Controversial first day at Lowers Pro

Dane Reynolds returns in fine form. The judges, not so much.

Alejo Muniz made a statement in the first day of competition at Lowers. Photo: Lowe-White

Below, for your viewing pleasure, is the ASP’s updated judging criteria for 2011. You can find online at aspworldtour.com

Article 140: Judging Criteria
Surfers must perform to the ASP judging key elements to maximize their scoring potential. Judges analyze the following major elements when
scoring waves.
– Commitment and degree of difficulty
– Innovative and progressive maneuvers
– Combination of major maneuvers
– Variety of maneuvers
– Speed, power and flow
NOTE: It’s important to note that the emphasis of certain elements is contingent upon the location and the conditions on the day, as well as
changes of conditions during the day.

This new judging criteria has been put in place to push surfing into the future while making the viewing experience infinitely better for you. Now it’s time for the judges to take notice and adhere to these changes, especially here at Lowers where we have arguably the most high-performance wave on tour, and with today’s playful head-high walls, this was every surfer’s opportunity to show what they can do. Emphasis in the judging criteria for this venue: Commitment and degree of difficulty, innovative and progressive maneuvers, and variety of maneuvers.

Throughout the day we saw numerous examples of surfers exhibiting all of the above in a terrific statement of what competitive surfing is in 2011. But Alejo Muniz went above and beyond all others today. On one of the best set waves of the day the Brazilian phenom laid it all on the line with a perfectly blended vertical fins-free snap, a grab-rail tail blow into the flats, a beautiful hard-carving snap at the steepest part of the wave, and even a few other minor projection turns that fit perfectly on the wave. The score came in at an 8.83—an excellent score for the day but well below my initial thought of 9.5 to even a 10. Now the trouble really begins. In the heat immediately before Alejo’s, William Cardosa (a Brazilian powerhouse who has the legs of an Olympic speed skater) received an 8.97 for 4 very similar snaps on a mid-size set. One judge even going as high as 9.5 while another gave him a 9.3 for surfing the way we’ve seen over and over ever since the thruster became the fin set-up of choice.

I hate to use my brother as another example—if you watched the webcast today you already know my take, if you didn’t here it is (And I don’t pretend to be unbiased in this situation). On a nicely walled-up left, Cory started with a quick combination that saw him carve and kick the tail out while going directly into a bottom turn with continuous speed that projected him into an even more committed carve that extended through and over the lip in the most critical part of the wave. After a set-up cutback he raced across the inside, finishing with a straight air that sped him into the closeout were he pushed the tail up and over the lip for a clean finish to an excellent ride. The result was a measly 6.53. Cory advanced, so it ended up being a moot point, but it does illustrate the erratic judging on display. To show you this is not solely my biased opinion, here are comments from a few of the world’s best surfers and keen observers:

“I thought immediately nothing lower than a 7.5 and should even go higher.”—Roy Powers
“WOW! Cory going HAM that’s an 8.5″—Evan Gieselman
“I thought 8.5″—Aaron “Gorkin” Cormican
“No way that was only a 6.53”—Dane Gudauskas

This is the type of surfing that not only fits the new judging criteria to a “t”, but it also impressed the hell out of four surfers who know the subtleties of excellent surfing better than most. In the ever progressing/changing landscape of surfing today it is a tremendous challenge to stay current, hopefully through careful examination of the day’s surfing and their own criteria, tomorrow, the next day, and the rest of the year will see further improvement.

The highlight of my day (and everyone else’s) was Dane Reynolds’ successful return to competition. I was expecting to see a toned down version of the wrecking ball surfing of his pre-injury, but that never happened. Instead, it was vintage Reynolds—the defining moment being a perfectly executed inverted slob air 360. It was the move of the day and one of the most difficult airs completed in competition ever. The score came in at a 7.5, with the excellent range beginning at 8.0. Once again, it’s hard to see that wave not finding a home somewhere in that excellent range. But the good news is: Dane is well on his way to being the best surfer in the world again. He may not be himself, yet, but it’s only a matter of time, and today was a great preview of what we have to look forward to in the future.

Dane Reynolds is officially back in the jersey, and back to pulling incredible maneuvers in competition. Photo: Lowe-White
Early morning conditions made for small, but completely rippable surf at Lowers. Photo: Lowe-White

Dane’s Heat:

Alejo’s Heat:

Corey’s Heat: