BE­ING JUDGE­MEN­TAL

THE MEN BE­HIND THE SCORES

New Zealand Surfing - - Behind The Cover -

Surf­ing

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

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