Stab Magazine | Breaking: The Margaret River Pro Has Been Cancelled Due To Shark Attacks
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Breaking: The Margaret River Pro Has Been Cancelled Due To Shark Attacks

“If we decided to continue the event under the current circumstances, and something terrible were to take place, we would never forgive ourselves.” – Sophie Goldschmidt, WSL CEO

news // Apr 19, 2018
Words by stab
Reading Time: 4 minutes

After two shark attacks occurred on Monday morning in the Gracetown region of Western Australia, the WSL has made the decision to cancel the remainder of the Margaret River Pro. 

The surfers who were eliminated in Round 2 will receive equal 25th’s and the 24 surfers who made it to Round 3 will all receive equal 13th’s. This is how the seeding will be determined before the Brazil event.

Prize money will also be distributed to the surfers according to these results. 

There is also discussion as to the possibility of completing the event at a different location later in the year, however, details around the logistics of this ‘make-up’ event are scarce. 

Boards are replaceable, limbs aren’t. Photo. ABC/Gian De Poloni

The first shark attack occurred at 8am Monday morning at Cobblestones – a well renowned high performance right – and the second attack happened that afternoon within a kilometre of the first, at Lefthanders. Both surfers are still at Royal Perth Hospital in a stable condition receiving ongoing treatment. 

A 4-metre Great White was deemed responsible for both attacks and it is now been investigated as to whether it was possibly the same shark responsible for both the attacks.

Alejandro Travaglini being helped to shore after being attacked at Cobbles. Photo. Peter Jovic/The Australian

Sophie Goldschmidt had the following to say about the decision to cancel the event in a WSL press release after a meeting was held between the surfers and the WSL this morning. 

“Today, the WSL has made the difficult decision to cancel the remainder of the Margaret River Pro, as a result of exceptional circumstances surrounding this season’s event regarding sharks and the safety of our surfers. This decision has been reached after many hours of consultation with a variety of stakeholders and experts.”

“The WSL puts the highest premium on safety. This cannot be just talk, and it cannot be compromised. There have been incidents in the past — and it’s possible that there will be incidents in the future — which did not (and will not) result in the cancellation of an event. However, current circumstances are very unusual and troubling, and we have decided that the elevated risk during this season’s Margaret River Pro has crossed the threshold for what is acceptable.”

Jason Longgrass, the second surfer attacked, received relatively minor injuries during the attack. Photo. Michael Stamp

Despite the 8am meeting appearing as a discussion between the surfers and the WSL on whether to continue or not, the decision to cancel the event was made well before the meeting occurred. Essentially, Kieren Perrow walked in and told everyone “It’s off”. The surfers however had been consulted the night before over email on their opinions about cancelling the event. 

This morning’s meeting was more of a platform to inform the surfers of how the points and prize money will be distributed, rather than an open discussion.  

“You have to respect some of the surfers and the WSL’s decision. It is what is is. I’m sad, but it’s just one of those things. There’s no love lost for WA though” – Jordy Smith told Stab about the decision. 

Early sentiments are that the wave quality was also a factor influencing the choice to cancel the event. Essentially, if the waves were pumping, this decision may have been more controversial. However, since the forecasted swell looks to be held at Main Break in average, onshore conditions, the decision to leave was an easier one. 

Although the Margaret River Pro has been cancelled, there are hopes to finish the remainder of the competition at a later point this year. There has been no solid discussion of where this event might be held, but it would be continued from Round 3 onwards with the previously distributed points been revoked and replaced.

In reality though, this scenario will become less likely as the year continues. The closer we get to a World Title towards the back end of the season, the less likely those competitors towards the top of the table will be willing to compete in another event. Additionally, the WSL would either need to quickly secure a new location – Connor O’Leary jokingly suggested Cloudbreak – or run the event somewhere that is already on tour. 

Furthermore, details concerning the wildcards in the event are also confusing, in particular, whether surfers like Kael Walsh and Jack Robinson will compete in the possible make-up event. If they do, they obviously won’t have the local advantage which they hold at the Margaret River event and their impact will imaginably be less. 

Yesterday, Italo Ferreira and Gabriel Medina shared their concerns around the remainder of the competition to Instagram:

Which roughly (Google) translates to:

Today they had two shark attacks on a beach close to where we’re competing. I do not feel safe training and competing in this kind of place, any time anything can happen to one of us. Hope not. Leaving my opinion before it’s too late!”

Italo also voiced his opinion about the subject to social media accompanied by the same image:

“Two shark attacks in less than 24 hours here in Australia, detail, just a few miles from where the event is being held. Very dangerous do not you think? even so, they keep insisting on doing steps where the risk of having this type of accident is 90%, so I ask: is not the safety of athletes a priority? We already had several alerts. Life is worth more! I hope it does not happen to any of us. I do not feel comfortable training and competing in places like this!” 

More to come. 

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