Wavesailing competition is run on a fairly simple format; there is a timed heat and you are scored on your best specified number of wave rides and jumps. However a lot of factors go into determining how a competition is run and judged. Boards is joined by head PWA and Red Bull Storm Chase judge, Duncan Coombes, who gives his low down on everything from what moves could land you an amateur title through to exactly how they score the top pros.
The running of a wave competition is not quite as simple as some may think. It’s a juggling act, with many constantly changing variables and tricky decisions to make. We have to decide when the conditions are good enough to run, then how long a heat is, plus how many waves and jumps are counting.
Swell period is probably the most significant factor because it tells us how much swell we’re likely to get; therefore, indicating how many waves riders can get
We have to look at the forecasts in depth of course, the swell period probably being the most significant factor because it tells us how much swell we’re likely to get; therefore, indicating how many waves riders can get and the heat length we need to run. For instance, in Cape Verde you could have a 17 second period swell; which means if we ran a 10 minute heat, riders may not be able to get any waves.
Wind strength and how many riders are on the water are also factors to remember. If we’re doing heats with just waves to count and there’s four guys all needing to get a wave when a set comes through, but the set only brings through three waves, we would have to make the heat longer to make sure they all have an equal chance of getting waves.
Waves and jumps have equal significance within the scores; this means that even if it’s two waves and one jump, the jumping is as important. We work this out by using a factor; for example, if it’s two waves and one jump to count, we multiply the jump score by two so that it counts for the same as the jumps.
The maximum score for a wave or jump is 12 points. We don’t give out many 12s, it has to be an extremely well executed complex jump or a wave ride that combines very technical riding and tricks on the critical section of a wave to warrant a score like this.
It’s generally the top eight or so riders on the PWA which are clocking up scores anywhere near the 12 mark. These riders are doing one hand or one foot back loops, quite high. Double forwards, tweaked push loop table tops and push loop forwards. Doing these well, plus super high stalled and one footed forwards, seems to be what the riders need to do to break into the top.
Not every jump landed in a heat counts, only your best ones, and the same jump cannot be counted twice. For example, a one foot/hand forward counts as a forward; so if you did a forward and then a one footed forward, only the best one of these would count. They are just variations on the same move, not different moves.
Whilst I appreciate many of you want to see crazy jumps and the riders going for broke, in my mind expression sessions are the time for people to go big and try and win the money.
It is when a jump turns into a combination move i.e. a pushloop forward, this counts as a separate jump. Combination jumps are the jumps with the highest degree of difficulty, with push forward being the highest scoring jumps at the moment, when they are executed well. To me a clean double would score around 10 points, a few of the judges sometimes go above 10, but that’s my bench mark because if someone then lands a bone dry push forward, which should be about two points more, I wouldn’t be able to score this appropriately. I’m think it was some of Koester’s stalled, full planing doubles that got 11 from a couple of the other judges.
Whilst I appreciate many of you want to see crazy jumps and the riders going for broke, in my mind expression sessions are the time for people to go big and try and win the money. In a contest we are mainly looking for control, it’s the same if you look at gymnastics or diving. We bear in mind the difficulty of the jump, but we really need to see it landed cleanly and that’s what you get maximum points for. We don’t really want to see crashed stuff, it might look more radical but we’re looking for control at the top level.
Of course, we all want to see a triple forward, and I don’t think it will be long before we see one from Ricardo Campello and Philip Koster; however, I do think it is hard for them to do in a heat, particularly when they’re competing for a World Title.
In terms of waveriding, we are specifically looking for a vertical approach to the lip of the wave. The more vertical you are, the more committed you are to the turn; therefore the higher the wave scores. The more severe the turn, the more spray is pushed up too, which we like.
The more severe the turn, the more spray is pushed up too, which we like.
Another guideline is we do not want straight down the line aerials, i.e. a gayrial!
Another guideline is we do not want straight down the line aerials, i.e. a gayrial! To score well for aerials we have to see a bottom turn, a vertical smack on the lip and the rider being launched from this. One-handed manoeuvres on a wave, such as an aerial will increase the score, as will wave selection. Picking up the biggest wave in the set requires patience and skill, and is rewarded.
Whilst wave tricks are becoming more dominant, in Tenerife this year Scott McKercher got through just on solid wave riding. If someone can ride with the same severity, and throw up buckets of spray, they’re still in with a chance but I think to break into the top eight without the whole new arsenal of tricks is almost impossible.
But, how does this compare with the British amateur side of competition? First of all, obviously, we are not expecting or looking for anyone in this fleet to be trying triples or even doubles. We are looking for solid jumping, the current top amateurs are fairly high levels so we are seeing stalled forwards, back loops and push loops, which can score up to around seven points.
If you can land a back or pushloop, and a forward, I would say you stand quite a good chance of advancing into a semi final. And that should be the goal; to be doing these on both tacks, for most amateurs. A lot of the time though I only ask for one jump from the amateurs, so a decent forward could see you advancing through a few rounds.
My first bit of advice, if you are going to compete, would be to start with what you know you can do, before you try something new or risky. You’re better off landing something that you’re competent at, rather than crashing; because you don’t get points for crashing!
However, with jumps the most important thing we’re looking for is full rotation; so if at the end a foot or hand slips, you go into the water but waterstart fairly quickly, then that’s generally recognised as being fairly close to that jump. This would generally score no more that four and a half points.
Competition is not easy straight away, it will take some time to understand how heats work but at the same time contest sailing will improve your riding and jumping a lot. The hardest thing is making the decision to just do it! Then if you can remember to keep calm in your heat, know who your competitor is and always check the notice board to know what heat you’re going in, you are sure to put in a good performance. Also, always remember to warm up, have some spare gear ready and start upwind!