There once was a time, not so long ago, when claiming a wave was considered taboo. The claim was a gesture that signified great triumph over the elements and your competitor. It was used sparingly, and sincerely, and more often than not, it was an uncontrolled response to pure surfing stoke.
But after watching the season-opening World Tour event on the Gold Coast it’s clear that the claim is simply not what it used to be.
I say this because after watching the unbridled display of fist-pumps, hand-claps, and finger-waving it became obvious that the once-taboo claim is now as important as your bottom turn is if you want to truly succeed on the world tour. How do I justify this? By re-watching the last two days of competition, that's how. I'm almost certain (at least for the sake of this polemic) that on the final day of competition there were more claims than there were maneuvers.
No, they weren't signaling for the jet ski, they were throwing their arms up in mock-stoke in the hopes that the judges would reward them for it. Which makes sense, of course, since the judges don't exist within a vacuum. They too are susceptible to the same excitement and drama as the rest of us are, and sadly–and contrary to their job description–are equally prone to reacting to it.
Indeed, from many thousands of miles away, I could almost hear the judges double-take and reenter their scores when one of the world's best surfers throw their arms up in pseudo-joy and triumph. C'mon Parko, Taj and Mick, are you telling me that your mid-range score at windswept Coolangatta Beach filled you with enough stoke to warrant you throwing your arms around like you've just had the best wave of your life? Of course you aren't. I have personally seen all three of you get better waves at Backdoor Pipeline and kick out without so much as raising a smile. Here you are, 10 minutes into a random heat on a rainy day, claiming a 7-pointer.
After watching the unbridled display of fist-pumps, hand-claps, and finger-waving, it became obvious that the once-taboo claim is now as important as your bottom turn is if you want to truly succeed on the world tour.
But it obviously works, take this as an example: Parko gets barreled (somewhat ridiculously I must confess) throws an extended claim to the judges and crowd–albeit a subdued claim considering the complicated sign-language-type-gestures he'd been throwing out all morning–and then launches a straight-legged-pooh-man-air, and falls off.
Of course, the result is a perfect ten.
I'm calling it the Fly-Away-Air-Claim, never mind that if he actually made that ridiculous-looking air then he would have received the exact same score.
I apologize if I have focused on only a few surfers when there are clearly many more culprits: Adriano de Souza has a wonderful yoga-esque claim that is sometimes followed by clenched-armed spasms. Jihad Khodr has a variety of mid-wave claims that don't even seem to interrupt the flow (or score for that matter) of the wave. As for Jordy Smith, well, Jordy's quiver of claims is so vast that it's not surprising that the judges simply don't know how to score them.
I feel compelled to point out that this phenomenon didn't happen overnight either, its been a growing epidemic for at least the last few years. However, if the trend continues throughout the year, I am likely to wait for my Fantasy Surfer scores to hint at the end result, since I simply cannot continue to watch the best surfers in the world whore themselves out with extravagant–and at times borderline lewd–hand gestures in the search of an extra fraction of a point. In my opinion, if you want that extra point or two, do as Dane does and just rip harder.
Finally, before you judge me and this article consider this: As soon as I finish typing this paragraph I'm going to throw a two-fist-pump-to-double-hand-clap combo. Then I'll hold the palms of both my hands to the screen, making sure to have all ten fingers spread wide….I can hear you reassessing your judgment already.