‘FLOATERGATE’ OPENS OLD STYLE WOUND - BLOG
By Col Bernasconi | 26 May 2011
Billabong Pro Rio eventual winner Adriano De Souza controversially floats to a quarter final win over Owen Wright.
It is alarming how accepting the surfing fraternity is of the practice of showing disdain towards Brazilian surfers. There I said it. Although thinly veiled for a long time, many now seem unashamedly ready to openly state their dislike – especially on the net, of course. But why?
I’d like to dismiss the notion there is any basis for this dislike, but since Adriano De Souza’s controversial win over Owen Wright in their quarter-final at the Billabong Pro Rio has caused such a fire storm of online commentary, there seems need for further investigation.
Firstly, why was Adriano’s win over Owen so controversial? Two reasons; one, the Brazilian was awarded an 8.23 by a panel of five ASP judges on the day for a one-move ride. Not controversial on paper considering world tour surfers do score highly for some single-move aerials under the current judging criteria. Heck, Kelly Slater beat Joel Fitzgerald with a big scoring single backhand re-entry in the Hot Buttered Pro Junior at Narrabeen way back in 1992. The stink though comes from this; Adriano’s one-move manoeuvre was in fact a floater! That’s right a long 1980s style floater ousted one of the most innovative and progressive surfers on the planet. But we’ll get back to that.
No "bread and butter move" for the masses, but the ASP argues a "slob air" is for the world's elite.
The second reason the heat is now mired in controversy is Owen’s fight back wave, which consisted of a near vertical re-entry, a little set up jam and finally a pretty tidy slob-air [leading hand grabs toe-side rail], was awarded only a 6.6 – he needed a 6.74. This wave was smaller than Adriano’s, but he had clearly satisfied the criteria, which stipulates, “variety of manoeuvres”. Not to mention, “innovative and progressive”, ones too. Alarm bells began ringing the moment the score was finally read out. Owen looked furious; later saying he, "didn’t come on tour to do floaters”. Fair call.
Throughout the history of professional surfing however there has been debate amongst surfers over what good surfing actually is. Even the commentary team calling the heat were split down the middle over whether Owen got the score or not. It’s the nature of the human scoring system, and one ultimately we must live with. Being scored by computer is not an option in my opinion. But why, when involving a Brazilian surfer, does the rhetoric turn so ugly? The answer is this – style.
Brazil's golden boy Adriano De Souza soaks in the glory of a big win at home.
‘Floatergate’, as it is now being referred to, has opened this old wound up big time.
My theory is this.
When Brazilian surfers, first started to make a name for themselves on the international surfing arena in the early eighties, their surfing styles were some what erratic; arm-waiving, head-jolting half-turns, poo-man stances etc. And this planted a sour taste in our mouths. Their hyperactive passion at total loggerheads with our own core focus.
Even before Midget Farrelly won the first world title at Manly Beach in 1963 with his stylish long boarding, Australians (and Americans) were all about good style. Run a bad style in Oz and you draw not only criticism, but out-right ridicule from your peers... nicknames are handed out accordingly. ‘Saddle Rash’ the best I can remember. This poor goofy-footed surfer from my local beach did everything right. He charged the big stuff, didn’t make a cunt of himself, in or out of the water, and had been a local as long as anyone could remember. The problem was he had a strange bow-legged stance that the style conscious collective could not over look. Basis behind the name being he appeared to be riding waves hampered by a horrible rash caused by long hours in an imaginary leather saddle – ‘Saddle Rash’, genius in it’s creation, brutal in its appraisal. To this day his real name escapes me?
Miguel Pupo sent shock waves through the WQS with his win at the Nike Lowers Pro, Trestles, California.
Little wonder then that any horrid surfing styles coming out of Brazil copped our wrath also. If we were programmed to ridicule our own without favour or fear, then there’s no reason we’d spare an international.
But why does this ingrained style snobbery still seem to exist in a blanket form when it comes to Brazilian surfers? Can’t we give credit where credit is due? Even as far back as 20 years ago there were quality surfers coming out of Brazil that ticked all the boxes. What about Fabio Gouveia and Flavio Padaratz? Both very stylish surfers from the nineties who were well respected the world over.
