Parties raged in South Africa Sunday night, following Jordy Smith's second consecutive victory at the Billabong Pro J-Bay. A longer lasting hangover from this contest will be the controversy surrounding the three American surfers -- Dane Reynolds, Kelly Slater and Bobby Martinez -- who failed to show in J-Bay, which has resulted in one new ASP rule being created and another being proposed.
The first rule change (discussed in Billabong Pro J-Bay early round coverage) resulted in alternate surfers being slotted into round two after Slater and Martinez were declared no-shows by failing to check in five minutes before their respective heats. It was put into play at J-Bay without much contorversy. This affects hopeful alternates more so than the surfer who is absent.
The second rule made has yet to be ratified, but it could really hurt somebody's back pocket.
"The ASP Technical Committee has proposed to increase the 'no show' fines of surfers at the World Title level. Once approved by the ASP Board of Directors, this ruling will go into effect and the appropriate changes will be made to the ASP rulebook," says ASP International's Media Director, Dave Prodan.
Up until this contest, if a surfer failed to show up for the event, he was fined US $5,000 and received no ratings points. For many World Tour surfers, on substantial sponsorship packages, this was a mere slap on the wrist and no real deterrent from blowing off a contest.
From the next event, which is the Billabong Pro in Tahiti, sources close to the ASP have indicated increasing the fine to US $25,000 if the surfer has been in touch with ASP officials but is still a no show (e.g. Slater at J-Bay) or possible US $50,000 for a surfer who has not been in touch with officials (e.g. Martinez) and fails to turn up. Prodan could not verify these numbers. There is no word yet if these rules will apply to the Womens World Tour, as they make considerably less in prizemoney and endorsments.
There were discussions at ASP Board level to instigate a rule like the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) where if a competitor doesn't turn up and doesn't have a valid excuse, he receives a fine and is also suspended from the next event. The ASP has not gone as far as suspensions yet, but they are considering it if the increased fines don't have the desired effect. The ASP Technical Committee must now have the changes ratified by the ASP Board of Directors.
The third surfer who pulled out of the Billabong Pro was Dane Reynolds, who wasn't targeted with a lot of the criticism that Slater and Martinez received. The ASP is going to review Reynolds's excuse that he was still recovering from injury, after ASP officials received a video of a recent Reynolds surf session in Mexico that has been in the public domain.
Each of the surfers who missed this event had a different set of circumstances. Seems Slater had a genuine desire to forfeit the first round, which in a World Tour event is a non-elimination round. He hoped to surf his way from round two, but rolled the dice and lost when it was run earlier than he thought.
Martinez, on the other hand, appears disillusioned with competitive surfing and could be ready to walk away. With only two more contests, the Billabong Pro Tahiti and the Quiksilver Pro New York before the mid year cut off, Martinez is running out of both time and results to see him stay in the Top 32 for the second half of the year. Reynolds is safe from the mid year cut offs because most of his best results came in the second half of last year. Those points still count toward his rankings. The question is, does he have the desire to continue competing?
Stay tuned to see who shows up to the Billabong Pro in Tahiti.