The WSL F'd this one up

Margaret River is SUPPOSED to be the mid-season cut...unless the WSL is about to lose a big name. Kelly Slater and Johanne Defay have been awarded 2023/24 WSL season wildcards. Meanwhile, Brisa Hennessy and Miguel Pupo have been awarded 2024 wildcards. This isn't a surprise to anyone, really, and in no way are these surfers undeserving, but it does bring up a few issues with the mid-season cut in general.

When the WSL introduced the cut, it was supposed to be a way for professional surfing to become more dramatic—a way for the first few events to have more weight behind them given the potential to be cast out of the tour. But it seems to me like they are flopping around at the moment with all this season wildcard nonsense.

Wildcards are supposed to be awarded on an event-by-event basis. It's an opportunity for a local surfer with extensive knowledge about the break to compete at the highest level alongside the rest of the tour surfers, and this makes sense. If you have a 19-year-old who was born and raised on a break, they might not have the chops to be on the tour just yet, but throw them in their element and they might be able to beat the best. This is the kind of stuff that both viewers and surfers enjoy.

Now it seems like they are going to use the wildcard as a way to keep big-name surfers in the hunt even if they are eliminated, which feels weird. In this scenario, I think it's deserved. Kelly is the GOAT, so let him finish out the year strong and maybe even qualify for the Olympics—nobody is going to fight you on that. But this is quickly going to become a way for the WSL to keep the surfers who bring in the most eyeballs and therefore the most money on tour. You can be sure that John John will be given the card if he's ever eliminated.

The bottom line is if you're going to make a rule, stick to that rule. If you're going to institute a cut (which I'm not even sure I agree with), then it has to be a cut.

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