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Judging The Judges

Shane Beschen breaks down the CT judges’ performance, under their new leader Pritamo Ahrendt, at the 2018 Quiksilver Pro Snapper. 

news // Mar 23, 2018
Words by stab
Reading Time: 4 minutes

The opening event of the 2018 Championship Tour season delivered an unreasonable amount of focal points. There was Mick’s last Snapper event. The Kelly question. Julian’s shoulder. The rookies. The waves. Mikey Wright. Griffin. The judges. 

The judges?

The judges. 

With their longtime leader Richie Porta banished from the tower, the new crew of CT judges was to be led by Pritamo Ahrendt, a 19-year vet who fans hoped would make certain changes in the way heats were scored. Primarily, the people wanted judges to stop giving huge numbers for “safety surfing”, to properly reward progressive maneuvers, and to do something about those damned backside snaps. 

Now that we’ve had time to digest the Snapper event, we reached out to former World Number 2 and a bona fide expert on modern-day professional surfing, Shane Beschen, to discuss how the judges performed at this year’s Quiksilver Pro.

In case anybody wanted to question Shane’s authority…

Stab: Hey Shane, what an event! Give us your first impressions.
Shane Beschen: You know, I think the judges are on the right track. The criteria for this event was definitely rewarding guys for pushing things harder. I feel like a lot of scores that were in the five or six range this year would have been in the seven or eight range last year.  

It did seem like the WSL was finally taking into consideration the criticisms that had been received from people all around the world, most notably that they have been giving away high scores for not necessarily the best surfing.
Yeah, definitely. And as a fan that’s really great, because it’s pushing these guys to do more exciting maneuvers, which is what we’re really here for. For instance, in Round 2, I saw Wade Carmichael do a tail-blow reverse to make it out of his heat. Wade is known for being a great power surfer, but I’ve never seen him perform progressive maneuvers in a heat before. I think that’s a testament to the new criteria that Pritamo and the judges are pushing. 

Speaking of the Wade (and Jesse Mendes) heat, it seemed to me that the judges pulled back from rewarding the repetitive backside snaps that won this event three out of the last five years. I think the Wade and Jesse heat was a good example of that. How do you feel about the backside snap debate, and do you think the judges did a good job dealing with the frontside/backside discrepancy this year?
In terms of difficulty, I think the backside top turn is actually pretty easy. As long as you make a solid bottom turn, it’s a maneuver that any pro can do over and over again without much risking falling. Even though it might be a faster and more spray-inducing maneuver, I think the backside snap is actually easier than, say, of proper frontside carve. In the carve, it’s easier to catch a rail or make a small mistake that could throw off the whole maneuver. So I think the judges did a pretty good job this year in scoring frontside versus backside surfing — the Wade and Jesse heat included.

Let’s talk about some of the bigger scores at Snapper. One of the first nines of the event was that Filipe wave, where he did a Marzo-style layback, followed by several turns and then a “Club Sandwich” on the end section. They gave it a 9.67. Is that the right score in your mind?
Ummm… yeah. For the waves, and in comparison to what else had been done on up to that point, I think definitely. When they showed the slow-mo version of that Marzo-layback, it’s pretty crazy. His board is flying out of the water, and he has to reposition his feet to give himself a chance at landing it. Then he makes it right away and goes straight into another turn with a little tail-kick. And the grab-rail nosepick at the end was really fast too. That was great, progressive surfing.

Then of course there was Griffin’s 10 — the triple barrel. What did you think about that? Justified?
Oh yeah, for sure. That was crazy! The first barrel was sick on its own, and then the way that the wave grew into that second part was crazy. It was like Backdoor at Kirra. Then he got barreled again. That wave was incredible.


And what about Julian’s wave in the final? The 9.93.
I thought that should have been a 10, straight-up. When they showed it from the water angle… that was a difficult wave to make. He was deep. He pumped over the whitewater, then fluttered down, reset his line again, got sucked back by the breath, and finally came out. He was working for three-quarters of that barrel just to make it. He got a 9.93, but I definitely think it could’ve been a 10.

How would you respond to the argument that, with it being the first real wave of that heat, the judges are only putting themselves in a losing position by scoring Julian’s wave that high? They could have given him a nine and it wouldn’t have affected the outcome of the heat, but it would have left them some room in case either Julian or Ace managed to better that wave throughout the final. By scoring it at a 10, or even a 9.93, you’re not leaving any room for improvement.
Yeah, you know, maybe they have to go Da Hui scoring when it’s barreling like that — open up the option of an 11 or 12 or something. But you’re right, they could have scored it a nine and just kept this scale there, and it wouldn’t have affected who won the heat.  

The thing you’re losing by scoring the wave little bit lower, is the ability to look back in history and say that “Julian Wilson, even with a busted shoulder, won the Quiksilver Pro with a 10 in the final.” Which, that is really cool and important, but the judges’ primary goal has to be getting the outcome of the heat correct. And having a 10 or a 9.93 in the mix, especially in the opening minutes, makes that more difficult.
Totally. And luckily this one worked out, but you’re right that Julian could’ve gotten that same wave and scored another barrel, or done a 6 foot air at the end. So yeah, maybe they need to introduce and 11 or 12 possibility, if the surfer clearly breaks the realm of a 10 point ride. Tube riding is weird that way. Sometimes it’s just like, “What the hell?”


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