IBC World Tour Event 2: Iquique, Chile
Well, with no time to breathe, it’s straight onto the second event on the IBC world tour, three and a bit hours south of Arica to Iquique.
Sitting on the edge of the Atacama desert, Iquique is a popular holiday destination because of the tax-free status of its port area. The raw swells of the eastern Pacific break onto jagged volcanic rock shelves, which explains the slightly raggedy formation of the waves in the area.
While sedimentary rock shelves weather flat and smooth, creating a more uniform wave shape, volcanic rock deposits have a tendency to break off in uneven chunks, making the waves that break on them unpredicatable and shifty.
Finals day of the contest dawned with a cold, foggy looking morning and generally three foot surf with the occasional bigger set wave. While the wave had offered split peak options during the earlier days of the contest, today was clearly a day for the right-handers, which were much longer and offered more scoring potential.
While the first bowl of the right-hander looked inviting to hit, often it was a trap. Riders would huck themselves into a flip into the flats, only to find themselves being tripped up by the flat spots and wobbles created by the uneven reef below. Navigating the barrel was a similarly treacherous affair as the guts appeared to simply fall out from under riders as they threaded the tunnels.
Quarter-Final 1 saw 2008 world champion Uri Valadao match up against Alan Munoz. To be honest, this was a bit of a fizzer of a heat. Uri continually went for his trademarked headflick flip, but couldn’t land the killer blow. He just had one of those heats where nothing worked. Alan did enough with two bog-standard flips off the end section to progress.
QF 2 and Tristan Roberts was a man with a plan, a plan that he stuck to thoughout the semis and into the final. If the wave shortened up with no meat down the line on the first bowl, throw a flip. If it was a longer wall, roll on the outside and hunt a second roll or flip on the end section.
His opponent, local Jaoquin Soto, was brave, flipping for a 6.5 as his highest score, but was unable to navigate two wobbling barrels that would've given him a the win if completed. Tristan locked in an overscored 7 for a roll and a 6.4 for a flip to march into the semis.
Due to the illness withdrawal of Tanner McDaniel, Canary islands ripper Lionel Medina got to hear the two sweetest words in the English language, "de fault”, and progressed into the second semi.
QF 4 was arguably the most exciting heat of the day between Cristian Tapia and Iain Campbell from South Africa. For the bulk of the heat Cristian was in the box seat, comboing Iain with a 6.25 and a 5.9 for standard rolls and flips while Iain couldn’t get anything going.
With the heat winding down, Iain engaged squirell grip to hang on through a heavy landing backflip on an inside wave under priority for a 7, giving him a shot.
Then, with just over a minute remaining, Cristian used his priority to thread a barrel and finish with a flip on the end section that up to that point was the best wave of the heat and looked sure to close out precedings. Cue the camera panning into the lineup just as Iain backdoors a barrel, rolls off the lip, falls straight into a backdoor section, and finishes with another roll out.
Cristian’s last wave scores a 7.1, while Iain’s comes in at 7.65 and the South African steals the win.
The man with a plan, T-Rob, stuck to what worked for the first half of the heat of his semi against Alan Munoz. First wave: foamy flip, foamy flip, for a 5.5. Second wave: flip followed by a roll for a 6.5.
Meanwhile, Munoz’s best wave was a decent barrel to flip on the end bowl for 6.9 that came halfway through the heat. Perhaps feeling the pressure, Tristan briefly went barrel hunting, but couldn’t exit a tunnel on his next three waves.
With four minutes to go, Alan uses priority to go a wave that simply closes out in front of him, handing Tristan a chance for victory. He doesn’t miss, hucking two flips on his next wave for a 9 and the heat win.
Before we continue, let us examine the Robert’s right-hand roll. Throughout finals day it looked…weird…forced…flat...the board tucked in tight to the body…the head rotating ahead of the body. It did not look fluid.
Lionel Medina had been earmarked as the dark horse for the event days ago. He opens Semi 2 with a decent flip to give him an early 6.25 lead over Iain Campbell.
Iain goes tube hunting, but like Tristan in the heat before him, initially finds exiting the tube difficult until he strikes gold with an in and out to roll 7. He backs it up it with a barrel to flip for a 5 next wave.
After dropping the ball on an in and out roll combo of his own, Lionel goes back to the air, banging out a hanging roll for a 6 and the heat lead. Iain looks close to backing up his quarter final last minute win when he locks in a roll, tuck tube, and roll combo, but the judges only pay it a high 4, not enough for the win.
A Medina vs Roberts final it is.
Lionel opens strong with a nice flip for a 7 before failing to navigate an inside tube. Behind him Tristan takes a set wave and launches…yeah, a flip…followed by a funky roll that he fails to land. The judges throw a 9.5 at it. For a single flip and an incomplete roll…
In the commentary booth former professional rider Fabio Aquina explains: “The reason it is a 9.5 is because he didn’t use any legs to complete that manouvre”.
I’m sorry, what? How long has that been a thing? Is he just spitballing? Was Tristan’s wave a whole two and a half points better than Lionel’s simply because he didn’t use his legs to help complete the the rotation of the flip? Your author thinks no.
Lionel then air drops into a spitting insider that he navigates and cleanly rolls out off for a 7 and the heat lead. Tristan then edges back into the lead with a single standard roll out of the bowl that the judges incredibly award as a 6.4. Your humble writer was thinking a 4 at best.
Medina’s next wave looks like the best of the heat. A clean flip followed up with a solid round roll and a secondary roll as the wave finishes. An 8 apparently.
Now it’s the lowest of low hanging fruit to shine the spotlight on match officials to generate interest or controversy, but that said, what happened next needs a spotlight shone on it.
Tristan pulls into a barrel on a set wave. It’s neither especially thick or especially long, a quick in and out that granted does spit heavily. He check turns flat before flopping one of those weird rolls mentioned previously. Your writer thinks high 7’s.
The judges give it a perfect score.
Make no mistake, this was not a 10. A 10 is a perfectly ridden wave that makes you gasp out loud. A 10 is a wave that the judges are saying could not be faulted or bettered.
This was neither of those things.
Now please, dear reader, do not take this as a slight on Tristan or the judges personally. This is a conversation about processes and expectations on an observational level. If the scale is dropped a few pegs and Tristan’s wave comes out as an 8, no one would be talking about it.
However, beginning in Arica and continuing into Iquique, there have been rumblings around the scores being awarded from both the layperson and more seasoned campaigners. We’re talking about the best competitive riders in the world, and to posit that a wave like Tristan’s was the highest level of riding they are capable of producing is just not reality.
The IBC world tour has made a strong start with an epic contest at Arica and a watchable one at Iquique. We’re in, we’re interested. However, without some clarity around the lingering questions about judging scale, it risks squandering the good will it has so far achieved with bodyboarders world wide.
Let’s see what the next stop at Antofagasta brings…
// DAN DOBBIN