WSL And Surfers To Meet At 8AM To Decide Margaret River Pro’s Fate
“The WSL are really dancing with danger,” says Jay Davies of the shark situation in West Oz at the moment.
At 8AM today in Western Australia, WSL surfers and officials will meet to hear competitor’s thoughts on finishing the Margaret River Pro, after two shark attacks near the contest site during the last day of competition have many WSL athletes feeling less than safe at Main Break and elsewhere.
“The WSL continues to assess the current situation at the men’s and women’s Margaret River Pro where there have been two confirmed shark incidents near Gracetown in the last 24 hours. We have actioned our well-established safety protocols and are gathering all the latest information to determine next steps,” posted the WSL. “We will continue to liaise with all involved, most importantly the surfers, their safety remains paramount.”
During Monday’s competition, in a span of two hours, local surfers Alejandro Travaglini and Jason Longgrass were both hit while in the water near Gracetown. The same stretch of beach had been closed after a whale corpse was spotted and 15-foot sharks were seen feasting on it.
Current world number one, Italo Ferreira, as well as 2014 world champ Gabriel Medina do not want to continue with the event and there’s serious discussion going on about scrubbing the whole thing.
The last time the WSL had to tangle with a shark issue this serious was back in ’15, when Mick Fanning was famously “bumped” in the lineup at J-Bay.
There have been other incidents where contests have gone on hold because of shark sightings, especially at J-Bay, but other than Mick’s famous tussle, there really is no precedent for a Championship Tour being canceled due to shark activity.
Last summer, during the “Summer of Sharks” in San Clemente and Dana Point, local grom contests were still held and junior lifeguard programs continued. On the other hand, after a litany of deadly attacks, Reunion Island has taken the drastic step of limiting surfing to a few select, protected locations.
As far as other sporting events being cancelled due to shark activity, periodically ocean swims and Ironman-type races are put on hold after a shark sighting, but water safety teams are always on hand to monitor the waters around the swimmers, and if need be the swimmer is pulled from the water until a shark passes.
There are ocean swims in some of the world’s shakiest waters, including the channel between the Farallon Islands and San Francisco, the Maui/Lanai channel and a host of swims in West Oz. They always have a support boat or paddler nearby, but as a general rule, ocean swimmers understand the risk they are taking and figure out how to deal with the fear factor and imminent threat.
Playing devil’s advocate, many have made comment that this is about more than just sharks. That Italo and Gabs be seizing on an opportunity to capitalize on the shark attacks to get out of the rest of the comp and solidify their tour rankings—a stroke of true strategic brilliance, as Main Break doesn’t exactly play to their strengths.
If the comp is cancelled, surfers would either come away with a 25th or 13th-place result. The contest would basically be a wash. Rio and Bali are the next two tour stops, and both are contests that suit Italo and Gabs to a tee. They have to be favorites to win, or at least post keeper results. Getting rid of Margaret River would be a boon to their ’18 title aspirations.
But as the clip above of West Oz’s burliest, Jay Davies, is any indication, everyone’s legitimately freaked out, and maybe the smartest and safest thing to do at this point is to walk away from West Oz.
Whatever the case, if the Margaret River Pro does end up being cancelled there will be some clear winners and losers…even if everyone comes away with an equal 13th result.
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