WSL CEO Erik Logan Responds To ‘Unfair Judging’ Claims In Open Letter - Stab Mag

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WSL CEO Erik Logan Responds To ‘Unfair Judging’ Claims In Open Letter

“It is a breach of league policy, for surfers to choose not to engage with the proper process and instead air grievances on social media.”

// May 30, 2023
Words by Ethan Davis
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Shortly after the Surf Ranch final, 3x World Champ Gabriel Medina told his 11.1M followers on social media that there was ‘poor clarity and consistency’ regarding the WSL’s judging that ‘threaten to draw away athletes, fans and sponsors’.

In the days after, two more Brazilian World Champs, Italo Ferreira and Filipe Toledo, who together account for five out of the past eight World Titles made statements of their own, overlapping in many concerns. 

This coincided with a bunch of nasty comments targeted at WSL staffers, athletes and employees, not limited to threats of violence and death. 

The WSL has finally fired back, addressing not just their concerns over the fairness of the judging, but also the resulting damage caused by airing their grievances online. 

How hot’s the water Gabby’s swimming in?

“To the WSL community,

I want to address the conversation that happened in our community following the recent Championship Tour event at the Surf Ranch. As you likely know, a small number of athletes made statements questioning the judging of the competition and the final results.

I want to respond directly to those statements, however, we first need to address a much more important issue. In recent days, a number of surfers, WSL judges, and employees have been subject to harassment, intimidation, and threats of violence, including death threats, as a direct result of those statements. Those things should never happen in our sport or any sport, and we’re devastated that members of our community have been subject to them. It is an important reminder to us all that words have consequences. We hope the entire WSL community stands with us in rejecting all forms of harassment and intimidation.

In terms of the statements made, we completely reject the suggestion that the judging of our competitions is in any way unfair or biased. These claims are not supported by any evidence.

Firstly, the judging criteria are provided to the athletes ahead of each competition. All athletes competing at the Surf Ranch Pro received these materials on May 20th. Every athlete had the opportunity to ask questions about the criteria at that time. None of the athletes who made these statements took advantage of this opportunity at the Surf Ranch Pro.

Secondly, our rules allow any athlete to review the scoring of any wave, with the judges, and receive a more detailed explanation of how they were scored with the judges. This process has been in place for a number of years, and is the direct result of working with the surfers to bring more transparency to the judging process. It is not acceptable, and is a breach of league policy, for surfers to choose not to engage with the proper process and instead air grievances on social media.

A number of athletes at the Surf Ranch Pro received points for elements such as progression and variety, so it is simply incorrect to suggest these are not taken into account in the judging criteria. Furthermore, our rules have been applied consistently throughout the season, including at events this season that were won by athletes who are now questioning those same rules.

Surfing is an ever-evolving, subjective sport and we welcome a robust debate around the progression of our sport and the criteria used to judge our competitions. However, it is unacceptable for any athlete to question the integrity of our judges who, like our surfers, are elite professionals.

No one person or group of people are above the integrity of the sport. Sincerely,

Erik Logan
WSL Chief Executive Officer

You can read Filipe’s statement here. (Photo by Aaron Hughes/World Surf League)

Wow. “It is an important reminder to us all that words have consequences,” has some pretty serious go-to-war vibes about it. Side note: I reckon E Lo could write a pretty banging speech in Succession. 

Per the WSL’s rule book, all three surfers would be in a breach of the ‘Conduct Policy’ guidelines which permit athletes from “making derogatory comments on social media”. Surfers in violation of this code can be subject to either or all of the following disciplinary actions:

(i)  Monetary Fines and Disqualification. The monetary fine amounts for an offense of this Rule range from $1,000 USD to $50,000 USD per offense.

(ii)  Suspension and Expulsion. Any offender under this Rule may be subject to suspension and/or expulsion from a WSL Tour upon the first offense. Where multiple offenses occur within one (1) or more concurrent seasons which demonstrate a pattern of unacceptable conduct, the Surfer may also be subject to suspension and/or expulsion from the WSL.

How harsh a penalty Medina receives is yet to be determined. However, I would think ‘suspension’ and/or ‘expulsion’ is off the table. 

Hold tight. (Photo by Pat Nolan/World Surf League)

This is not the first time Erik has needed to respond to a mutiny. Last year after Bells he wrote an open letter responding to a petition signed by 29 (out of 51) current CT surfers asking the WSL to reconsider the mid-year cut or face boycotting the event at Margaret River. 

The most striking thing to me is that these surfer’s, who’s following far exceeds that of the WSL, are in positions of incredible power as far as their reach is concerned. In the aftermath, it would have been great to see more denounce threats of violence, particularly ahead of the Brazil event. 

Listen to our recent Stab podcast between Stace and Mikey for a deep dive on the controversy.

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