Mick Fanning pulling of a spin trick on the crest of a wave at the Hurley Pro surf contest at Trestles last Friday. (Niko Labarbera)
The World Surf League wrapped up competition on Friday at the Hurley Pro and Swatch Women’s Pro at Trestles as Mick Fanning and Carissa Moore triumphed over the rest of the field to take the win and move into the number one ranked spot on the Jeep leader board.
The highly anticipated event provided surfers with an abundance of quality waves, except on Finals Day, and surf fans with a great spectacle to witness along with some unlikely interferences, scrutinized judging and an unexpected retirement from veteran surfer Freddy Patacchia Jr. after receiving the only 10 point ride of the event.
The cobblestone bottom beach is arguably the most progressive and high performance wave on tour. At Lowers, competitors have the ability to take to the air and get above the lip, or dig their rail into the face of the wave and put on a display of power surfing.
It took a mix of both to win, but the powerful approach to Lowers forgiving point break wave seemed to be the favored approach amongst surfers.
The event started with great waves, calm winds and tropical like humid conditions thanks to extremely warm Pacific Ocean surface temperatures and Hurricane Linda making its way north to select spots in Southern California from the South Pacific.
Mick Fanning makes his way up the beach after winning the 2015 Hurley Pro at Trestles. (Niko LaBarbera)
Waves were plentiful throughout the first four days of competition as the top 34 men and women in the world faced off.
Day five was the first of five consecutive lay days for the event. WSL commissioner Kieren Perrow explained on Sunday, Sept. 15’s dawn patrol show, the reasons for the delay. A dying swell and state park permit regulations were the reasons that the contest was halted.
After a few days of rain and a weeks worth of flat surf, competition finally resumed on Friday, Sept. 18 and Finals Day got underway.
With smaller and weaker surf in store for the finals, aerials and the above the lip surfing that Lowers makes possible was expected to prevail.
While Brazilian standouts Filipe Toledo and Gabriel Medina stuck to their air games, it was the heavy carves and powerful snaps off the top that proved to catch the judges eyes.
This in itself drew criticism from spectators about the judging criteria, but setting all opinions aside, the top two ranked surfers in the world competed in the final.
Adriano de Souza and Mick Fanning’s traditional and powerful approach to surfing didn’t only deliver them to the final, but it is the reason they are ranked number one and two in the world, and it’s the reason Fanning already has three world titles.
Never the less there was limitless debate about the judging and rulings surrounding the surfing.
The scrutiny began with Kelly Slater’s uncompleted and out of control backside air reverse that resulted in a broken board and less than average 4.17 score from the judge’s in his fifth round loss to Mick Fanning.
The airial took freakish surfing ability to pull off, which is why many including WSL commentator Strider Wasilewski felt that it should have been scored slightly higher.
Other controversial calls included interferences by Sebastian Zietz in the second round and Nat Young in the quarter finals. Both instances were costly and unique in that Zietz suffered the penalty while having priority, and Young suffered the penalty at the beginning of the heat before priority was determined.
The priority rule is designed to give the surfer who reaches the peak first, priority over wave choice. When a surfer has priority, it can be used to block their opponent from catching waves or to select the best wave of the set.
In Zietz’s situation, he had priority and took off on a wave his opponent Michel Bourez was already riding as the horn blew marking the end of the heat. Because the heat ended, Zietz lost priority and suffered an interference taking away his second scoring wave because Bourez was already on the wave.
The ruling left competitors and commentators alike confused, but Nat Young’s interference to Gabriel Medina in the opening minutes of the quarter finals spawned significant backlash and multiple articles to be published online critiquing the WSL ruling.
Nat suffered a non priority interference after competing with Medina for the opening wave of the heat. Both surfers refused to give up the inside position and after battling for the opening wave Medina fell trying to go left while Nat pulled back after trying to go right.
The judges determined the left was the more favorable section of the wave which resulted in an interference by Nat taking away half of his second scoring wave, leaving the heat ultimately not winnable.
Nat finished the heat with strong surfing even though a win was less than likely to occur, and delivered a professional and calm post heat interview where he explained the opening exchange.
Despite the ruling, the quarterfinal finish for Nat was a strong one and the equal fifth place finish leaves him ranked 10 overall.
With only 3 events left and 1,750 points separating first and second place, Fanning is in a familiar position heading into the tail end of the season and looks to have world title number four on his eyes.
The Quicksilver Pro France is next on the schedule for WSL with the waiting period beginning October 6 through 17. To catch live coverage of the event tune into worldsurfleague.com to stay up to date with the rest of the season.