Fri, 20 December 2019

Italo Fereirra is the world champion, but seldom in the history of surfing have more people had more at stake in one day, but that was still a dick move by Medina, writes Spike.

The WSL finale - the Billabong Pipe Masters - began with five surfers fighting for the world title, Olympic selections on the line and the small matter of a Vans Triple Crown to be decided. The payoff line that I thought was so glib, "every heat is history" kind of lived up to its hype. Emotions were high, hoisted into the limelight by a heartless moment of ruthless dickness in the Round of 16.

It almost overshadowed Ferreira's maiden double win, Kelly Slater's Triple Crown, and comeback kid John John Florence's slipping into the US Olympics surfing team a hair's breadth ahead of Slater. In fact, look at the headlines and it does. That of course was how Gabriel Medina burned Caio Ibelli with 30 seconds left in their heat to crucially remain in the world title hunt.

According to the rules, Medina ends the year 6thFortuitously, fate dealt the right hand in the end, perhaps gatvol of the numerous and mounting incidents of schmuckish behaviour this year. Karma prevailed. Medina was denied. He will depart Hawaii with some soul-searching ... hopefully, perhaps. Not. The big question is: Will the WSL abide by Rule 171.11 of its performance manual on "Serious Unsportsmanlike Interference"? If they did, Medina would lose his best result. Losing one of his two titles this year would drop him below Filipe Toledo, who would replace him in Brazil's team for the Olympics. Jordy would be 2nd. According to the rules, Medina ends the year 6th.

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INAUGURAL WIN: The waves improved all through the event until this winner. Photo WSL / Heff

“This might have been one of the cleverest tactical maneuvers we’ve ever seen in the history of the sport” some media gushed, quoting commentator Barton Lynch. FuelTV added #pipemaster to their Tweet. Pipe Master? Pipe Shyster more like. Is that what surfing has become? Ag please man. Still, it did bring a litte more excitement into the relentlessly gladatorial ethos that drives this League. Money makes the barrel go round.

You could say that you can't blame a person who uses the system to their advantage. Blame the structure, not the man. But does the ethos of good sportsmanship still hold sway in this digitised world of professional sport, which gets tighter, more hard-ass and somehow more desparately obsessed with winning?

To those who don't understand Medina's dick move, with 30 seconds to go in their knockout heat, this is how it works. If Surfer 1 has priority, Surfer 2 may not take the wave Surfer 1 wants. However, a loophole in the rules makes it possible for Surfer 2 to do that. He just have has to face the concomitant penalty.

  HIS DOUBLE DICKNESS: Medina has a history of being a dick when it comes to Caio Ibelli

That penalty is to lose your second highest score. This however, was of no consequence, which is why people are calling it "a genius move". Medina had a two wave score of 6.30, comprising a 4.23 and a 2.07. Even without his second score, Medina still easily finished ahead of Ibelli’s terrible two-wave total of 1.13. The burn gave Medina the win.

Even if his best wave was culled from the tally, Medina would have won 2.07 to 1.13 (just in case you like me immediately thought the censure should be the top score for that kind of interference). However, as Beachgrit pointed out, it goes deeper that that, and surely worthy of a chat amongst the discipline director and the commissioner's office?

Medina admitted the burn, saying "that’s a rule in the book. I used it to my advantage.” Surely then, Rule 171.11 of the WSL performance manual will apply, which basically covers "Serious Unsportsmanlike Interference". This rule states that if the interference "was intentional, unsportsmanlike and of a serious nature" ... "a Surfer will lose the benefit of counting their best Event result when calculating their Ranking on the relevant Tour".

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GOOD COP: Italo Ferreira represents the good side of Brazilian surfing. Photo WSL / Sloane

Anyway, as of writing, Medina appears to have escaped further censure. The rankings remain: 1. Fereira 2. Medina 3. Jordy Smith.

John John Florence qualifies for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics even though he lost in the quarterfinal to Medina. This enables him to scrape his season points into a total that sneaks him into the team ahead of Slater. It was intense day. You had the sense of histroy being made, well, at every heat.

King Kelly would have ended his career with a unique jewel in his crownHad Slater beat Ferreira in their semi-final, Slater would have made the US team. He would have also surfed against Medina in the final. Two of the three big moments could have been decided right there in that semi-final. Medina or Slater would have been the champ. King Kelly would have ended his career with a unique jewel in his crown: 11 titles + one Olympics. Still, at least the 47-year-old ballie takes his third Triple Crown title as consolation ... which is still pretty sweet. After all, he hasn't won a Triple Crown in 21 years.

But you have to feel for him. Surfing in the Olympics would have rounded off his career beautifully, and enforce his legacy as the greatest surfer of all time. It would probably put the dinner table debate beyond doubt as the greatest ever ... in any sport. I have heard this increasingly of late, even among oft-cynical sport scribes. Florence joins Kolohe Andino in the two-man US Olympic team (men).

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WITHOUT THE HAT: Gabby Medina has a hunger that oversteps the mark. Photo WSL / Heff

Provisional Olympics qualifiers
USA – Kolohe Andino and John John Florence
Australia – Owen Wright and Julian Wilson
Brasil – Italo Ferreira and Gabriel Medina
France – Jeremy Flores and Michel Bourez
South Africa – Jordy Smith
Japan – Kanoa Igarashi

USA - Carissa Moore and Caroline Marks
Australia - Sally Fitzgibbons and Stephanie Gilmore
Francs - Johanne Defay (FRA)
Brazil - Tatiana Weston-Webb and Silvana Lima
Costa Rica - Brisa Hennessy

Billabong Pipe Masters Final
1 – Italo Ferreira (BRA) 15.56
2 – Gabriel Medina (BRA) 12.94

Billabong Pipe Masters Semifinal
SF 1: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 14.77 DEF. Kelly Slater (USA) 2.57
SF 2: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 13.00 DEF. Griffin Colapinto (USA) 7.10

Billabong Pipe Masters Quarterfinal
QF 1: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 15.66 DEF. Yago Dora (BRA) 13.50
QF 2: Kelly Slater (USA) 12.94 DEF. Jack Freestone (AUS) 9.26
QF 3: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 17.63 DEF. John John Florence (HAW) 12.33
QF 4: Griffin Colapinto (USA) 9.84 DEF. Michel Bourez (FRA) 8.77

Men’s 2019 WSL CT Jeep Leaderboard
1 – Italo Ferreira (BRA) 59,740 pts
2 – Gabriel Medina (BRA) 56,475 pts
3 – Jordy Smith (ZAF) 49,985 pts
4 – Filipe Toledo (BRA) 49,145 pts
5 – Kolohe Andino (USA) 46,655 pts

Billabong Pipe Masters Semifinal Results
SF 1: Italo Ferreira (BRA) 14.77 DEF. Kelly Slater (USA) 2.57
SF 2: Gabriel Medina (BRA) 13.00 DEF. Griffin Colapinto (USA) 7.10

Vans Triple Crown of Surfing Top 5
1 – Kelly Slater (USA) 13,900 pts
2 – Ethan Ewing (AUS) 13,750 pts
3 – Michel Bourez (FRA) 12,700 pts
4 – Ezekiel Lau (HAW) 12,600 pts
5 – Frederico Morais (PRT) 12,200 pts

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