How to Watch a Surfing Competition?

Whether they are organized by surf clubs, interclub, or whether they are departmental, regional or national, or even global, the surfing competitions have one thing in common: they bring together and excite surfers from all over the world. And among enthusiasts, we love to talk about surfing: but if you’re a novice, understanding how a surfing or bodyboarding competition works can be as complicated as making a duck with your longboard foam… this little guide is for you. After reading it, the next time you attend a surfing or bodyboard competition and everyone around you will talk about “circuits”, “wildcards and “interferences” you will finally know what it is and will fully enjoy the show :

Associations and Circuits

Let’s take the example of the professional surfing circuit: throughout the year, it hosts many events, more or less important, each with the name of the official sponsor. Once qualified for these competitions, the world’s best surfers compete against each other with the ultimate goal of winning the pro circuit and the prize money!

The Participants of the Surfing Competitions.

In addition to the best-qualified surfers per circuit, we find in all behind the scenes and under the hats of the surfing competitions the same protagonists :

The judges: imperturbable, these 4 or 5 judges, under the responsibility of a chief judge, do not leave from the eyes the surfers to the water under the shadow of their tent. It is their responsibility to note the waves taken by the surfers throughout the competition.

WILDCARDS and substitutes: wildcards are the last “cards” to compete on a professional circuit. As the number of qualified surfers is limited per circuit, the organizers reserve the right to reserve places for one or two wildcards per competition. A wildcard may intervene if a qualified surfer could not participate in the competition at the last minute (for example, in the case of an injury where the participant would be forced to forfeit). The wildcard would then be awarded to a surfer who deserves to be in the competition given the overall ranking but who had not re-qualified for some reason (for example a surfer recovering from an injury). Often, wildcards are surfers who belong to the “team” of the brand that sponsors the event or who are native to the region where the competition is held.

In addition to the permanent wildcards, there are also replacements who are appointed when one of the qualified surfers does not participate in a stage of the circuit.

Beach MARSHALL: except in international competitions, surfers must show up at the beach marshall stand to put on their competition lycra at least 10 minutes before their series starts. The lycra, which serves as an identification of the water surfers for the judges, is to be handed over to the beach marshall at the end of the series.

The SPEAKER: he is the most enduring Athlete of all the competition: it is his voice that you hear throughout the event. He comments live on the images at the judges ‘ table and gives information to the participants and spectators.

BEACH PATROL: you have probably seen them doing tours with their jet skis off the sponsor buoys that delimit the competition area. Just like the bodyguards who protect the athletes from the crowd of fans on the beach, the sea-rescuers who make up the beach patrol are responsible for the safety of the surfers in the water.

DAWN PATROL: for those whose expression is not familiar, the term “dawn patrol ” refers to the arrival of the surfer on the spot even before sunrise. During the surfing competitions, the dawn patrol is mobilized every morning to check to live the conditions on the spot to confirm or deny the announcement of the launch of the competition day.

The course of a surfing competition

The WAITING PERIOD: every surfing session is unique, but this duality characteristic of our sport attracts us as much as it frustrates us. Yes, surfing conditions are never constant, and sometimes the compilation of elements (tide, swell, waves, wind) just prevents us from surfing. This is why, when it comes to competition, the organizers foresee a “waiting period” to make sure to get the best possible surfing and weather conditions for the greatest pleasure of the participants. You will often find that competitions are planned for over two weeks, whereas only four days were necessary to win.

The CALL: depending on the spot where the competition takes place, the tide and more generally, the weather, can have a direct impact on the quality waves. This is why calls are issued every morning by the organizing committee who decide to launch or postpone the competition depending on the surfing conditions.

Note: this all makes more sense if you get up at 5: 00 in the morning to be at the competition venue at the 8: 00 a.m. call and hear the speaker announce that the next call will take place the next day…

HEAT & ROUNDS: no matter which circuit it is, the way competition works remain the same all over the world: there is heat (series) where the surfer must qualify to get to the next round (round) of the competition.

RANKING: as you can see in the scoreboard below, not all rounds are directly eliminated: in our example, a surfer has a chance to win the competition despite the fact that he finished well last of his first heat. This rule allows to restore a balance between competitors in case the surfing conditions would not have been favorable to the surfers at their first heat.

ROUND 1: the surfer who gets the best result (score) at his first heat qualifies for round 3 of the competition while the other two surfers go to the Draft (round 2).

ROUND 2: in the second round, the heat faces each other in direct elimination: this means that only one of the two surfers will play in the next round while the second one will be eliminated.

ROUND 3: round 1 and round 3 are non-playoff. Several points are then awarded for each place. The surfers find themselves at three, and the first round rule applies: the winner leaves in the quarter-finals, and the other two go to the drafted rounds in round 4.

ROUND 4: the surfer who gets the best result in this draft heat can advance to the quarter finals of the competition.

Quarterfinals, SEMIES-finals, and finals: the surfers meet face-to-face from the quarterfinals, in direct elimination until the final.

How long does a heat ?

The surfers then have between 15 and 20 minutes (the heat time depends on the type of competition) to catch the best waves possible. The final heat of the competition lasts 30 minutes.

How are water surfers warned of the beginning and end of their heat?

The beginning of a series is announced by a prolonged trompe. At the same time, the stopwatch is triggered, and a system of panels (flags or light signals) is used: – green for the beginning of the series – yellow for the last 5 minutes. Two long strokes of the trunk announce the end of the series. Simultaneously the stopwatch is stopped, the panel (or flags, or light signals)is set to neutral. During the sonic competitions, the speaker will announce by countdown the last seconds before the beginning and the end of each series.

Rating criteria for a wave

Each wave is scored on a scale of 1 to 10 by the judge’s table, and only the two best waves are retained, giving the surfers a score of 20 per heat. What is a well-rounded wave?

To assess the quality of a wave, the judges ‘ rating scale can be translated into four levels of quality. :

0.00 to 1.90 > Poor

2.00 to 3.90 > Acceptable

4.00 to 5.90 > Medium

6.00 to 7.90 > Good

8.00 to 10.00 > Excellent

Judges analyze four other elements as they look at the surfer wave :

FLOW: consistency and fluidity in maneuvers,

“LINKING”: chain quality, stability, control,

“STYLE”: ease,

“ENGAGEMENT” means the taking of risk, the degree of difficulty and variety of maneuvers, the power, and speed displayed during the execution,

“CREATIVITY”: innovative surfing will be taken into account according to the reality of the risk-taking.