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Italo Ferreira aerial surfing

Italo Ferreira, about to get banged over the head by a judge’s gavel. Image: WSL/Screenshot

The Inertia

At the Rip Curl Narrabeen Classic, in the sixteenth round, Italo Ferreira fell victim to the harshest of critics: surf judges. As happens so often in surfing events, Ferreira’s heat against Conner Coffin came down to the thinnest of wires. But — and this is an opinion piece, remember — Italo Ferreira got robbed harder than a Point Break bank. Before we go any further, you should watch the wave in question. Here, watch this:

Now, I love Conner Coffin’s surfing. It’s markedly different than Italo’s. It’s controlled and powerful; less bells and whistles and more fundamentals. Italo’s surfing, however, is still incredible. Frenetic. Fast-paced. Surprising. He routinely manages to do impossible things on a surfboard. Those are just opinions, though, the same as if someone likes pineapple on pizza.

It comes down to taste, and my taste leans towards Coffin’s surfing (and pineapples). But man oh man, did Italo get the rug pulled out from under him when the judges looked at an aerial that — in my opinion, anyway — was so clearly completed there wasn’t even a question in my mind about whether it was completed or not. Until, that is, the judges smashed him over the head with their gavels.

“Did he make the air? Yes. Did he make the wave? No,” said Richie Lovett, (who, by the way, designed one of the best surfboards I’ve ever ridden), as he was rewatching the air in question. “He got to the landing here and he stands up, but the momentum of the wave didn’t carry him along. He didn’t ride out of the foam. I know I’m sort of sitting on the fence on this one, but I think it’s a good answer: he made the air but he didn’t make the wave.”

The judges, in their infinite wisdom, gave Ferreira a horrendously low score of 1.77. Ferreira needed a 5.00 to take the lead, and who knows what might’ve happened if he got it. I’m not saying he deserved a 5.00, but 1.77? That’s strangely low. Take, for example, Kelly Slater’s famous non-make/make at the Lowers event back in 2015. He clearly didn’t land his attempt. He landed on his stomach, then got back to his feet. The score he was awarded? A 4.17.

Surely, Italo’s wave is worth at least more than a measly 1.77. For another example, have a look at Medina’s 1.43 in the third round— a wave so clearly not even close to being made it couldn’t even be considered.

I know, I know. Surf contests are judged according the waves at that particular moment in time and can’t really be compared to other waves in other contests. But there should be at least some semblance similarity, shouldn’t there?

I’m not quite done with my examples, either. Round of 16. Morgan Cibilic versus John John Florence. A very large backhand tail blow followed by the lip hitting Cibilic in the back and taking him out. He did not make the wave, but he was rewarded with a 4.73 for his efforts.

Despite the fact that Italo had a short moment of rage smashing, he seems to be just fine with the decision. “This could discourage anyone,” he wrote in Portuguese on Instagram. “But not me! I turn the fuck on and move on to the next one!”

So when it comes to Italo Ferreira’s “non-make,” I call bullshit. Maybe it’s not a score in the excellent range, but it sure as hell deserved more than a 1.73. As much as I love Coffin’s surfing, Italo was the better surfer in that heat.


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