Breaking: CT Surfers Are Pulling out of the ISA World Games - Stab Mag
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Breaking: CT Surfers Are Pulling out of the ISA World Games

Gabriel Carissa Moore, Caroline Marks and more are over it.

Words by Michael Ciaramella

Gabriel Medina, Carissa Moore, Caroline Marks, Tatiana Weston-Webb, and Brisa Hennessy have opted to forgo their Round 2 heats in the 2021 ISA World Games in El Salvador.

While the ISA World Games will provide the last 12 slots in surfing’s Olympic debut, the listed surfers above achieved Olympic qualification back in 2019 by way of their Championship Tour rankings. Due to a deal brokered by the ISA and IOC, even pre-qualified surfers had to compete in El Salvador to remain eligible for the Tokyo Games. When asked to justify this hard-lined rule in a recent interview, ISA president and the man largely responsible for getting surfing into the Olympics, Fernando Aguerre, said:

“The whole Olympic surfing system is proposed by the ISA and approved by the IOC. And it’s not approved by one person. It’s approved by the entire board and it takes time. There are two things—a qualification criteria and an eligibility criteria. Some surfers met the qualification criteria through the CT rankings in 2019. But to meet the eligibility criteria, the people who qualified through the CT have to compete in the 2019 and 2020—well, in this case, 2021—ISA World games. It’s just like how Messi and Ronaldo have to show up and play for their national squads in the World Cup. The ISA World Games create a place where everyone from every country is represented in an equal way, and that’s important to the IOC.”

Bye Felicia. Photo: ISA/Sean Evans

Many Championship Tour surfers were opposed to this decision, their main points being that, 1. It makes no sense for them to compete against other surfers who still need to qualify for the Olympics; 2. They’d just spent three months in Australia surfing a total of four events; and 3. Exposing themselves to surfers from 51 nations in a pandemic year is totally unsafe.

The first two points are subjective and could be debated until the sun turns implodes into a black hole. The latter point is more of an objective truth, and one that was validated when a significant number of surfers in the event tested positive for covid-19.

Despite their protests, the pre-qualified surfers were not able to convince the ISA to grant them an exemption from the event. So what did they do? Found a loophole, of course.

Gabriel Medina (Brazil), Carissa Moore (USA), Caroline Marks (USA), Tatiana Weston-Webb (Brazil), and Brisa Hennessy (Costa Rica) all won their first round heats. When round two arrived, they opted not to paddle out, resulting in cumulative heat totals of 0.0 and official losses. Because this event is double-elimination, they’re technically not out of the event yet (they’re in the repechage round). But we have no reason to believe they will be returning to competition. In fact, we’ve heard reports that they’ve already left El Salvador.

In one fell swoop, she’s outta there. Photo: ISA/Pablo Jimenez

Backing up these claims is a comment thread on @usasurfing’s Instagram page, which explains how and why Carissa Moore and Caroline Marks pulled out of the event.

@therealjamiescott10: “Why aren’t Carissa and Caroline in their round two heats?”

@usasurfing: They enjoyed their stay and competing in round one. They wished the circumstances were different, but both women didn’t want to risk knocking surfers out of the competition who are hoping to qualify for the Olympics. They’ve also been away from home for more than three months for the WSL’s Australian leg and want to see their families and start preparing for Japan. Thank you @isasurfingfor putting on another excellent event and pathway to Olympic qualification and for your understanding and generosity in allowing them to leave.

Based on this comment, it seems as though the ISA will not be pushing the issue any further. The surfers made their appearance, which is what was technically required of them. But if the ISA was willing to lay down this easily, it does raise the question of why they cared enough to demand the surfers’ attendance in the first place. Surely it would have been more beneficial to include surfers who actually wanted to compete rather than a few superstars who bow out after one round.

You’ll never guess who’s staying to surf more. Photo: ISA/Ben Reed

Which brings us to Italo Ferreira, who apparently has no intentions of leaving. The defending ISA champ has dominated his round one and two heats and looks intent on securing a repeat from 2019 (jorts outstanding). There’s no two ways about it: this guy just fucking loves surfing.

The Australian team (which is comprised of pre-qualified Olympians Julian Wilson, Owen Wright, Sally Fitzgibbons, and Steph Gilmore, plus Ryan Callinan and Nikki Van Dijk) appears to be in it for the long-haul, as do Japan’s Kanoa Igarashi and the European pre-qualifiers Jeremy Flores, Michael Bourez, Frederico Morais, and Leonardo Fioravanti, all of whom surfed in (and mostly advanced from) their round 2 heats.

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