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Zeke Lau Makes His Case For A Review Of The Sunset Final Collision

The swell's moved on, the champagne's gone flat.

Two days ago, Jack Robinson won the Vans World Cup in what Pancho Sullivan called "the greatest Sunset performance ever."

This win propelled Jack Robinson, a 21-year-old from Margaret River, Western Australia, onto the 2020 Championship Tour. It also blocked the Hawaiian Zeke Lau from achieving the same feat*.

Zeke Lau won the World Cup in 2013 and again in 2018. After a lackluster competitive year in 2019, Zeke had to successfully defend his Title at Sunset if he wanted to reach the QS top-10 (or 11, as it currently stands) and requalify for the Tour. Jack's 19.07 heat total—the highest in the history of World Cup finals—prohibited him from doing so.

Nobody could deny that Jack Robinson's surfing was the best of the final. It wasn't even close. In fact, Jack surfed so much better than his peers that, even if his two nine-point rides were taken away, the Australian still would have won with his two back-up scores. 

Jack's wave knowledge, tube-riding, and Arakawa blades looked that much sharper than his peers'. 

However, this morning, Zeke Lau published an Instagram post that calls Jack's win into question. Or, at the very least, seeks clarity around the WSL's opaque interference rules.

See the post and Zeke's carefully constructed caption below: 

@zekelau: When a surfer is put in a position while paddling out that they cannot get out of the way and a collision happens due to this, it is up to a majority of the judges to call interference based on whether it is determined to be accidental or not”.
My opinion is that we are “professional surfers”. The best of the best! Going off the rule, surfer in white COULD have gotten out of the way. From this video clip you can see surfer in white has enough time to make a conscious decision where to paddle. Just so happens that the line he chose is directly where I drew my line to come out of the barrel, which is the ONLY option I had. The surfer paddling out has options to avoid the surfer on the wave. He should be in the channel paddling back out. It should come down to who had priority over the situation. These 2 surfers are not equal in this specific case and the rules should benefit the surfer on the wave utilizing priority. 

This ride would have been the first major score of the heat, but was deemed incomplete because surfer in white chose to BAIL his surfboard causing me to fall off, hindering the scoring potential of my wave, breaking my board, and leaving white with priority. How is it okay for the interfering surfer to gain so much advantage from a collision and an interference not be called?
The highlighted rule 168 section 3 ENABLES controversy and should be addressed. 
Thanks to everyone for all the supportive messages. Let me know what you guys think!

Aloha.

There's a lot to digest here. 

First, I'd like to applaud the clinical and pointed tone of this message—specifically the fact that Zeke refers to Jack Robinson as "the surfer in white" rather than naming him directly (thus to remove bias and emotion) and how he makes a clear and concise argument using the WSL's own verbiage to dispute their inaction.

Second, Zeke makes some genuinely valid points. For instance: 1. Looking at the Heat Analyzer, Jack definitely could have taken another, less intrusive line when he was paddling toward Zeke's wave. 2. As the surfer with priority, Zeke should have full reign to surf the wave as he pleases, at least within reason. And as Zeke said, the line he chose was the only one available in this situation. 3. Giving Jack priority after this incident does seem unfair, however, Jack did not capitalize on said priority. 

Third, public opinion (while regionally influenced) appears widely in Zeke's favor. Here are some notable mentions:

@billykemper: @jackrobinson_official that paddle sprint towards the exit of the barrel looked pretty damn straight forward and on purpose. @wsl this is the definition of a interference! (60 likes)

@paigealms: Wow. Just wow. Definite interference for sure. U would have made that wave 100 percent (9 likes)

@torreymeister: I’m sure it was accidental but That is a blatant interference (9 likes)

@johnnyboy_gomes: Get Da Fuck Out Of Da Way. Back in the day, they would’ve got cracks after getting run over #nojoke (34 likes)

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Last night I chatted with Freddy Pattachia, who caddied for Zeke at Sunset. Freddy made a lot of the same points that Zeke expressed above, also noting that he'd done the math, and if Jack had been given a priority interference, he would have gotten third place and not qualified for the CT. 

This, to me, seemed unfair.

Jack's "best ever" Sunset performance and subsequent qualification being negated due to a fight or flight reaction is against my personal morals, let alone my desire to see Jack on Tour.

Freddy agreed, saying that anybody in Jack's situation would have done the same thing.

"If it wasn't his board that got a hole in it, it would have been his head," Freddy admitted.

"But," he continued, "that doesn't change the fact that Zeke is being punished for something that wasn't his fault. If one person has to receive 'blame' in this situation, it should be Jack. And the only way for the WSL to assign blame is by issuing an interference."

According to Freddy, Zeke is in the process of submitting an official petition to the WSL. 

Keep in mind that Zeke Lau is one of the few individuals in professional surf history to submit a complaint and have the WSL change their decision in his favor (Bells, 2016). That time, however, Zeke had a more objective variable in his favor—it was a clock-based dispute, and in that case, Zeke was on the right side of history. 

In this instance, because the WSL retains total discretion on what constitutes an "interference," it's unlikely their current ruling will be overturned. A reversal would cause too many issues, and it wouldn't be a fair outcome for anyone involved, as adding an interference retrospectively would totally change the dynamic of the heat. Realistically, the only fair way to approach this would be to re-surf the entire final, and I just don't see that happening.

However, I think the WSL should take Zeke's advice and use this situation to more clearly define what constitutes an interference. There needs to be a hard rule that every surfer can understand and can, therefore, abide by.

As Freddy said, "If a rule like this was clearly defined, maybe Jack would have taken a different path when he was paddling. Then we wouldn't have this issue at all."

*Via the Qualifying Series, that is. Zeke could still requalify for the 2020 CT with a big result in the Pipe Masters.  

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