Yesterday in the Rip Curl Narrabeen Classic, Italo Ferreira lost his Round of 16 heat against Conner Coffin*.
On paper, this was a major upset. Not just because Italo Ferreira is the reigning World Champion and current World #1 (compared to Conner’s ranking of 13), but also because the conditions (head-high wedgy beach break with wind into the rights) could not be more suited to Italo’s skill set (in contrast to Conner, who is revered for his abilities on reef breaks and stretched-out points).
The heat was closely contested, with the lead changing twice in the final two minutes. Needing a five, Italo two-tagged a left with 1:48 on the clock, garnering the exact number required to surpass his competitor. Then with 10 seconds remaining, not yet knowing that he’d need a score to advance, Conner two-tagged his own, bigger left for a 5.8 that would ultimately see him through to the quarterfinals. This was his second buzzer-beater of the event.
But neither of these rides is the main storyline of Round of 16, Heat 5. That honor was reserved for a wave around the 6:45 mark, which has lit the internet on fire. Go ahead and watch for yourself.
This air was deemed incomplete by five Championship Tour judges, resulting in a 1.77 for what would have easily been the 6 Italo needed to advance. Cue the social media hysterics.
WORLD SHAME LEAGUE
What are you blind?!
Italo Ferreira só vão parar ele roubando infelizmente!!!
Italo was also quite unhappy with this wave’s scoring and his subsequent loss, resulting in this:
Brutal (but nonetheless impressive) focusing of his beloved T. Patterson aside, the question remains: did Italo land that air?
Well, it’s not as simple as yes or no. Because surfing doesn’t have just one set of rules.
In freesurfing, the rules are more are based on emotion. And most non-competitors would call Italo’s air a make. It actually reminds me a bit of Matt Meola’s first Spindle Flip, which was stomped but not necessarily “ridden away from”. Very few people questioned the validity of the air, probably because the core surfer inside us said he did enough.
In competition, the rules are clearly defined. A surfer must ride out in front of the water with control for a maneuver to be deemed “complete”. Judges have become more strict with this rule over the past couple years, refusing to reward basically-made barrels, where the surfer emerges from the cave but doesn’t quite escape through the doggydoor or ride away cleanly from the explosion. The same can be said for turns, and of course, airs.
By the WSL’s rules (however arbitrary you might find them), the judges called this one correctly. Italo stomped the air but wasn’t able to ride away with control.
Conner Coffin’s upset of Italo Ferreira was legitimate, no matter what the current cost of cry is (typically free) . Don’t hate the player, hate the game.
*Full comp wrap coming soon courtesy of the nocturnal Christopher Binns.