Yesterday, an aggressive instance of tactical interference went down at the ISA World Junior Championship in El Salvador. Though the attempt was thwarted, today the Portuguese Surfing Federation and the athlete responsible have issued formal statements apologizing for the incident.

The drama took place in the final minute of heat three in repechage round five for the women’s under-18 event. Two Portuguese surfers, Erica Maximo and Maria Salgado, were up against Australian Willow Hardy and Costa Rican Rachel Agüero. With the final minute ticking down, Agüero had a firm lead, Salgado was in second and Hardy was just behind her, a mere .4 points away. Below them was Maximo, who was all but out of the race with a 2.13 deficit. Only the top two would advance to the next round.

At the 50-second mark, Hardy took off on a wave, hoping to get the 2.4 score she needed to overtake Salgado. However, as seen in the video above, Maximo swooped in, burned Hardy and then continued to attempt to block her from surfing. The altercation appears to have been a dogged attempt to prevent Hardy from overtaking the other Portuguese surfer. The tactic didn’t work, though, as Hardy scored a 2.7, and Maximo was disqualified for her efforts.

Today, the Portuguese Surfing Federation issued a formal statement on the matter, combined with a filmed apology from Maximo herself:

“The Portuguese Surfing Federation (FPS) deeply regrets the incident regarding the Portuguese surfer Erica Máximo” read the statement. “…in which Erica tried to block, in an unsporting and reckless manner, her Australian adversary of surfing a wave that would possibly grant her qualification on that round in second place, that would also eliminate the Portuguese Maria Salgado, which came to happen immediately after.”

The written statement was accompanied by a video where Erica personally accepted responsibility and issued a formal apology both to the other surfer and the surfing community at large. “Yesterday we had a situation that I recognize was not my brightest moment,” said Maximo.  “I committed an interference on the Australian surfer’s wave and in an unsportsmanlike manner. That was not my goal. I just wanted to help my team, but I recognize the mistake and I am here to apologize to the Australian surfer, the Australian team and the ISA.” Soon after she broke into tears, as she continued to explain the additional penance she has paid in the form of also apologizing to her own team and federation.

The Portuguese federation’s apology continued, saying, “The FPS managing staff on the field are analyzing the situation along with the athlete in order to understand the circumstances that motivated this rash and thoughtless behavior and to make sure that this kind of behavior is not repeated by any other athlete representing Portugal ever again

“The FPS also wants to underline that the athlete’s behavior was utterly thoughtless and sanctionable, but also occurred in a context of the highest competitive, physical and emotional pressure for these young athletes, after seven days of a decisive international event with heavy consequences in their careers, on top of another four days of training in a setting of extreme climate and framed by respiratory infections, dehydration and fever, with several of the team members having to undergo medical protocols with antibiotics and other procedures.

“The board of the Portuguese Surfing Federation apologizes again to all parties involved in the incident caused by our national surfer, letting it be known that it will accept any sanction to be determined by the ISA without prejudice of a disciplinary internal inquiry within the national sporting legal frame.”


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