It’s no secret the ASP judging panel has copped some heat recently for their ability to get the judging scale right (see Kelly vs Mick at Bells). With the tour returning to the highly technical big wave arena of Cloudbreak, following a five year hiatus, their job’s not about to get easier. We grilled ASP head judge, Pritamo Ahrendt on what he’s expecting come Sunday, what the big-wave money-move is in 2012 and and what makes Fiji so special to watch from the judging tower.
We’re staring down the barrel of a thumping Cloudbreak swell. What are you expecting?
If the level of surfing so far this year is any gauge on what we will see at Cloudbreak then we are in for a treat of next level hard charging combo’ed with massive turns. Everyone on the panel is pretty psyched.
It’s known for it’s barrel but Cloudbreak is about much more than that isn’t it?
Cloudbreak is a very different wave from the rest of the waves on the WCT. It is unique in that it is a reef in the open ocean and not bordering an island or mainland, which makes it a powerful open ocean reef break that can handle pretty much whatever swell is around. The reef angle really allows for such different types of waves on any given day, from a draining barrel the whole length of the reef to combination barrel and moves the whole way, then someone will get the thickest sketchiest barrel from halfway out and be the best wave of the heat. It is really our only left that combines big heavy draining barrels with a variety of sections for major turns. Being the first left of the year and the only one that isn’t purely barrel riding it’s going to be equally exciting to see the goofy footers show their forehand repertoire but is also an opportunity to see which natural footers have a deadly backhand attack.
What are the markers in the lineup and other things you look for at Cloudbreak?
From the judges’ tower Cloudbreak looks like a perfectly groomed easy wave but it packs a punch and the sections can be unpredictable. The Judges tower is the marker to gauge where you are in the line up. If it is proper big we are not going to see guys pushing into the air but I see the performance barrier being pushed by surfers getting super tight and explosive high in the pocket and around the lip line which is super difficult out there. We want to see surfers harness the power of Cloudbreak and use the power to drive in and out of their turns and really draw different lines, adding some extra flare to their turns and showing that they can combo these types of moves with other big turns and deep draining barrels. Then if it turns into 12 foot plus surf it’s going to be big wave barrel comp and then it’s all about the guys committing to the biggest draining spitting barrels and basically hard charging.
How will the judging scheme differ from events thus far, which have favoured more explosive maneuvers?
Well for starters I can’t see anyone getting a perfect 10 for a single aerial out at Cloudbreak but that’s what most people thought about Bells right. Up until a certain size I think the guys are going to try and bring some of their smaller wave dynamics to this wave. It’s a hard wave to get tail high but that could be what it takes to separate the top guys. Once it’s over 10 foot any chance of that is out the door and it will be about big barrels and laying the board on its rail.
Five years ago the turn that set Cloudbreak alight was the Andy Irons patented hanger hook. Where has big wave performance surfing gone since?
I think that the main change since the last Fiji Pro is that all the guys on tour have a big wave performance act. More guys are going to be getting tighter and higher into the critical sections and be ready to do it straight away in the next section.
It’s been a five years since the last event there. Does that make it more difficult in establishing your scoring scale at the wave?
We need to set a scale relevant to the conditions on offer for that particular day. We get there about an hour before to watch the free surf session to set a scale. You want to know if there are any freak waves to make sure the scale isn’t set too high and then have nowhere to go. It’s also good to see the level that the guys are pushing in the warm up. The comp may not have been on for the last few years but I’m a surf junkie and have watched most of the web clips that have gone down over the years. I know what we are in for.
How psyched are you to be getting back to Fiji?
Fiji is the holiday event for everyone. We are all serious when the comp is on but after it’s all about living it up Island Style; surfing, snorkeling, fishing, eating good food and cruising by the pool. Fiji has been some of the best trips ever. – Jed Smith