In case you missed it, there was quite a bit of hoopla recently surrounding a controversial heat at the Itacoatiara Pro in Brazil.

Long story short, the heat involved Hawaii’s Tanner McDaniel pitted against Brazilian trio Matheus Bastos, Igor De Almieda and Marcelo Santos. Due to windy conditions, the heat was classified as a “non priority heat” by the APB officials. Non-priority means that there is no order of who catches waves, with only the rider “closest to the breaking part of the wave” given right of way.

Using these rules, the three Brazilians effectively teamed up on McDaniel and the Hawaiian only managed to get third overall, knocking him out of the contest.

The tactics used stirred quite a bit of discussion, with our very own Judicator giving his opinion on the event. The next day, the APB moved a motion to make all heats, across all divisions, priority only. You can see the incident play out below (at the 8:20:00 mark).

However, we spoke to six-time world champion Guilherme Tamega, who has a different opinion on the matter.

RT: Do you think what happened in Tanner’s heat was fair?

GT: No, I don’t think it’s fair what happened with Tanner. I don’t think it is fair to hassle on a heat at all. I don’t think it’s fair when a judge gives a wrong score. I don’t think it’s fair when a guy loses without deserving to lose, and I don’t think it’ fair when the best riders in the contest lose without making the final. But we are not talking about fairness, we are talking about the real world of competition.

What happened with Tanner there I don’t agree with and I don’t approve. I never teach that to kids. But they will team up. It is a strategy to make it through the heat and they have the power (within the rules) to use that strategy, which they did.

Unfortunately for them, the strategy was filmed live on the internet and it caused some controversy and a lot of people started talking about it. But what those kids did over there wasn’t the worst thing I’d seen in competitions at all. I had seen way worse throughout my career and all the other pro’s would agree.

I was in a contest in Portugal, against Ben Holland from Australia, and I had to run on the shoreline to get away from him. Ben was on priority and we was sitting on me so I had to go to the shore and run up the beach to the next peak. So even in a priority situation you are not free from some sort of strategy. It happens in the WSL, WQS, everywhere. The winner will sit on the other guy and not let them catch a wave in the final minutes. It always happens.

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Above: Guilherme Tamega (centre) with his team riders Matheus Bastos (left) and Socrates Santana (right) at the Itacoatiara Pro. Photo by Joao Ricardo.

Is it fair? No it’s not fair, but it’s real. It’s happening and will happen again. So Tanner, put your gloves on and wake up.

But should these strategies and tactics be a part of competitive bodyboarding?

(What happened to Tanner) wasn’t fair but I think everything happens for a reason. Tanner experienced something he hadn’t experienced before and he learned a new lesson for his career. Unfortunately he didn’t learn how to deal with it before it happened. He had to learn in the real world. It wasn’t that bad at all. If you re-watch the heat you can see that when Tanner paddled for a wave, everybody else pulled out. He was free to paddle wherever he wanted. He could have gone to the left side of the beach or to the right side of the beach. Unfortunately he wasn’t ready for it and couldn’t keep his composure, so he lost the heat.

The kids used this strategy and they surfed better. Tanner couldn’t keep up and he lost the heat. There was a strategy in place and he couldn’t keep up. Is it fair? No it’s not fair, but it’s real. It’s happening and will happen again. So Tanner, put your gloves on and wake up.

Some people have said these kind of tactics are part of a “Brazilian mentality” in the water. Is this a nationality issue?

I totally disagree agree with that. This is not a Brazilian thing, this is not a Brazilian tactic. Yeah sure maybe Brazil could be pretty tough (to compete at). I remember Uri Valadao used to train for these kind of situations. Bodyboard schools should simulate heats with three guys sitting on them and the other rider needs to get free and get the two waves to make it through the heat. We used to train for that because we are professional, this is a world competition and this could be applied to you and you need to be ready. if you do not get ready for it you will suffer. I repeat: you will suffer!

But this happens everywhere, it’s not a just a Brazilian thing. it happened in France with French guys, it happened in Spain, It happened in Australia and it happened in Hawaii a lot. is it a Hawaiian thing? Is it a Hawaiian tactic? is it a French tactic? Why are people now saying it is a Brazilian tactic?

Mike needs to teach Tanner how to deal with those kind of situations. So it was a good experience for everyone.

You were saying that what happened to Tanner was a learning experience and that he needs to be tougher mentally. Do you think he is being nurtured too much under the wings of his mentor Mike Stewart?

I think Tanner is under the best wings anyone could ask for. Who doesn’t want to be under Mike Stewart’s wing? But I think he can get cosy and relaxed. The kid has a lot of talent, and on top of that he is being mentored by Mike. What else could you ask for? But they forgot the other side of the coin. The kid is not prepared and we saw that in Brazil. And it is not only going to happen in Brazil. He would get teamed up in France, Portugal, Australia, anywhere. Brazil was just a sample things can get far worse. I’ve seen worse. Tanner actually had a chance to win that heat. He had some waves and he did not do it. Yes, he got teamed up a couple of times and yes the Brazilian riders used a strategy. A strategy that other countries would do the same. Mike needs to teach Tanner how to deal with those kind of situations. So it was a good experience for everyone.

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Above: Tanner McDaniel with his sponsor and mentor Mike Stewart.

You have referred to your experiences a number of times. What was it like for you growing up as a young bodyboarder from Brazil looking to compete on the World Tour?

I first visited Hawaii for a winter season back in 1988 when I was 15 years old. In the 90s I moved to California to compete as much as possible in the US mainland, Hawaii and on the world tour, including winning my first world title in 1994. It was crazy back then. The things I went through in Hawaii were far worse.

Things that happened in contests I don’t really want to remember, they’re not worth bringing back up. I remember one event at pipeline, the waves were small and I see Mike putting two guys on interference on the same wave. He was paddling for a wave at Backdoor and gave one guy an interference, and then suddenly went left and put an interference on the other guy too. I was in that heat, and I think I got three interference calls in one final. So the riders weren’t teaming up on me but the judges were.

To be a world champion you’ve got to work on a whole package and tick a lot of boxes. Having the talent is one big box but there are other things you need and if you are not aware of them then you will struggle.

You have earned recognition and respect around the world for your fierceness in competition. Do you think kids competing these days have it too easy?

Back in the day I knew I had the talent and I worked really hard on my career. Coming from Brazil and being Brazilian, you could be the best in the world but your not going to get the space and time you deserve. So I had to be a warrior in contests and show I can do it.

Do kids have it easy these days? No. It’s not easy. But some people think the contest world is all roses when it’s not. Even with priority you see some tactics and riders need to be prepared. Being the best doesn’t you will win the world title. To be a world champion you’ve got to work on a whole package and tick a lot of boxes. Having the talent is one big box but there are other things you need and if you are not aware of them then you will struggle.

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GT getting some Indo pits during a trip last year. Photo Elliot Morris.

Anything else you want to add in?

To wrap things up, I’m all for priority, I am a fan of it. I hate hassling, I hate battling and tactics. I am all for the idea that if you get a wave then it is someone else’s chance to get a wave. I think we all should have a chance and whoever is the best will win. That’s why I am kind of a fan of a wave pool. The wave pool is the exact same wave and opportunity for the rider, not the guy who got the best wave or the guy who had the best priority.

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