Earlier today, I scribbled a quick news feature regarding Gabriel Medina’s criticism of World Surf League judging in an Instagram post after being eliminated by Ethan Ewing at the Surf Ranch Pro – specifically wondering if the three-time world champ would be suspended or fined. It was an ugly scene after the event as Ewing reported some nasty death threats in his DMs. Then Filipe Toledo and Italo Ferreira (who probably had the best case for not getting the call against Griffin Colapinto) chimed in with their own Instagram posts supporting their countrymen. Toledo’s and Ferreira’s posts were toned down compared to Medina’s.
After discussing confusion over judging, especially by the Brazilian surfing community, Medina ended his post with this nug:
“It is also important to note that many coaches have had the opportunity to speak with the WSL after heats/stages to discuss PROGRESSION and VARIETY in the criteria and the lack of appreciation for tricks. The feedback received is always quite defensive, with bad examples to illustrate their points. The WSL urgently needs to clarify its criteria and apply fair judgment to preserve the evolution of the sport.”
Well the WSL responded today. And didn’t pull punches. I asked about suspensions and fines and the League declined to go into detail but did pass along a written response. “I want to respond directly to (the) statements (from Medina, Toledo, and Ferreira), however, we first need to address a much more important issue,” wrote WSL CEO Erik Logan. “In recent days, a number of surfers, WSL judges, and employees have been subject to harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence, including death threats, as a direct result of those statements. Those things should never happen in our sport or any sport, and we’re devastated that members of our community have been subject to them. It is an important reminder to us all that words have consequences. We hope the entire WSL community stands with us in rejecting all forms of harassment and intimidation.”
Yikes. Logan went on to detail aspects of the judging criteria, and then talked about opportunities provided for the athletes to ask questions that were not taken advantage of, apparently.
“Firstly, the judging criteria are provided to the athletes ahead of each competition. All athletes competing at the Surf Ranch Pro received these materials on May 20th,” he wrote. “Every athlete had the opportunity to ask questions about the criteria at that time. None of the athletes who made these statements (on social media) took advantage of this opportunity at the Surf Ranch Pro.”
Logan then defended the credibility of judges and rejected the notion of bias. He also hinted there could be serious punishment coming down the pipe. “Our rules allow any athlete to review the scoring of any wave, with the judges, and receive a more detailed explanation of how they were scored with the judges,” he said. “This process has been in place for a number of years, and is the direct result of working with the surfers to bring more transparency to the judging process. It is not acceptable, and is a breach of league policy, for surfers to choose not to engage with the proper process and instead air grievances on social media.”
Stay tuned. With El Salvador just around the corner, this is far from over. When we know more, you’ll know more.
You can read the full response from WSL CEO Erik Logan, here.