THE MEN BEHIND THE SCORES
can be such a sport of personal interpretation where what one surfer does to impress one, another may not be so stoked with. Like art, what one viewer deems incredible and pay through the nose for the other may turn their nose up at, and wouldn’t be seen hanging such a piece on their wall. In the sport of competitive surfing if we were to let the fans and crowds decide on a result, it would more than likely turn into a riot, therefore the sport of surfing has since the 1960’s adopted the approach of a judging panel, and whether you agree with their decisions or not, through a process of a set criteria, a mix of judges and throwing out the high and low scores to combine the rest, more often than not these dedicated individuals come up with the correct decision, but then again they are human and there have been many instances where the frustrated surfer and surf fan express their disgust in all types of manner, from the old ‘Bird’ up at the panel, to throwing stones and beach chairs to using their time in the media spotlight to share their disgust in the judges decision. What we never seem to hear about is the good decisions and what makes these humans tick. Who are they and do they even surf? New Zealand judges have come a long way since the days where competing surfers in between heats were asked to do a few sessions judging, and these days a consistent group of judges both male and female work most of the comps. We caught up with Kiwi Head Judge Dan Kosoof a level 3 judge, who has seven years of internationally experience crowning over 30 ISA World Titles, to find out a little about the men and women behind the scores. What got you into judging mate?
When the ASP World Tour started to webcast the events I just couldn't take my eyes away from the computer screen. I really wanted to be a part of it. And that's when I set my goal to get involved somehow. I heard about a judging course and it made sense - get paid to watch surfing and still be able to get to surf. It's killing two birds with one stone. Like surf photographers, you and your panel get to sit back and watch other surfers enjoy themselves while you have to interpret their performance in a score, what makes you sit through such torture?
Haha yeah sitting through days of watching heat after heat, wave after wave does get mentally torturing. But all you have to do is look around, your office is on the beach and you've got the best view in the house to watch the best surfers compete against each other. The modern day judge gets paid for their duties but let's be honest its hardly a get rich scheme, what does a judge get out of working an event aside from a few gold coins?
True you'll never be a millionaire being a judge. But the environment, travels, memories and cos everyone's actually happy to be at work makes up for that. And I have so many free t-shirts, hats and jackets from events it's starting to get out of control. If someone wants to become a judge on the NZ Circuit panel what do they need to do?
Surfing New Zealand holds a Level 1 one day judging course a few times a year. Everyone qualifies. If you belong to a board riders club hit them up, they might pay for you to do it. Then let SNZ know you're keen to do any events and start getting your hours and experience up. Surfers are always looking for ways to improve and develop themselves, taking on coaching and overseas experiences, how does a judge improve on their performance?
I think one of the most important parts of judging is memory. It's all about remembering every ride in a heat so you can compare and put a score down in its right place. Just like the competitors diet is important for judging. Fruit, nuts and dark green veggies are a rich source that help boost and improve memory function, awareness and eye sight. If you can clearly remember the two best rides of each surfer during that heat it makes it so much easier on yourself to put a score down and separate it from previous rides. What's the most frustrating part of judging and at the same time the most rewarding?
The most frustrating thing about judging would definitely be the glare from the sun. Missing waves or rashie colours is something we have to deal with everyday and it gets harsh on the eyes. Invest in a really good pair of polarised sunnies! The ultimate goal for every event is to have a perfect one. No protest or complaints. When everyone's happy about the results in every heat. You've watched every single wave and every single turn of the event and you've just finally crowned a champ. You look back and remember how he or she got there, the battles they had along the way, and you feel 100% confident that you nailed it. Those are the most rewarding moments for me. All the kiwi judges are active surfers, in fact at most events after the event wraps up for the day, there is rumour that another event called ‘The Officials Cup’ is held? How is this judged? What goes down, and who is the gun surfer to look out for? Haha the "Officials Cup".
I think everyone has won this at least once. Lee Ryan thinks he's pretty good but he needs to stop dropping in and getting interferences. During a recent event in Gisborne Team Waihi wanted to stay at the end of the day and turn the tables on us. They would commentate and judge us while we surfed. Awesome job Waihi and thanks a lot for sitting through that 20 mins of torture! MC Colin McKenney dominated the heat, comboing the field and is now the reigning champ. I need to work on my heat strategy for the next one, I didn't get my first wave until there was only 3 minutes left in the heat and bummed out in 3rd. The World Tour judges seem to get well looked after, is this the pinnacle of judging to get a spot on an international panel and be paid to travel the world, just as the top surfers aspire to achieve, or are weekend comps at home enough of a challenge? For sure being part of the international panel is the pinnacle. I've been lucky to travel all around the world for the last seven years. Been to places I would have never even thought of going, 5-star hotels, food, airfares, everything's sorted for you. You end up living two lives. Your normal life at home with family and friends, and then your suitcase life, the other officials from all over the globe end up being your family away from home. And they’re all such awesome people. My friends think I'm going on holiday but it's not. You are there to do a job. You’re on a schedule and surfing is such an evolving sport right now we're doing a lot of behind the scenes work to develop competitive surfing. It's exciting times for the sport especially with the Olympics coming up. So I take all this in while overseas and bring it back to our weekend events in NZ to develop our judges, SNZ and junior surfers for the future.
"It's all about remembering every ride in a heat so you can compare and put a score down in its right place. "
locked in a trailer all day long observing other surfers shredding waves isnt everyones cup of tea, but without them there'd be no champion crowned. So next time you see a judge at a bar drowning their sorrows, pick up the tab! Photo: Cory