Stab Magazine | "What's The Big Deal?"

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“What’s The Big Deal?”

Surfers react to the WSL’s decision to call it quits at Margies due to the shark activity. 

news // Apr 19, 2018
Words by stab
Reading Time: 5 minutes

This morning the WSL made the executive decision to can the Margaret River Pro after only completing two rounds of the men’s and reaching the quarter finals for the women. This information was conveyed to all the surfers at 8am local time in a meeting by the commissioner, Kieren Perrow, interestingly enough, the WSL’s press release hit Stab‘s inbox before the meeting had wrapped up.  

During the meeting, the distribution of points were discussed, the equal distribution of prize money between those left and the prospect of completing the event at another location later in the year – to which Connor O’Leary yelled out “Cloudbreak!” as a location. 

Last night, prior to the meeting, the WSL sent out emails to all the competitors to garner their opinions on whether to continue running the competition or not. 

As expected, there are mixed opinions on the WSL’s choice. Many are disappointed, while others are vocally supportive of the move to cancel the remainder of the event due to the shark attacks and persistent shark activity.  

Immediately after the meeting, surfers were clearing locker rooms, packing their bags and heading off. Some, like Julian Wilson, went straight to the airport, others like Seabass were heading straight out for a surf and others like Tyler Wright had jetted out of WA the night before the decision was released publicly.

Some, such as Bronte Macaulay, were so unconcerned by the shark pandemonium that they missed most of the morning meeting because they were out surfing. 

Regardless of what the surfers’ actions were though, there is a varying range of opinions on the WSL’s decision from the tour collective. 

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

Connor O’Leary was also disappointed by the decision to cancel the event. 

“I’m staying in a house with Mikey Feb and Mikey Wright and we’re all like, ‘what’s the big deal?’. I guess we’ve grown up surfing with sharks though, so it’s hard to get into a perspective such as the Brazilians who don’t have the same shark issues.” – Connor told Stab in the carpark post-meeting.

“They probably made the decision before they sent the email to everyone. I guess all the Aussies probably said yes [to holding the comp], but maybe because a couple of people said no, they decided it was best to can the whole thing”. 

Yesterday on the lay-day. It’s no surprise there’s nobody out there. Photo. Jacob Wooden

Kael Walsh, the West Oz wildcard who tore his way into Round 3, was also somewhat surprised and disheartened by the choice to move on from Margies. 

“It’s surfing, we’re out there in the ocean and it’s their home, we can’t really do much about them, but with two shark attacks I sort of understand the WSL’s decision. I’m a little against it though because it’s my first CT event and I want to keep surfing.” Kael said before heading for an arvo surf.

“If there was only the one attack, the comp would have had a higher chance of running, but the second attack was really a nail in the coffin. The second dude who got attacked shouldn’t have been out there either. Apparently, there were people calling him in, the beach was closed.” Kael continued. 

“[Italo and Gabby] surf in Brazil and don’t have the same dealings with sharks, whereas someone like Jordy is used to surfing with them at J-Bay and it’s the same here in Australia. Sharks are just a normal part of surfing here.”

Kael however also agreed there were other factors at play than the presence of sharks. “The forecast is really bad too, it would’ve been held at onshore Main Break. There might have been more upsets, so it was probably just easier and wiser to pack up like they did.” 

And on the topic of a ‘make-up’ event…

“I’ve heard rumours about a make-up comp, but I can’t see it happening, it’ll be too expensive and difficult to organise. I’d 100% try and go if they hold it somewhere else, but I won’t get my hopes up because I don’t think they will.” A sentiment which is shared by a few, despite the hopeful prospect of seeing an event held in better waves later in the year. 

A solo session isn’t all it’s cracked up to be off the WA coast. Photo. Jacob Wooden

Not everyone was so defiant of the WSL’s decision though, in a follow up to their Instagram posts yesterday, both Italo and Gabriel lent their thoughts to Instagram in support of the WSL’s decision. 

Thanks WSL for taking care of ourselves on making such a hard decision. it’s nearly impossible to always make everyone happy; however, that must’ve been the best option to be followed for the good of the League. Also… Thank you so much Australia I had one of the best moments of my life. See U next year.” Italo posted to his Instagram. 

“I thank WSL that in first place took care of our safety and canceled the event, due to the recent events. Thank you and see you in the next event.” Gabriel followed up.

Glen ‘Micro’ Hall, however, was a little less decisive on the WSL’s choices and adopted more of a diplomatic approach to the whole ordeal:

“There were mixed feelings because everyone has their own feelings towards sharks. Everyone respected the decision from the WSL though knowing safety is their main priority. I also respect the individual opinions of each surfer.”

Or you have Michel Bourez, forgetting all the hype of the WSL’s shark scares and put the question to IG that really matters when a comp in wine country is cancelled. 

The most reasonable solution to the issue we’ve seen yet.

In all seriousness though, this isn’t the first time the men in grey suits have interrupted a WSL event. After Mick Fanning had an encounter with a Great White at J-Bay in the final of 2015, the decision was swiftly made to cancel the event leaving Julian and Mick with second place finishes.  

After that incident at J-Bay, the surfers had a vote on whether they wanted to return to J-Bay the following year – every surfer except for Gabriel Medina voted to return.

There’s been little talk thus far of the repercussions for next year at Margaret River, but it’s imaginable there will be less support to return to Main Break than there was for the World Class point break that is Jeffrey’s Bay. 

“If they can this event for next year it’s going to turn into a domino effect. What are they going to do? Cancel an event each time there’s a shark attack in the area.” Kael told Stab about the prospect of Margies being cancelled in the future. “There’s shark attacks in places like Hawaii all the time. There’s sharks at pretty much every stop of the tour, it’s not like we’re just going to stop surfing in the ocean”. 

While Margaret River has the potential for both North Point and The Box, more often than not the competition runs at Main Break and it’s no secret that a number of the surfers aren’t big fans of the slope. 

This will be an issue that the WSL addresses in the future. Currently, they’d be more concerned with stemming the shark hysteria, dealing with a diverse range of competitor’s opinions and combatting the surplus of spectator blow ups plaguing their press releases and social media announcements right now.  

Unfortunately, we won’t be seeing John John’s dominance at Margaret River in 2018, nor will we be certain of the possibility of a replacement event for some time, but at the end of the day, at least we can be thankful that nobody died in the two attacks at Cobbles and Lefties. 

The decision for the WSL would have been wrought with opposition regardless of their decision and as Sophie Goldschmidt stated, it would be unforgivable if the event continued and an attack occurred during the competition. 



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