The Fifth Wheel

Why Nat Young wasn’t granted a wildcard into the Pipe Masters.

| posted on December 06, 2011

Just two days away from the start of the Pipe Masters, it seems unlikely that Nat Young will have the opportunity to surf in the final stop on the 2011 Triple Crown series. Photo: Heff.. Photo: Heff

With the Pipe Masters looming, a strange sense of déjà vu is creeping over the North Shore—and specifically Twitter—after Nat Young was not granted a wildcard to compete at Pipeline.

Last year, Julian Wilson was denied a wildcard into the Pipe Masters. At the time, he was trailing Joel Parkinson by only 26 points in the 2010 Vans Triple Crown ratings. The decision meant he had to relinquish any hopes of winning of the Triple Crown. Fast-forward one year and you have a similar situation. The ASP and Vans Triple Crown officials are again dealing with a resembling and uncomfortable predicament.

The other Triple Crown contenders Florence, Bourez, Melling, and Burrow all have seeds into the Pipe Masters due to their World Tour and One World Ranking seed. Young, however, (ranked fifth on the Triple Crown ratings and 49th on the One World Ranking) doesn’t, which leaves him without a berth into Pipe. And without a chance to compete for the Triple Crown title.

“Randy Rarick [Triple Crown of Surfing Executive Director] came up to me and said, ‘Stick around ’cause you’re probably going to get the wildcard for the Pipe Masters,’” said Young. “They were going to text me later that evening to let me know for sure if I got it.”

Young never received a text that night, but he did the following morning informing him that he would not, in fact, be granted a wildcard. He received no further explanation.

Wanting to avoid a situation like last year, and with an extended Pipe Masters roster, the ASP reserved space for two additional Pipe wildcards in 2011, in addition to their standard two wildcards per contest. Although there is no set rule on how to distribute wildcards, the ASP and surfers’ union granted Kolohe Andino a wildcard, as the two sides agreed that it would go to whoever was next in line on the ASP World Rankings. This left one remaining wildcard.

“If a surfer was in a good position to win the Triple Crown,” said ASP International Media Manager, Dave Prodan, “we would consider awarding the remaining spot to them so we could avoid a situation like last season when Julian was second on VTCS [Vans Triple Crown Series] rankings after Sunset Beach but wasn’t seeded into Pipe. After discussion with the surfers’ union, we refined the Triple Crown criteria to state that if a surfer is not in the top three positions on the Vans Triple Crown ratings after Sunset Beach, then the wildcard would go to next in line on the ASP World Rankings. As Nat Young is in fifth place on the VTCS rankings at present, and falls outside that criteria, the second ASP wildcard will go to next in line on the ASP World Rankings.”

That next surfer in line is Brazilian Willian Cordoso. Along with Cardoso, Andino, C.J. Hobgood, and Adam Melling have been granted wildcards. However, they’re replacing an injured Jeremy Flores and Mick Fanning, as well as filling the two replacement spots the ASP normally allots at each World Title event.

If any more World Tour surfers withdraw, the wildcards will then go back to the brands [Billabong and Vans], and if the rumors circulating that Alejo Muniz, Miguel Pupo, Adriano de Souza, Patrick Gudauskas, and Heitor Alves are injured and cannot surf, the brands will then have five wildcards to allocate. No word yet on who those surfers may be, but it’s highly unlikely they would grant a non-teamrider a wildcard.

“It’s not Billabong and Vans’ problem at all,” said Young. “It’s their contest, they deserve to give their wildcards to guys they sponsor.”

While a Triple Crown win is a lifelong goal for Young, the odds aren’t in his favor, as he would have to place first or second and Florence would have to finish last. In spite of that, Young needs the World Tour points from Pipe to make qualification for next year’s “Dream Tour” a distant possibility.

“The surfers also agreed that both Kolohe and Willian would be awarded ASP World Rankings points for their forthcoming result at Pipeline,” said Prodan, “a huge gesture from the surfers considering that Kolohe’s and/or Willian’s performances could effectively knock one of the established surfers out of the Top 34 qualification.”

Whether the surfers’ union’s decision was indeed a kind gesture or a late rule change, the fact remains that inconsistency continues to haunt the ASP.

“If they reserved a spot and had a rule they were going to give a wildcard to the highest rated non-World Tour surfer,” says Young, “then I don’t get why they all of a sudden changed their minds.”

  • tom tom

    … just keep riping!

  • ralph headrick

    Hi Nat
    Lot’s of bullshit flying eh?
    You are the pride of Santa Cruz.
    Don’t alter from your humble self.
    Have fun and just rip!

  • go nat

    The asp does another back handed maneuverand and not a good one like nat would throw down going right..

  • Dewey

    The decision was made by the movers and shakers of the surfing industry, the ASP just went along as they always do. Kolohe and Willian both are more valuable (they will make their sponsors more money) from a business point of view then Nat.

  • Thesurfcoach

    So….although I agree in sentiment, Nat has very little realistic chance in winning the triple crown even if granted a slot at Pipe. Some would say none. Melling perhaps. Most likely John John. But hey…Shit happens.

    What alarms me is that the surfers union has voted to allow wildcards to keep their pints in a WT event. But no, not all of the wildcards, just the two that are probably getting on anyway. WC’s NEVER keep WT points! Why? Because Quik/Rip/Bong would be able to put a WT hopeful in every event and grant him a massive advantage. What’s going on over there? Does anybody even show up for these meetings?

  • Neal Kearney

    wow…so what is the Triple Crown then, a marketing scheme? …oh wait, sorry I forgot. At the end of the day someones gotta make a buck, which in this case means that poor Nat is screwed, but he’s gonna come back like an albino spider monkey on crank next year and force the issue! keep doin ur thing son!

  • einstein

    Just another reason surfing is at the cellar of worldwide sports. A system with a lot of holes in it, people with no courage to take the stage and say something. It’s a shame Slater doesn’t take a stand for this. The triple crown of surfing should be used as a platform for not only the surfing world’s entertainment, but as a way to draw in outsiders interest, which would only benefit the sport in the long run. For Nat Young to make a semi and a final in two prestigious events, only to be blocked from the final event is another low point for surfing. Equal or worse than Julian Wilson last year.

  • surfnewps

    So they let Kolohe in so he can guarantee qualification for the Tour yet the guy who is 5th in the triple crown race cant. Kolohe hasnt had one decent result in the tripple crown yet!. TENNIS TOUR? no this is worse….MUCH WORSE

  • wiley

    Dino Andino’s son is gonna shit his pants at pipe with this swell forecast. Nat would charge. put Nat in, nuff said


    A little off subject, but was this Nat’s first year on the Triple Crown? If so why didnt he get rookie of the year? If it was his second year then disregard my comment.