And now we have the likes of Alejo Muniz, young Gabriel Medina and Miguel Pupo, all running sweet styles. Still the backlash gets nasty when a Brazilian takes down one of our boys. Sure Adriano’s wide stance was pushing the friendship on that floater, and Jadson Andre’s forced air-reverses’ sometime have the stylistic integrity of Shane Warne dancing in sluggoes, but let’s not forget that Adriano did win the Billabong event in Rio beating Taj Burrow in the final. Plus it was only recently at the Rip Curl Pro at Easter that Adriano comboed Kelly Slater at Bells in solid waves. No kook has ever won a World Tour event [in good or shit waves].
3 style kings: Aussie Midget Farrelly (top left), American Tom Curren (bottom left), and Brazilian Fabio Gourveia (main).
Miguel also did his bit for Brazilian surfing by winning the Nike Lowers Pro, a six star prime event in the US. Doing it with both flare and style… also worth noting that six of the final eight surfers at that event were Brazilian.
I think it’s time we came to terms with the fact a Brazilian will be crowned world champion sooner rather than later.
‘Floatergate’ has opened old wounds, and despite the extreme end of the online criticism verging on racial discrimination, sensible pundits seem to be simply playing style police – an inherent attitude of the Australian surfer.
Finally, and perhaps inadvertently, this 'Floatergate' debate seems to have championed the need for the word, ‘style’ to be added to our judging criteria. It certainly counts in the professional Snowboarding half-pipe criteria where style and execution are both cited as crucial elements in a rider’s overall run score.
– Col B
The heat scores, interestingly one judge had Adriano's floater as high as 9, while another a low 7.8. The human touch.
Note: The ASP took the unprecendented step of releasing a retrospective statment explaining the judging in the quarter final in question, read it HERE
Plus, Below are some comments from the ASP Facebook page.
Luke Cheadle: Quoting ASP statement. “It’s important to note that there is nothing in the criteria that says surfers must complete multiple turns.” Oh really? What is this then: Judges analyse the following major concepts when scoring waves: - Commitment and Degree of Difficulty - Innovative and Progressive Manoeuvres - Combination of Major Manoeuvres - Variety of Manoeuvres - Speed, Power and Flow.
Eduardo Sampaio: To Jeff Hoskins, who posted “Every event there’s some kinda BS situation where a Brazilian is favoured”. I think you don’t follow the ASP events? What are you talking about??? We’ve had events in Brazil for more than 15 years and it is only the third time a Brazilian has won”.
Domenico Serrano Vasquez: “Judge’s criteria sucks. Almost a 9 for one floater? Got to be kidding me. I think that happens because the contest was in Brazil, I’m sure if Adriano makes that move in Bells or JBay the judges don’t give him that score. Good for Adriano, bi...g congrats, happy, really happy for him, good for the city of Rio and the entire Brazil, because Brazil deserves a number one for many years ago, but bad, very very bad for the ASP judges. I always watch the contests and the criteria in this particular one really was a mess. Next generation of judges should be computers.”
Tim Wyman: “I don’t care how critical. A score of over 8.0 for a single floater = wrong! The Brazilian Mafia must have been holding a gun to the judges in order for them to give this score out.”
Sue Ogden: “That was the worst judging ever eventually surfing will need to be able to stop the contest while a protest is applied and then for them to replay the heat by video like they do in tennis matches because unless the profession of surfing becomes more professional their contracts and sponsors will go to a genre of sport that is accountable wise up ASP you will destroy this sport unless you address this issue.”
Odyssey Surfsnowstyle: “I smell self serving bullshit! You changed the scoring criteria to reward modern progressive surfing and now you’re saying clean big airs are “bread and butter” moves and what you’re really looking for is floaters??!”
Yukiyoshi Kamimura: “Despite the fact the heat result was highly controversial and I believe Owen should’ve won, after reading some very unfortunate posts I think the issue here goes slightly beyond people being simply passionate about the sport, people seem to be finding an opportunity to unleash their prejudice. Throughout the history of ASP there has been a substantial amount of controversial results but I’ve never seen such a fuss, never!!! Its clear there is some enormous discomfort with idea of a Brazilian surfer being number one in the WT.”
Ado Comiskey: “Although, as an Aussie, I’m happy to say that Adriano’s been ripping and constantly improving, and was maybe hard done by at Snapper vs Taj. But everybody’s sick of seeing any scoring ride claimed - twice at Quiky. It was hilarious that CJ... came to Brazil with a bag full of claims! Everybody’s doing it now and the commentators reckon they’re scoring by it? Lame. Kelly should lead an anti-claim movement as a parting gift on retirement.”