Surf Contest 101

November 17, 2017

Maybe you’ve been to a surf contest before or maybe you’ve watched one from your computer or maybe you had no idea surfing even had contests. Regardless of your experience with the contest world, this blog will hopefully inform you of how they work. We will divulge information to you on different details such as scoring as well as bring you up to speed on the latest rankings for the Championship World Tour at the professional league.

In a surf contest, wins and losses are decided by a panel of judges. Professional surfing contests put athletes in surfer-on-surfer, three-surfer or four-surfer heats. The winner of the heat or the two best surfers in each heat, advances through to the next round, in a ladder tournament format.

According to the World Surf League, the organization behind professional surf contests, the game plays out according to the following rules:

1. A panel of five judges dissects the surfers’ performances;
2. Heat times may vary between 20 and 35 minutes
3. A wave is scored on a scale of one to ten, with two decimal places;
4. Surfers lock in their two highest-scoring waves;
5. For each ride, the highest and lowest scores (of the five judges) are discounted, and the surfer is awarded the average of the remaining three scores.
6. There are no limits to the number of waves that can be ridden;
7. A perfect heat is when a surfer gets a total score of 20 points;

Judging surfing is always a subjective verdict. Nevertheless, professional judges make their assessments and throw scores for waves ridden by surfers based on five major criteria. Here’s the breakdown of winning a heat:

1. Commitment and degree of difficulty
2. Innovative and progressive maneuvers
3. Combination of major maneuvers
4. Variety of maneuvers
5. Speed, power, and flow

The surf contest judging scale can be translated into qualitative terms:

From 0.00 to 1.90 > Poor Wave Ride
From 2.00 to 3.90 > Fair Wave Ride
From 4.00 to 5.90 > Average Wave Ride
From 6.00 to 7.90 > Good Wave Ride
From 8.00 to 10.00 > Excellent Wave Ride

Surf judges don’t talk to each other and don’t change scores. If a surfer needs to know the scores, he should raise his/her hand.

If you look above you can see the top five female and male professional surfers in the current World Tour. Winning this surf contest is a major accomplishment for professional surfers. The next stop on the World Tour for the men is the Billabong Pipe Masters at Banzai Pipeline, Oahu, Hawaii from December 8th through the 20th. And the women’s next stop is Maui Women’s Pro in Honolua Bay, Maui, Hawaii November 25th through December 6th. These competitions can both be streamed live on the WSL website.




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