Are you equally enthralled?
Shane Beschen Wants To Change The World... Of Professional Surf Judging
It's his way of giving back.
Back in 1997, as a young and fiery ASP competitor, Shane Beschen was sick of the status quo. He found the scoring criteria archaic, so he set out to change it. Due to the young and fiery thing, Shane found it difficult to convey his message through non-offensive means (He once famously said, in reference to the judges' disdain for his style of surfing, "I feel like a black person in South Africa 50 years ago, and all the judges are white."), so he mostly failed in this endeavor. Twenty years later and now 800x more mature, Shane has returned with a similar goal: to bring progressive surfing to the forefront of the WSL’s competition format.
Over the next few months, Shane will pen regular installments on Stab explaining the nuances of technical and futuristic surfing. He’ll discuss why certain maneuvers should be scored higher than others (see his IG posts below), what type of person should occupy the judges' tower, and why the judging criteria needs certain specific amendments. Informing Shane’s opinions will be his own experiences on Tour, plus decades as an avid surf spectator. He is, in our opinion, as close to an authority figure on the topic as exists.
But before we get into it, Shane wanted to explain why he’s doing this.
Stab: Shane! So stoked you're doing this. If there's one thing all surf fans can agree on it's that John John is the best and the judging needs work. Tell me how this all started, back in the day.
Shane Beschen: Around ‘97 I went on a full campaign to change the judging criteria to favor more progressive surfing. Myself and Derek Hynd almost created a rival tour, actually. It was pretty close to happening. I was just young and passionate and didn’t have the mindset to do it in a more constructive way.
What weren’t the judges scoring back then? Airs, mostly?
Yeah, I mean back in ‘97 aerials were not scored that high at all. The first big win off of aerials in competition was probably Christian Fletcher at Lowers, but even that didn't change the scale for good. Surfing had always been so cemented in power, so when the Momentum Generation came on Tour, it was like a line in the sand… you know with the Elkertons and everyone saying that airs, slides, and throw-tails are just tricks. But now, surfers are so good and they’re doing everything. It’s not like guys are out there just doing tricks. They’re doing powerful carves and everything in conjunction with progressive maneuvers. So I think there’s a way to alter the judging criteria to push the pros to strive for their best surfing in heats.
How did you approach this concern back in '97?
Back then there were meetings a few times a year, where all the surfers would go and talk about issues. I went to a few of those meetings and voiced my opinions, and after a few meetings I realized that if the majority of the tour are not doing airs or don’t want to do airs in their heat, they’re never gonna vote for it to become part of the criteria, because it’s just gonna put them at a disadvantage. After seeing that over and over, I just became more angry about it. From there I pretty much teamed up with Derek Hynd and did all these interviews, basically talking a lot of shit on the ASP. As I said, I was just young and super passionate. I didn’t consider the ramifications of what I was doing. All I knew was I wanted to see change, because I thought, surfing is so much cooler than this. I definitely didn’t go about it the right way, that’s why I want to come back and do something educational, constructive, and also give props -- like hey, I think the WSL is doing a wonderful job right now. I just think it could become better with improved judging.
Has professional surfing reached another point of reckless conservatism?
Yeah, I guess you could say that’s why I’m coming forward -- I’m still a big fan of surfing and I love watching it, and I think the WSL is doing an amazing job with the webcast and everything, but I feel like the actual judging is one of the things that’s holding back the legitimacy of the sport. There are so many calls that even recreational surfers can see and be like ...What? So I just feel like why not clean it up and make that aspect of the sport as good as it possibly can be as well?
What’s your main reason for doing this? It's a lot of effort!
I just love surfing, and I feel that if there’s any way I can help the sport progress, I should do it. And if not now, then when?
Stay tuned for Shane's weekly(ish) breakdowns.