Photo: WSL/Tony Heff
Kelly Slater Was Robbed By The WSL
The rulebook confirms, Gabby's now-famous drop-in was not so legal after all.
Surf fans were wrong about Slater's infamous 4.17 at the 2015 Hurley Lowers Pro. So wrong that it made my brain hurt. You screamed like lunatics about an incompetent and backward-thinking judging panel, while failing to recognize falling down on your stomach and popping back up again constitute a "make" in our sport. The WSL scored it correctly, which made me very glad that surfing was a dictatorship, and not a democracy, on that day.
But this time dear surf fans, your base instincts were correct.
When we watched Gabriel Medina look back once, and then once more, before free-falling within feet of Kelly Slater's head, our initial surfer response was: What the fuck?
As if the drop-in wasn't bad enough, Gabby then steered his board in the opposite direction of the wave just to ensure that Kelly would receive an interference. Despite the World Title on the line, this act went beyond most surfers' sense of competitive gamesmanship. And the message boards went crazy.
Here are some of the tamest rinsings:
From Coconut bombs: Karma, lost your heat against Jeremy haha. Good for you medina.
From Paul D.: Media may have won the heat but he lost all of my respect (yeah I get it I'm just a fan). Kelly is already injured, and to drop in on someone in a backdoor tube is just reckless endangerment. He's a kid dropping in on a 7 time pipe master and greatest of all time. Show some respect.
From Haha: Wrong, fucked up a wave that he had no intent of riding... if he went to ride and to get a score, fair enough...
During the live broadcast, Ronnie Blakey made a similar observation to Haha's. While bickering with Peter Mel about the incident, Ron Dawg said: "But there's also another rule, right? And that is when you've got priority, you can't sit down the line and take off on the wave on someone and... basically block the ride."
While that was being explained, the WSL displayed the following visual:
The mixed messaging made it difficult for viewers to pinpoint who, if anybody, was in the wrong in this situation. Morality and righteousness aside, what did the rules dictate?
If I'm being completely transparent, I believed that due to the power of Priority, Gabby was free to do what he did. If anything, based on the WSL's policies, I thought Kelly could be at risk of an interference. A lot of viewers felt differently, but I wrote that off as the same type of emotion-based, Kelly-worshipping logic that had you believing a botched air was worth of a 10. Today I became privy to new information that has changed my view entirely.
A few hours ago, @kellyslater posted the following on his Instagram Story, of all places:
And it does seem that Gabby's offense fits perfectly within the guidelines of Rule 154:09, AKA Unsportsmanlike Interference, specifically because he turned toward Kelly as opposed to following the wave's true direction (right). This was not only a petty move on Medina's part, but technically it should have been an interference against Kelly.
And how would that have played out, if it were called? Well, assuming it would have been deemed a Priority Interference, Gabs would have lost his second highest score of the heat. That would have left Gab with just one score -- a 9.07 -- which would have been just shy of Kelly's two wave total of 9.16. In other words, Kelly Slater should have technically won that heat.
Not that it really matters, because Jeremy beat Gabriel in the next heat thus securing the Title for Two Johns, but it's still pretty interesting -- especially considering the uproar the incident caused in the broader surfing community.
So congrats surf fans! Your instincts were correct, and the WSL needs to take a closer look at its own rule book.