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Connor-Kai BOP altercation spills over into the ugly ugly

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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:

Kai cuts under Connor
Kai cuts under Connor

Obviously, it looks like Kai is trying to fade Connor off the wave
It looks like Kai is trying to fade Connor off the wave, although again, this is one moment in a long race and there’s no telling where it started or who hit first.

Connor cuts back and nearly knocks Kai off his board.
Connor cuts back and nearly knocks Kai off his board 01

Connor cuts back and nearly knocks Kai off his board.
Connor cuts back and nearly knocks Kai off his board 02

Connor cuts back and nearly knocks Kai off his board 03
Connor cuts back and nearly knocks Kai off his board 03

Kai cuts back under Connor, tried to push him off the wave
Kai cuts back under Connor, tried to push him off the wave again

Connor with the aggressive cutback to go back at Kai
Connor with the aggressive cutback (his second attempt) to go back at Kai

Connor lands on top of Kai's Board, knocking him off.
This time, Connor lands on top of Kai’s Board, knocking him off.

Kai starts to fall
Kai starts to fall

Screen Shot 2014-10-08 at 8.18.15 PM
Kai reaches out and grabs Connor’s handle in a “If I’m going down, you’re going down, too” move. (actually, quite amazing). The funny thing is we’re looking over the shoulder of a referee or maybe someone who just likes striped shirts.

Both go tumbling down into the whitewater
Both go tumbling down into the whitewater

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.

Use this.

  1. As a coach I am involved in SUP racing last 3 season, and I am still aware that I don’t know enough to judge… Therefore I will try to compare the BOP races or similar SUP races with a sport I know it into details-alpine skiing. There are many sports where the equipment is specialy designed and made for different conditions. Taking this into account, try to imagine World CUP alpine skier to use »slalom skies« for downhill performance at famous Kitzbuehel or Beaver Creek. That would be stupid, if not even suicide idea! Technicaly we could measure the racing time for all downhill alpine skiers (approx. 60) using slalom boards starting at the same time in let say Beaver Creek…that would be something for those who would come there to see carnage, broken legs, …to see people laying on the snow. That would be something for those who want to see red snow. Of course this will never happen, because we have strong International Ski Federation (FIS) who takes care for the safety of all skiers. That is missing in SUP sport… and not only from the security aspects…rules as well!!!

  2. To me, as long as they are both surfing the wave in, even cutting back and forth on each other- that is one thing and can be argued to be part of simply competing for an edge….but Kai falling and then grabbing Connor’s board to pull him down is something totally different…I have not read the official rules, but that would seem to me to be grounds for a DQ of Kai.

    • Daniel,

      Taking no sides:
      “..as long as they are both surfing the wave in, even cutting back and forth on each other…”
      then Connor contacts Kai’s sled and that competitive edge goes to Connor?
      If it’s deemed a deliberate act of non-Aloha, a penalty (time added or DQ’d?) should be levied.

      All-in-all, this makes me sad.
      Malama Pono

  3. Here’s the question: Obviously disqualifying them both at this point is not an option. And honestly, DQ-ing them at the race would have been nuts. But, if they are going to make such a bizarre ruling on the women’s race, docking a previous champion without as much as a conversation with her about what happened, you’d assume they wouldn’t have hesitated. Why not DQ them if they saw the whole thing when they’re ready to give penalties to something they may or may not have seen? I’m on a tangent, but it’s inconsistent. And again, this isn’t a call to DQ either of them. I think they can resolve it and everyone will move on and be better because of it. I’ll have to write a whole other thing about the BOP aloha thing because I misstated it slightly. Sparky and the crew that puts on the race are overflowing with aloha. I’ll clarify in the next post.

John Beausanghttp://www.paddlemonster.com
Writer, Small Business Owner Father, Husband, Paddler, Surfer Sixers & Eagles Fan Proudly Independent Publisher, @distressdmullet Co-Founder @Paddlemonster

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