Stab Magazine | Opinion: Length Matters At Margaret River
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Opinion: Length Matters At Margaret River

Bring back the length of ride criteria! 

style // Sep 10, 2018
Words by Stab
Reading Time: 4 minutes

It’s safe to assume that one of the largest non-endemic supporters of pro surfing, the West Australian government (Tourism WA), wouldn’t be wrapped with the exposure generated at the truncated Margaret River event back in April. 

Without going over in great detail what has already been discussed in the media – sharks, unhappy surfers, the number of Aussie events – The Margaret River Pro is clearly the black sheep on the CT schedule. 

I however feel like there is a simple solution for Margs – and no its not having it at another fickle, environmentally fragile wave like Jakes Point.

Just bring back the length of ride! 

Before you dry retch in your mouth reminiscing back to the mid 80s with Hans Hedemann, Tom Curren, and Tom Carroll grovelling in white water at Oceanside, just bear with me. 

I’m not suggesting to place it as a major focal point, I’m simply arguing that each contest needs to be judged on its own merit, and at Margaret River, length of ride is one. 

There needs to be a way to get the Margaret River contest cranking to its former glory. When it’s operating as a peak with lefts and rights, that’s when it’s at its best.

It was and still is one of the only alternatives to the point breaks, shallow reef breaks, and beach breaks events are held at throughout the year. A genuine heavy, deep water spot that tests the surfer’s abilities and adds another element of surfing skill required to become a World Champ.

https://www.youtube.com/embed/d52LlIx06vw

Without Sunset on the CT, what other wave delivers that element? None.

Surf historians and anyone older than 35 would remember the halcyon days of the event. Tom Curren riding that 20-foot bomb all the way to the river mouth in 1990. Simon Laws breakthrough performance on the big day in the same year. Tom Carroll’s dynasty, winning two in a row via massive frontside hacks on the…lefts. And Pauline Menzer going over the falls on a 25 foot bomb. 

But all this changed around six years ago when the contest stopped being a peak and in effect became a right hander. 

Because the lefts are rarely considered and the rights are a bubbling menace ending on barnacle covered dry reef, we’re now faced with a predicament. 

Dry reef isn’t fun. For surfers or (most) spectators. It’s like watching porn without the money shot. You want the last section of the wave to be obliterated. The “exclamation mark” to quote the WSL commentary team. Sometimes that just can’t happen at Margs when you’re faced with a board or body ruining dry reef.  

And this is where the problems arise. What started as tiny grumblings from the surfers and spectators alike, has multiplied each year into the collective whine that we are facing now. 

All it took was a shark scare and the current pin up boys of the sport – who coincidently are goofyfooters and have never had results at Margaret River – piped up on Instagram, broke the internet and the event abruptly ended, concluded at Ulus and the debate now continues about what to do with the WSL’s equivalent of Tony Abbott.

But back to my initial point.

If they judged length of ride, or better still, held the event at Main Break when the swell gets solid, the Margaret River event would be granted a breath of fresh air. 

As it had been for the last few years, things start getting weird when the swell climbs avocet eight foot. Instead of having the event in big, powerful, open ocean peaks, the contest director is left in a pickle with choosing between North Point or Box. Both waves obviously pump, but are both very fickle and not conducive to 35-minute, back-to-back heats.

Cast your mind back to the yawn fest that was North point back in 2017…

For people who don’t know the area, when North Point is an inconsistent six to eight foot, Margaret River is a very heavy and scary 12-15. Challenging for surfers, results in a tonne of floggings, and in my opinion results in a better competitive spectacle. 

What this boils down to is something very simple – bringing back the length of ride, and therefore the lefthander. Bring back length of ride. Margies isn’t the only wave that could benefit from a criteria ‘regress’. It’s only the two best waves, so let the spectators see them surf those waves for as functionally long as possible.

I don’t want to see them Huntington hopping through the shorey, but if there’s sections there, they need to be whacked. 

Another positive is it may wipe out the grey matter on ten-point rides. It may put an end to situations like Jordy Smith’s ten-point ride; when he bust out of an amazing tube at J-Bay in 2017 and instead of continuing to ride the wave and belt the last section, he went straight and claimed it, but was still granted the ‘perfect’ score. 

https://www.youtube.com/embed/ItkVh_B8PYQ

What I’m suggesting is encouraging surfing more like Filipe Toledo at J-Bay in the same year where he popped two alley oops, and instead of pulling off (he had already secured a 10 in the current format), he continued to ride the wave, executing two more wraps, a couple of tail slide re-entries and a close out floater. 

After all, we as fans of the sport just want to see more surfing.

Maybe I’m mad, or maybe I just love surfing. Put simply, I just want to see more of it. 

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