The Hurley Pro Trestles started off with epic surf and controversy, on hold awaiting new swell

Filipe Toledo, a San Clemente transplant, is poised to make a run at the Hurley Pro Trestles final when competition resumes, following a string of lay days. Photo: WSL/Kirstin
Filipe Toledo, a San Clemente transplant, is poised to make a run at the Hurley Pro Trestles final when competition resumes, following a string of lay days. Photo: WSL/Kirstin

By Andrea Swayne

The surfing world had plenty to talk about during the string of lay days—Sunday, Sept. 13 through Thursday, Sept. 17—at the Hurley Pro Trestles and Swatch Women’s Pro at Trestles.

The parched Southern California land got some much needed rain, the athletes got some mid-contest down time and it seems the entire planet weighed in on 11-time world champion Kelly Slater’s wave score heard round the world.

With a hurricane swell came perfect Lowers conditions for the event kickoff on Wednesday, Sept. 9 through Saturday, Sept. 12, before the San Onofre State Park permit—which limits the event to a choice of only one of two consecutive weekend days of competition—forced the first lay day on Sunday, Sept. 13. The timing was fine however, as the swell and weather forecasts clearly predicted much less than perfect conditions.

Slater—eliminated in Round 5 behind Mick Fanning (Australia) 16.10 to 14.90—did not go down without punctuating his performance with an epic display of his “freakish” athletic prowess and igniting a controversy that crossed over from the surfing world into mainstream media.

Slater went for a big air reverse, got super vertical, and according to him, way more detached from the board than he realized, followed by landing hard and square on the deck with his hands and knees and then popping up again and finishing the wave.

The crowd went wild, screaming for a perfect 10 and the judges gave it a 4.17 because the move was deemed incomplete—not landed.

Social media and magazine message boards went off, packed with debate over the fairness of the call. The seemingly super-humanly ridden wave, and the controversial score, was even featured on some network television news reports.

In a World Surf League online breakdown of the wave on Monday, Slater and WSL head judge Richie Porta talked about the ride and the call.

“In my head I was just kind of laughing about that I was even still in the wave and that I landed so square on the board …” Slater said. “And then I was just kind of goofing around and then I just did a 360. I almost fell there and kind of dug my nose. And then I did a turn and I was a little too weighted forward and got a little stuck. But then I did sort of a nice clean finishing turn.”

Porta added that as the best surfers in the world the athletes all know that they have to complete their maneuvers in order to earn a top score.

“If you do the most amazing aerial in the world … and you land on your belly, it’s an incomplete maneuver,” Porta said. “Everyone has to understand it’s an incomplete maneuver. It’s worth nothing. The surfers know all that. There’s no dissention among the athletes about that score, guaranteed. I understand why people are so excited and amazed and feel let down, because it was an amazing spectacle … If he’d landed on his feet, oh my goodness, it’s an obvious … the score would have been no problem, a 10-point ride.”

Slater went on to say he couldn’t believe how he landed and that the board was planing. He laughed about how after landing in so much whitewash he thought there was a chance it may have looked like he landed it.

“I’m the competitor, the one who has to wear the brunt of that being a good or bad score and I’m not too worried about it,” Slater said. “And I don’t understand why so many people are.”

About the 4.17: aside from the incomplete aerial, were his final maneuvers deserving of more than what he got? That too has continued to be a source of debate.

According to the surf forecast, as of press time on Wednesday, the arrival of a new swell was expected to hit Thursday or Friday, inviting the final day of competition.

With the longtime San Clementeans knocked out in the first few days of competition—Ian Crane in Round 2, Kolohe Andino in Round 3—local crowds still had recent transplant Filipe Toledo and part-time resident Lakey Peterson to cheer on as hometown favorites.

The final day of competition was scheduled to resume with men’s quarterfinals and women’s semifinals.

A live stream of the Hurley Pro Trestles is available online at www.worldsurfleague.com.

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