Long way to a ham sandwich but maybe food for thought!
Dear WSL Elite,
If I were surfing’s equivalent of a social justice warrior I would certainly demand a recount on the dimpled/hanging chad of the Italo/Kolohe final at Snapper. I would demand that your judges reconvene and rewind the tape and recount every drop of water displaced to right the injustice of scoring because my guy didn’t win. I would call you racist against Californians and hold my breath and start some half-ass hashtag that only covers one side of this issue in an attempt to drum up a narrative. Something like #OhBrother or #NotMySnapperChamp. Seeing how well that has gone for the far right and the far left in politics, I am here to take a kinder and more gentle approach to push for change.
What Snapper highlighted was something we already knew about your judging, it is objective. Objectivity is a strange beast as it cannot be distilled down into quantifiable inputs backed by non-biased data. It can be distilled into a number based on rules and criteria, but “that’s like your opinion, man” [said in my best Tommy Chong voice]. I don’t often have a problem with this. It works in the Olympics. It works in the X-Games. That being said, the World Tour is a completely different beast.
Unlike the Olympics, the World Tour is a string of events and the objectivity in judging has its obvious flaws when a judge is asked to pretend that every wave they are seeing is a single instance of performance. You are asking judges to continually forget performance in previous events and ignore title implications. You are asking judges to do what they can not- to turn off being human, shut down their memory, avoid creating a narrative, and avoid picking a team to root for.
Also, from what I am to understand, the Judges do not have any term limits and there are no conditions on how long they can remain in their role. You have essentially appointed an unelected surfocracy whereby we, as fans, are expected to never question the rulings of any of your panel and take their objectivity at face value. As we have seen throughout the annals of time, any non-elected body with an indefinite or permanent residency in a position of power often undermines the trust of the people. ***Cough Big Banking*** Cough CEOS*** Cough SCOTUS*** Almost every time someone tells you to trust them blindly, they are not worthy of trust and you, WSL, are rapidly approaching that inflection point. Your judging panel presents the same problem. Over time, your judges may be emboldened with power and may feel as if any questioning of their absolute power of determination of the World Title victor as a usurping of their divine gift of wave scoring.
I myself have found myself questioning calls over the years and know others have as well. I have seen online demands for a restructuring of the scoring, but will not push for change as radical as I feel that would be the functional equivalent of surfing’s Green New Deal- well-intentioned but ruinous to most of the things we hold dear. Instead, I would like to propose six-year “term limits” on CT judges (and Supreme Court Justices if anybody in the Judicial Branch of the US Federal government is reading). Moreover, I would like to propose that you create a bigger pool of Judges (you too SCOTUS) that are assigned, at random, to CT and QS events so each event is judged by a panel of divergent viewpoints and opinions.
Another further recommendation we the surfers would like to make is to remove the judges from the beach entirely and send them videos of the scoring waves to a clandestine war-room where they have to score in a vacuum, away from the energy and excitement of a crowd that can sway a decision. To pretend that Judges aren’t human and incapable of being swayed by an uproar of excitement from the beach is not only misguided, but it is also unfair to the judges who are being asked to make a fair and objective scoring evaluation in an environment filled with cheers, jeers, cowbells, and applause.
To your credit, this style of judging worked great for many years. Those around my age will remember getting snippets of contests from ABC World Wide of Sports or getting results weeks later in a magazine. We weren’t with you there. We didn’t have a live feed. We weren’t privy to live last-minute heroics or a swinging insider that could upend a likely heat winners victory. We had no reason to question you. But times have changed, and now, what was once a news feed is now a jetstream of bullshit and negativity that pushes to us a new negative headline every seven minutes. We have fun depression inducers in our pocket with apps where we can hide behind the anonymity of bravado and call each other “cucks” and “morons” without ever having to face the likelihood of getting socked in the mouth. That being said, you gave us these contests to watch live, and now that we have the full picture and can rewatch and dissect- you’re under the microscope and we have opinions about your opinions. We share our opinions on social media. The surfing community is not the shaggy hair stoners in a parking lot at the beach anymore; it is global, it is interconnected and online. As a result of all of the above, we talk and we’re all talking about you.
Any effort you make to increase the subjectivity and decrease the objectivity of your judging would be greatly appreciated, but I know you probably won’t listen. Also, I really understand how ironic it is that I am writing a letter to the WSL to ask them to change something that literally has no bearing on my day-to-day life and is frankly unimportant in the grand scheme of things but hey, I am a surfer who essentially blows off obligations to play in the ocean on a glorified pool toy, so from where I am sitting, this is pretty much par for the course.
What do you have to lose though? If you do it, you get to essentially tell a bunch of grumpy locals to go pound sand for complaining. If you don’t, well, we’re just going to sit here and whine, because as I eluded to before, surfers are pretty much children- especially those of us who watch contests.
Long way to a ham sandwich but maybe food for thought.
THE ANIMAL CHIN