Mainstream media continue to denounce the “cruel” and “depressing” elimination of the World Surf League mid-year: “Have grace and mercy completely disappeared from this part of humanity? If you have prepared tears, shed them now.”

Toledo, Florence, Robinson, Ewing, Ferreira. Tell me that a match between two of these men, at any wave of the Tour, wouldn’t be a sight to watch?

I have a loose approach to gardening. I keep the grass short, tend to a few modest vegetables, and leave the rest alone. There are young trees that I protect. Some are of uncertain origin and species, and my mind was to let them grow and see where we ended up.

Leave them alone, they will understand.

My dear mom has a very different approach. She prunes, burns and weeds relentlessly. She cuts to promote growth.

Where my garden is lovely and wild, hers is groomed within an inch of its life. She removes weaker plants so others can thrive and shine.

Lately, she has turned her hand to my garden, hacking and cutting with her pruning shears. She pulled out some of my saplings by the roots. I complained. I supported. I told him not to cut that one, and just leave that one. But she didn’t listen.

In the end, she was right. It’s better to be reduced.

It was a lesson in growth.

You have to consider diversity as well as beauty. The space used as well as the space created. Feed but don’t choke. Trim but don’t hack. Get rid of some things to stimulate others.

Watch them flourish.

If the top five surfers in the world today were the ones heading to Trestles to compete for the title, would you be arguing?

Filipe Toledo, John Florence, Jack Robinson, Ethan Ewing, Italo Ferreira.

Tell me that a match between two of these men, at any wave of the Tour, wouldn’t be a sight to watch?

Within this group, there is a diversity of culture, approach, strength and character. There is no weakness.

There’s a long way to go, of course, and the return of a Gabriel Medina to consider, but it’s a top five to tickle all tastes.

What started out as a losers story turned into something very different. Margaret River had its own story to tell.

It wouldn’t be a story of people hanging on by their nails, but rather of people showing their claws.

From dawn to dusk, the entire men’s competition took place. Tantric discipline ensured the best window conditions and we ended in the dying light of the last hours of the waiting period.

It wasn’t a particularly tricky call, given the forecast, but note it as a slip of the Hangman’s Noose for Jessi Miley-Dyer nonetheless.

Let’s take a look at the business and the flowers that have bloomed amidst the dunescapes of Western Australia.

Filipe Toledo still holds a slim lead in the standings despite losing a close heat to Nat Young in the Round of 16. The latter has blossoming buds with as much promise as any point in previous iterations of his career.

However, a production disaster meant that much of their heat went unnoticed in favor of a phone with Medina. It was the best series in the competition so far, with the man in the yellow jersey no less, and we missed it.

Italo seemed bubbly at times, unless a little spicy in others. He looked more like his old self, muted and relaxed in the post-heat presses in a very deliberate way. He talked about good energy with Jadson, who he was staying with. But he will have to find the tipping point between vigor and rage in the future.

Barron Mamiya is a surfer that I continue to admire. He has tiger-like power and poise that makes you believe he could attack a section with blinding ferocity at any moment. He lost to Jack Robinson in one of two legs the eventual winner could have lost today. Robinson’s 8.93 opening was highly questionable, especially in the context of Barron’s waves.

Only 0.13pt separated the two at the end, and in that you might assume it was close enough to have gone either way, but that in itself is a problem. Several innings at Bells Beach were decided by split runs. There were fewer at Margaret River, but there were incidents where the point spread between the judges was a whole point or more.

This should be mitigated by removing the high and low scores and taking the average, but on several occasions there were two judges with the same highest scores and two with the same lowest scores, so in all three scores of counting, there was always a points gap.

This is not only a major problem, it was decisive in the outcome of the event.

Jack Robinson had a flurry of points in his quarter, semi and final where there was a full point difference between the judges.

In other words, for three of the six waves that earned him the test, the judges could not agree on whether the surf was good or excellent. In the case of his final with John where the gap between their heat totals was only 0.64 points, this discrepancy in judgment altered the outcome of the event.

See for yourself.

8.0 in the quarterfinals against Jordy – 8.5, 7.5, 8.0, 7.5, 8.5

8.10 in semi against Ethan – 7.5, 7.5, 8.5, 8.5, 8.3

8.07 in the final against John – 7.3, 8.5, 8.5, 7.5, 8.2

To say it’s just not good enough would be a gross understatement.

How can rounds be fairly decided by fractional runs with this gap between the judges?

It seems pedantic to constantly harass the judges, but it is a failure in the basic skill.

We won’t get transparency or explanation, and I find it strange that netizens don’t demand it when careers and livelihoods are at stake. The rise of sports betting in America has resulted in stat corrections and reports thorough referees. Can we see the same here?

Maybe that’s where the madness lies.

I’m starting to think we should just throw the baby out with the bathwater and completely recalibrate the way we think about professional surfing.

Maybe embracing the concept of entertainment is the way to make peace with it. When we try to pack it like sport, it wiggles and wiggles. So why bother? Take it for what it is: a frivolous, aquatic dance based on rhythm, luck and mystical energies none of us understand.

It’s entirely subjective. It’s just entertainment.

And all told, the most entertaining surfers in the world are more or less the ones we ended up with in the finals at Margaret River.

A wise nod to Matt McGillivray, the only surfer to step up and forge a solitary arc of redemption.

Florence and Ewing were the top surfers in the event, and it wasn’t particularly close.

I completely fell in love with Ethan Ewing. I almost have to go back and watch his previous Tour appearances to try to discern the differences between then and now. How did he conceal such power and talent?

He slices under the lip so precisely his board could be an obsidian blade. His head, shoulders and arms are in perfect synchronicity. They do everything but nothing. Looking at it from a distance is like looking at a clock. You can see that it works, but to appreciate it you have to look very, very closely. Even then, you will still be confused.

John Florence looked unbeatable even when he was finally beaten. He seemed a victim of his own success at Margaret River. There was a lot of chatter in the booth about his connection and his 85% winning percentage. The speed at which he made the transitions was unmatched. His carvings buried the entire rail within an inch of the nose.

The problem, however, was that we had already seen it. It was still unique, but it was familiar. Even the extraordinary can become banal.

Maybe John was aware of that when he threw a beautiful hip tail slide in the final. It was the most drastic turn of the competition and although it was rewarded with the highest score of the match with an 8.5, it really should have been higher. Any other surfer who successfully attempted this on their first turn would surely have received a high nine. If only someone else could do it.

Regardless of the defeat, Florence is now second in the standings and that’s good for us and for him.

But we will see Gabriel Medina in Indonesia.

“I see an opportunity,” he said when asked how he felt about returning. ” It’s doable. These are waves that I like, they suit my surfing.

I would burn my whole garden just for him.

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