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Wed, 18 April 2018

There have been mixed reactions to the decision to cancel the Margaret River Pro after two surfers were mauled by sharks 6km from the contest beach, writes Spike.

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SHARKY: We all know when the last event was cancelled, July 2015. Photo WSL / Cestari

CEO Sophie Goldschmidt sent a letter to surfers informing them of the cancellation of the remainder of the 2018 Margaret River Pro, the third event 3 on of the 2018 WSL Championship Tour, after two local surfers were mauled at two spots about six kilometres from Main Break, the contest venue.

The cancellation will see points distributed per the WSL rulebook, but organisers may complete the men's and women's events later this year at a location to be decided.

"Exceptional and unique circumstances surrounding this season’s event with regards to sharks and the safety of our surfers."The two shark incidents took place within hours of each other in the same area. Alejandro Travaglini, 37, apparently bodysurfed to shore at Cobblestones beach with help from another local after a mauling by a great white between 3.6m and 4.2m in size. He required surgery to his legs. Jason Longrass, 41, was able to walk to an ambulance after he was bitten on the leg at nearby Lefthanders. The WSL is calling their move the "result of exceptional and unique circumstances surrounding this season’s event with regards to sharks and the safety of our surfers".

“The WSL puts the highest premium on safety,” Goldschmidt wrote. “This cannot be just talk, and it cannot be compromised. Surfing is a sport that carries various forms of risk, and is unique in that wild animals inhabit our performance environment. Sharks are an occasional reality of WSL competitions, and of surfing in general. Everyone associated with our sport knows that.

"There have been incidents in the past - and it’s possible that there will be incidents in the future - which did not (and will not) result in the cancellation of an event. However, current circumstances are very unusual and troubling, and we have decided that the elevated risk during this season’s Margaret River Pro has crossed the threshold for what is acceptable.” (Full letter here)


SHARKY SPOT: Margaret River is known as a shark magnet with many sightings. Photo WSL

According to a report by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC), Gabriel Medina was happy. Of course he was. The Brazilian, along with Italo Ferreira, said he did not feel safe surfing in the area, going so far as to say Margaret River was "the most dangerous place to surfing in the world" and he would probably not return.

However, the cynics might say that Medina is just hedging his bets. According to the ABC, the Margaret River Pro was under threat anyway. The event had "one more year left on its current deal and its long-term future was under threat even before this week".

"Probably the [big] waves they surfed on the first day of the event were a lot riskier than the possibility of a shark attack"Former CT surfer Taj Burrow, who lives in nearby Yallingup, was critical of the cancellation, saying it would be devastating for the local economy. He said that he thought the risk was "so minimal".

"Probably the [big] waves they surfed on the first day of the event were a lot riskier than the possibility of a shark attack. It's just one of the things that comes with surfing and competing in the ocean. It's obviously safer in the competition area because they've got a few options for spotting sharks. It's very well monitored," he told ABC. Kelly Slater apparently agreed with Burrow.

According to the ABC, "WA Tourism Minister Paul Papalia said he was disappointed but supported the decision, and said organisers had assured the State Government they would return next year. He said the Government expected to recover the cost of its sponsorship of the event through insurance."

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SHARKY MOMENT: Julian Wilson and Fanning hug after the J-Bay shark incident. Photo WSL / Cestari

Kieren Perrow, WSL Commissioner, said. “Safety is our top priority and this is the right call given the circumstances. We’ve closely assessed the situation, spoke with the athletes, Water Safety, local authorities and reviewed as much information as possible. Margaret River is a fantastic part of the world, but the presence of actively aggressive sharks and beached whales this season have convinced us that this is the correct course of action.”

“It’s a really difficult decision as the surfers love coming here,” Sage Erickson, WSL CT Surfer and Women’s Representative, said. “It’s beautiful, the waves are amazing and the community is very supportive of professional surfing. That said, the situation this season is really challenging and a number of surfers don’t feel safe. I know it isn’t an easy decision, but we really appreciate the amount of information and discussion that went into it.”

“Sharks are something we will continually deal with every time we surf and we accept that risk,” Adrian Buchan, WSL CT Surfer and Men’s Representative, said. “Given the extenuating circumstances of dead whale carcasses, multiple attacks and increased sightings, I'm fully supportive of the WSL's stance to put Surfers safety before all else. South West WA is one of my favourite places to visit and part of its allure is the raw beauty and feeling of being close to nature. I'm really feeling for the local community and look forward to to being back soon.”

Looks like Jordy Smith and Mikey February won't be surfing against each other in Round 3 after all. This would have been the first time they have ever faced off against each other on the CT.

Margaret River Women’s Pro Quarterfinal Matchups
QF 1: Carissa Moore (HAW) vs. Tatiana Weston-Webb (HAW)
QF 2: Stephanie Gilmore (AUS) vs. Bronte Macaulay (AUS)
QF 3: Nikki Van Dijk (AUS) vs. Johanne Defay (FRA)
QF 4: Tyler Wright (AUS) vs. Lakey Peterson (USA)

Margaret River Men’s Pro Round 3 Matchups
Heat 1: Owen Wright (AUS) vs. Keanu Asing (HAW)
Heat 2: Kolohe Andino (USA) vs. Jesse Mendes (BRA)
Heat 3: Jordy Smith (ZAF) vs. Michael February (ZAF)
Heat 4: Italo Ferreira (BRA) vs. Michael Rodrigues (BRA)
Heat 5: Sebastian Zietz (HAW) vs. Conner Coffin (USA)
Heat 6: Julian Wilson (AUS) vs. Kael Walsh (AUS)
Heat 7: Gabriel Medina (BRA) vs. Jack Robinson (AUS)
Heat 8: Michel Bourez (PYF) vs. Connor O’Leary (AUS)
Heat 9: Adriano de Souza (BRA) vs. Willian Cardoso (BRA)
Heat 10: Filipe Toledo (BRA) vs. Yago Dora (BRA)
Heat 11: Joel Parkinson (AUS) vs. Joan Duru (FRA)
Heat 12: John John Florence (HAW) vs. Mikey Wright (AUS)


0 #1 MrPieter1 2018-04-20 07:38
"the most dangerous place to surfing in the world" and he would probably not return.' You would expect this unsportsman-like comment from Gabriel Medina. Just stick to the wavepool you wuss!
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