Everyone is starting to get home and watch the video. Emotions are starting to spill over. The on-water skirmish is now migrating online. I saw one parent’s post on Facebook and totally understand their frustration. I imagine if neither Kai nor Connor won, both families would be calling for blood.
Instead of reposting the Facebook conversations and calling people out, let’s review what happened between these two amazing young talents.
Here’s how it appeared to go down and as you can see, it appears that the shared love was totally mutual:
So what should have happened? Connor was right. DQ for everyone!
And I’m not talking blizzards. Connor had it right when he said both should have been disqualified. No call was made. Sometimes the no-call is easier. Especially when the one unfortunate and mishandled call they made blew up the women’s results. it doesn’t seem like the BOP could win either way.
Was this a one-time incident?
No. It’s been brewing for a long time. It spilled over into the BOP from years of competition, some business in Huntington and I’m sure other things on the World Tour. I saw them run through the chicane 2 years ago, throwing elbows and trying to box each other out and thought this is going to be interesting. It’s not something that just happened. There’s a history. And for whatever the reasons, these two incredible young athletes—two incredible young guys—are going to be at it, week after week, for a long time.
Is it the nature of sports to have the top people not get along? Will we have a Jimmy Connors vs John McEnroe? I think Magic Johnson and Julius Erving got along. But does it have to get to the Mike Tyson and Evander Holyfield level? Who knows. It’d be nice to think it was more like Danny Ching and Travis Grant, but who knows.
Is it Kai and Connor’s fault? Maybe. Maybe not.
Is this incident a product of the environment? Has our biggest stage turned into a Coliseum?
Is this what the BOP has become?
I heard amazing comments about the BOP this year from people who watched and competed.
“The crowd sounded like a tennis match mixed with people getting hit by punches.”
“It was very cool to watch, but there were times when everyone just felt bad. Like we shouldn’t be watching this.”
“It was awesome. It was funny at first, then it was just sad. There was one women who was ahead and then a wave brought her completely back to the beach.”
“There were times I felt bad (watching).”
Watching the carnage reminded a buddy of mine (El Guapo Mojado) of this scene in Cool Hand Luke. And this isn’t about Kai and Connor. This is how the crowd went from cheering to feeling bad, to begging Luke not to get up, to stay down. That’s how it was described:
I recognize that the best will survive in this kind of setting, but from the Mullet’s POV, there are a ton of people who look to this World Championships (and it is the World Championships, probably because it doesn’t call itself by that name and mostly because it just is) as the epicenter of the sport. As goes BOP, so goes the sport. I’m a huge BOP fan and missing it this year was traumatic for me, but where it succeeded in bringing together the best paddlers in the world, it failed miserably in celebrating the inclusive nature and the meeting of the tribe aspects.
Part of what makes the BOP special is that everyone is there from all over the world. The pros battle next to the Joes. The beach is full and it’s like one huge reunion where people can even do a little business.
This year, BOP lost what made it special. And the very nature of the new venue, the violent setting and conditions, and the lack of community infested in the actions of two of the sports biggest stars. And it wasn’t just Kai and Connor. It was present in the women’s final. The way it was handled was so sterile, so disconnected. Such a bummer. Why do pros leave this race with such a bad taste in their mouths yet keep coming back? How long will it last? How long will it be able to maintain the central point in this sport’s event calendar?
Its possible that this new venue brought out the worst in some of the best people on Earth.
It’s a shame, but it’s a learning experience.
I know a lot of people are super bummed about it, but it’s actually good when things like this happen because without conflict, nothing changes. We need this event to start looking at what’s happened to our sport and perhaps call for some aloha. A REALLY LOUD CALL FOR ALOHA!
I’m not Hawaiian. My Italian family might have practiced aloha and just called it Saturday. I’m not sure. And I might be getting this term wrong, but, it sounds like the two families need a Hoʻoponopono. “The mental cleansing: family conferences in which relationships were set right through prayer, discussion, confession, repentance, and mutual restitution and forgiveness.” from what I understand, it gives everyone a chance to get together and air out their concerns and grievances and to start the healing process. Perhaps if Kai and Connor and their families do this brokered by a good mutual friend, maybe a Chuck or someone close to both, their healing can extend out to the rest of the sport. After all, when you look to the culture of a sport or a business, you have to look to the top and these two are fighting over the peak.
And if they don’t, maybe the sport evolves in a different way, with sides and good guys and bad guys. With heroes and villains. Regardless of what went down and who was to blame or who started it, we need to remember that this can be a great learning opportunity for Kai and Connor and their families, for the BOP, for sponsors, for the spectators and the parents.