What Constitutes a 10-point Ride in 2017?
Just about anything, it would seem!
The Corona J-Bay Open was the worst-ever professional surfing comp, judging-wise.
It was also the worst-ever for my sleep cycle, which, during the event window, spanned from 4-7 AM PST.
If your beauty rest is so important, the reader may be thinking, why not just watch the comp through the Heat Analyz–
Shut up. The Analyzer is no way to watch a surfing event. It provides neither context nor suspense, and the act of skipping between highlight points leaves me feeling icky and unsatisfied. Like adult films viewed through a post-ejaculatory lens.
So to the best of my ability, I stayed up and watched the most interesting event of the 2017 season. Mother Nature (over)provided, the surfing didn’t disappoint, and the judges, well, I think those fellas got a little too excited by the whole scene.
Eight tens, the tower-jockeys deemed, were ridden over J-Bay’s 2017 dream run. Two less than ten perfect waves.
And thanks to an overzealous YouTuber (those captions!), we can watch them all together.
These waves were very nice. Some better than others, objectively, but it’s a widely known fact that each heat is scored on a separate scale, meaning that comparing waves across the span of an entire event is a pointless endeavor. The only questions we can ask in regards to a perfect 10, according to the WSL, are as follows:
- Did the surfer display maximal levels of speed, power, and flow?
- Did they offer a wide range of major maneuvers, being both innovative and progressive, but also in combination form?
- Did they commit to at least a third-degree difficulty?
- *Bonus question!* Was it better than any wave surfed by Occy throughout his entire career?
Ok, so the last one would be negated by the WSL’s different scale between heats/contests/eras policy, but really? You’re telling me the Raging Bull never nailed a 10 in his whole life, despite being a world champ and enduring a decades-long career?
Seems kinda screwy.
So what gives? Are judges more lenient nowadays, or are surfers just better than ever? I’d argue that both are true, but that the former concept directly obstructs the latter. And I’m not alone in that thinking.
Jimmy ‘Jimicane’ Wilson, Surfing Mag’s ex Photo Editor and longtime surf critic, had this to say on the matter: “The judges reward surfing at 80% for the best guys and don’t truly dock anyone when they screw things up in the middle of the wave. Style doesn’t matter either in their criteria. Feel free to flail in between turns because they ain’t looking. How can surfing progress in that environment if all anyone’s doing is surfing to win heats? The judges are responsible for steering the sport’s progression and who in there is qualified to do that?”
And isn’t he mostly right? If guys are getting nines for cookie-cutter carves, where’s the incentive to push it to the next level? Worse yet, if guys are getting TENS for cookie-cutter carves, why in God’s name is Filipe doing double rotors?
As several WSL commentators posited, Filipe would have received a ten with just one of those airs. This would make the second ‘oop both literally and figuratively pointless. If that’s not an indication of a fucked up judging scale, I don’t know what is.
A friend recently opined that a proper 10 should leave the viewer feeling stunned. Whether it’s an unmakeable tube, a topsy-turvy punt, or a mind-blowing series of maneuvers, a ten should induce a distinct level of disbelief. They should feel it, as Pottz said at the start of the event.
At J-Bay, “perfect” rides seemed to arise from a point of logical deduction. *Robot voice* he – surfed – that – very – well. Bee-doo-boop-bee-doop. Criteria – confirmed. 10 – points.
And this is wrong.
And my friend is right.
It’s time we make tens great again.
Step one: replace Richie Porta with whomever the hell was head-judging during the Occy era. We need a 10 Nazi!
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