“World Surf League Responds to Judging Controversy, Death Threats” by Dashel Pierson via Surfer Magazine

“World Surf League Responds to Judging Controversy, Death Threats” by Dashel Pierson via Surfer Magazine

An open letter penned by the WSL’s CEO, Erik Logan, addresses claims of unfair judging and threats of violence after the controversial 2023 Surf Ranch Pro.

Following the World Surf League’s sixth stop on the 2023 Championship Tour, the Surf Ranch Pro, there has been loads of contention, controversy, even threats of violence.

It started when 3x World Champion Gabriel Medina called out the WSL’s judging panel for what he called “poor clarity and inconsistence of judging.” After that, Medina’s fellow Brazilian countrymen, Italo Ferreira and Filipe Toledo, supported the claims.

And now, the WSL has issued a response; CEO Erik Logan wrote this:

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.

Erik Logan
WSL Chief Executive Officer

It’s a big deal when the top brass of a sporting body has to issue a public response to the fans and athletes. But a number of athletes are upset, the fans are divided, and there have been threats of violence – namely Ethan Ewing, who won a contentious matchup against Gabriel Medina in the quarterfinals, and after received a death threat on social media.

So, it’ll be interesting to see how this plays out for the remainder of the year. Going into the next event – the Surf City Pro El Salvador, which kicks off June 9th-18th – everyone will be walking on eggshells…especially the judges. 

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