For a group that holds such an important role in competitive surfing, it’s surprising how little we know about the World Tour judges. To get a glimpse into the lives of the shadowy figures that dish out the 10s and the 2s, we spoke with the ASP’s head judge, Richard Porta. Turns out they’ve got themselves a bit of a system in place.
Rise the Ranks: The process for becoming a World Tour Judge varies from region to region. In Australia we start at the club level then go to regional, state, and then onto the pro juniors followed by the smaller star events. Once judges have cut their teeth on these types of events, they then move onto the five and six stars, then Prime events, and finally if you’re good enough, it’s onto the World Tour.
Separate Camps: The judges and the surfers maintain a professional working relationship. We don’t socialize as such with each other; we are often on the same planes or staying in the same hotels, but besides general conversation, we go our own way.
Know the Conditions: I’m at the beach soon after first light to make the call with the contest director and the surfers’ rep. Once we have called the day “on,” the rest of the judges arrive 45 minutes to an hour before we start. We don’t actually score the waves during this time, we just see what sort of waves are available and what the surfers can do on them.
Sliding Scales: As the surf deteriorates the scores will reflect it. What may have been, say, a four-point ride in the morning when the surf is offshore and pumping, may be a much higher score when the surf deteriorates. We don’t hold the same scale for pumping and terrible surf.
Change with the Times: Surfing is always evolving and growing. We discuss as a group the constant evolution of it. The boys are always watching videos as they’re posted online. As we all know with the instant-media platforms available these days, you can keep up with what’s happening as surfers are constantly posting their own clips.