Stab Magazine | A Simple Solution To The WSL's Judging Problem

A Simple Solution To The WSL’s Judging Problem

“It seems really inconsistent overall,” says one World Champ still on tour. 

news // Mar 22, 2017
Words by stab
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Unfortunately, Owen Wright’s comeback from his traumatic brain injury at Pipe to winning the Quik Pro Gold Coast (although one of the greatest stories in the history of pro surfing) is only story 1A surrounding the first WSL event.

Story 1B belongs to the judges. Why? Because throughout the event, judging was all over the place–alternating between rewarding big manoeuvres and safety surfing on an almost heat-to-heat basis.

Although they won’t publicly speak up for fear of fines and future bias from the panel, the WSL’s surfers are frustrated with CT judging and have been for years. Many fans are nearly fed up with it and threaten to stop watching, even though it’s a free product. 

“It just seems inconsistent overall. I talk to them (the judges), but they’ve got their minds made up most time.” one World Champion still on tour told me.

“It’s really confusing.” another top ten surfer texted back.

In theory, there’s a simple solution to this problem: Hire ex-pros who continue to follow the sport religiously, and can legitimately relate to the top 34’s performance at each stop.

If Shane Beschen tells you, “That was an 8.5,” and Rich Porta tells you “It was a 7,” who are you going to believe? Shane Beschen, hire that man!

Hire Damien Hobgood. Hire Taylor Knox, Fred Patacchia, and Taj Burrow. When Ace Buchan retires, hire him too. They know much more about surfing than we do, they know the difficulty of each movement, which immediately marks us wrong if we disagree–something the current judging panel doesn’t warrant.

I’m not going to believe all of these ex-pros would even accept the job, but I also refuse to believe there’s not a laundry list of people more qualified to determine heat winners, and eventually World Champions than Richie Porta.

Listen to Barton Lynch speak. Every moment he grabs airtime he instils direct knowledge. While he may be better suited to rock a mic than a numerical keypad, you can’t say he couldn’t judge a heat with ease.

The fact is, we all think we know how to score a wave based on our commitment to surfing since grommet-hood, plus watching these events for years and we’re passionate about who we believe won each matchup.

The judges are not much different than us. They’ve just dedicated more of their lives on putting a score to a wave in order to earn a paycheck. It would be sad to see them get laid off and replaced, but hey, there’s always the QS.

Overall, the WSL has done a commendable job taking professional surfing to the next level. Still, they surely know there’s more work to be done, and better judging must be at the top of that priority list.


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