The first wave of the heat saw Toledo getting an interference call. Now, he's been suspended from the Fiji event.

The first wave of the heat saw Toledo getting an interference call. Now, he’s been suspended from the Fiji event. Image: WSL

The Inertia

Filipe Toledo has the right to be upset. He’s been suspended for the upcoming Outerknown Fiji Pro after “storming’ the judges’ tower in Rio. This came after Toledo was called for an interference penalty in his Round Three heat against Kanoa Igarashi, a call he obviously disagreed with.

This is really a tale of two calls, the first being the interference ruling by the judges. This one was really close, with both surfers battling at the peak before taking off. Kanoa was ruled to have a better position, thus Filipe was saddled with the interference. An interference call all but automatically loses a heat for a surfer.

This particular call was dicey, and it could have been easily avoided if heats began with one surfer having priority. This is something that the WSL should consider, perhaps awarding the higher-ranked surfer with priority to begin the heat. It would help avoid mix-ups like this one.

The second call, the decision to suspend Toledo, is the one that really irks me. There seems to be no footage of the “incident” where Toledo “storms” the judges’ tower, but how bad could it be? We’re not talking Teddy Duchamp’s dad at Normandy here. We’re talking about a 150-pound kid running toward a group of judges. Was he angry? Of course. Does this warrant a suspension? No way.


Toledo let his emotions get the best of him, but that’s understandable. I know I was a little on the excitable side when I was 22, and I expect most people can relate to that. Add in the fact that Toledo’s outburst came at the only WCT event that is held in his native country and you’ve got a young man that is disappointed that he won’t be able to compete for the title in front of his home crowd. Who wouldn’t be upset?

The WSL’s rhetoric is as follows:

“Unfortunately for Toledo, the penalties for that kind of violation are clear, and officials have little wiggle room. Toledo has been fined and suspended, and will not be allowed to compete in Fiji. While both sides are obviously disappointed by this turn of events, the WSL is grateful that Toledo has offered his apologies to fans, sponsors and the WSL.”

So the WSL is following the letter of their own law. While that’s all fine and dandy, what it really means is that this rule is flawed. “Storming” (I still can’t get over how over-the-top this word choice is) the judging tower should not automatically result in a suspension for the next ‘CT event. If there’s little wiggle room in the rule book, create some so we can avoid this situation in the future. I could understand a suspension if he put his hands on a judge or something, but it seems a bit ridiculous to dole out this penalty for what is essentially “approaching while angry.”

Athletes in other sports interact with officials all the time, often conveying their displeasure about a call face to face. Basketball players constantly bark at refs on the court, as do baseball players with umpires. They can be assessed for penalties when they’re too aggressive, but it rarely amounts to a suspension unless it really gets out of control.

We don’t know all the details regarding Toledo’s actions, but I’ve read nothing to suggest he reached a level of behavior warranting such a harsh punishment. Luckily for the WSL, we’re not heading into one of Toledo’s signature events. Still, depriving Toledo of surfing in Fiji seems like a felony punishment for a misdemeanor crime. The WSL should take a look at the two rules involved here and consider making some changes.


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