Always Look On The Light Side Of Life?
Is it fair to run wave sailing in next to no wind?
The challenge of running PWA wave events is complex. Not all the tour stops totally pump all the time, and so the association must balance the needs of the sponsors, riders and local organisers constantly to keep high-quality competition rolling on.
The sight of waves crashing in on the final day at Tiree made for a mixed bag of emotions as the season reached its climax, especially as the wind was barely above 10 knots at best.
Many competitors thought it was too sketchy and time to go surfing, and some said it was a green light scenario and that heats could've been run in wind as low as 5 knots.
But a handful of riders always seemed to make it through the white-water and rip it up, which raises some interesting points and highlight how tough it is for the Head Judge to call whether conditions are suitable enough for competition.
Josh Angulo was one of those champing at the bit in Sylt and Tiree as flags hung limply.
Angulo, who’s already got one world title under his belt, couldn't have finished higher than 3rd overall after Scotland, but he still wanted to win the event outright, have the last laugh, and take home a valuable pay check.
Additionally, the top-16 (There was no time left to run the final heats) was full of the usual suspects such as world champ Kauli Seadi (Quatro / Naish), and runner-up Victor Fernandez (Fanatic / Simmer), who all sailed to their usual high standards, even after competition was declared officially over.
So, are some competitors lazy and hiding behind less favourable conditions as an excuse not to get knocked-out early? Are they simply not competitive enough or even good enough to compete at this level, or do the results become random when the breeze drops?
The Head Judge’s hardest decisions are made when the conditions are marginal as it can be much harder to separate the difference in standard between riders than it would be in a windier situation, especially amongst the lower seeds.
Should the principles be looked at? Should riders be using different equipment as available on the wider market to get into waves on marginal days, or even choosing to sail in lighter air?
One of the sport's all-time masters of wave riding Josh Angulo gives us some philosophical views that are certainly food for thought.
"What are suitable conditions in my mind? It changes depending on if the wind is side-off or side-on and what the surf is doing.
I come 100% from a surfing background so I always try to use the currents and any other water movements to my advantage rather than disadvantage.
Basically for me it really comes down to more of a surfing approach, if there’s enough wave and wind to get a couple turns in, then for me it's on.
Outside of competition, it's more about what I’m in the mood for or who I’m with.
I may surf even if it's windy or sail even if it's light. That really depends on my personal feeling.
However at a contest, that's what I’m there to do, so I’d like to compete all costs in whatever the set up.
Personally I think Windsurfers in general should actively target fresh new lighter wind locations that have regular swell.
And if the PWA had the luxury of choosing its locations than I would say yes they should take in some low wind, clean surf spots too.
But the reality is that PWA tour stops are determined by whoever it is that can come up with the hard cash.
I do think we’ve missed opportunities to get results at times. For example at Sylt, in my opinion, we should’ve started the women's event earlier, and run some heats of men, stopped the freestyle double elimination on the windy day, and then run some heats of men’s wave single, and we could’ve easily sealed the deal on the last day.
To me Tiree was a total joke too. The day we ran an expression session at Crossapol, Balephuil was way fun, with everybody jumping and getting waves and the event moved there about 2 hours too late.
We definitely could’ve had a bunch of heats done that day. We also missed a few sporadic heats at Balevullin and then completely dropped the ball on the last day by waiting around on hold... unstinkinbelievable!
I’m a big heavy guy, and the last time I complained the conditions were not suitable was during a slalom heat in Fuerte this year, when the winds shifted pretty dramatically and I couldn't make the mark. (Of course that had nothing to do with the fact that I did a really wide jibe the mark before…)
I also know I’m probably in a minority with my view. Maybe all 15 of the others in the Tiree top-16 would’ve complained if we’d carried on or got a little nervous with their end of year rankings left up to what they’d call a lottery as the pressure came on at the last.
Ha! Maybe I should be a head judge one day? Who knows, I’m sure my freaked-out style to compete in anything, would probably mellow in time, and I could probably run a real good event!
I know most of those guys are trying to do their best. But these thoughts are my personal opinion and everybody's entitled to their own.
At the end of the day we’re all so blessed to be able to have that contact with water and wind.
There are a lot of people in the world under persecution and less fortunate than us and some that have lost family members to great tragedies, so on the whole all these previously discussed subjects are really not that important in the bigger picture of life”.
© PWA / Brian McDowell