So what’s the takeaway from the Quiksilver Pro in France?
The obvious: Gabriel Medina is a 17-year-old rookie who’s blazed his way up onto the world tour fast enough to qualify during this year’s first-ever mid-season rotation, proving in one fell swoop that: 1. He belongs. 2. He’s made an immediate impact on the title race by keeping Slater from running away with it. 3. Which validates the ASP’s new format, including the controversial mid-season rotation.
By taking down Slater this year, while Kelly is the reigning champion and current tour leader, years from now fans wont have to wonder what might have been. We’ll be able to look back at the stats and see that a 17-year-old rising star got his shot at the sport’s biggest legend before he exited stage left. No matter how you slice it, that’s good for surfing.
While Slater’s lead over Wright has grown, for now, Medina, has prevented him from breaking it open. And what’s more, with Hawaii just around the corner, John Florence (another mid-season additio) may have something to say in the matter. All these fresh legs are keeping things exciting.
And let’s not forget Julian Wilson, one of the five rookies who’ve been added to the tour in the past year. After squeaking in at the end of 2010 Wilson is just now settling in. But his above the lip antics are already raising the bar on everyone else.
But what was especially nice to see was how wide the age spread was in the quarterfinals. With Kelly Slater and Taylor Knox, the tour’s oldest stars, facing down the next generation. Medina wasn’t even alive when Slater won his first world title.
The ASP tour has never had a wider span of eras and approaches than. That, too, is a good thing. Yet it’s also a very fleeting one that we should savor.
Of course all these different approaches do tend to complicate things. For all the positives the one drawback is the added confusion for judges trying to weigh it all on the same scale. There’s some seriously bad scoring going on. And while a certain level of it is always expected, the volatility index has gone overboard of late, which is creating very valid concerns among the surfers.
The danger is surfers blaming all those problems on the new system, when in fact, the two are completely separate issues. To be clear, the system isn’t perfect. There are tweaks to be made, but in terms of the show being put on for the fans, the ASP product is better than ever, and both the rookies and legends did a great job of proving that this week.