blanket coverage of the decision to cancel the Margaret River Pro. While, at some level, all exposure is good exposure, I’m sure the slight whiff of incompetence that accompanies the stories is… uncomfortable.
Uncomfortable and maybe sometimes downright painful. For yesterday, Western Australia’s leading newspaper published a story examining the reasons for the cancellation and concluded that it was mostly Brazilian surfer Gabriel Medina’s doing. Let’s read the choicest bits.
In an inflammatory post that day on his Instagram account, which has six million followers, Medina said he did not feel safe training or competing in Margaret River and he wanted his opinion known “before it’s too late”.
Remaining heats for the day were postponed, with surfers advised not to go in the water until the situation improved.
The decision (to ultimately cancel) is understood to have blind-sided the contest’s organisers at Surfing WA, who had spent the previous 36 hours doing everything they could to assuage the WSL’s concerns.
Among the measures they had proposed was a virtual armada of jet-skis, as well as extra drones to monitor the water and safety staff on standby for anything that might happen.
Nothing they could do would change the course.
In a further blow, Medina shortly after the announcement doubled down on his attack on the Pro, declaring he would “probably not come” to the event in 2019, even though it has another year on its current contract as a WCT contest.
The remarks are believed to have infuriated those who had worked miracles to keep the Margaret River Pro on the elite world tour.
Medina’s outburst dredged up memories of similar behaviour at the event in 2015, when the then reigning world champ refused to surf his heat at a break known as the Box, holding up the entire contest and its broadcast.
He would eventually surf the heat under threat of sanction from the WSL, before losing to local wildcard Jay Davies.
Mention was also made of the poll among WCT surfers about whether to return to Jeffreys Bay in 2016, when Medina was one of only two to vote against it.
Kelly Slater, the 11-time American world champ, this week mused about whether Medina’s real motive for attacking Margaret River might have a competitive edge.
The 24-year-old has a poor record at the stop, routinely finishing near the bottom of the draw.
By contrast, his great rival for the world title, Hawaiian prodigy John John Florence, excels at the event, having won there twice and proclaiming it one of his favourite stops on the tour.
“There are a few theories about who did and didn’t want to surf and the larger effects on the (world) rankings,” Slater said.
“The most vocal against haven’t had a great record at Margs so we can only be left to wonder if that played into the fear of surfing.”
Brazil is one of the world’s biggest surfing markets but, perhaps more importantly for the WSL, it is also a vital growth market, with a huge and increasingly surf-mad population.
Oooooeee! You catch all that? As the theory goes, Medina is not only too chicken to surf in Western Australia but also nastily undercutting his biggest competition at the same time. Such power for such a cleanly shaven man.
But you. What do you think? Is Gabriel Medina completely to blame or just a very easy scapegoat?