New Head Judge, Same Directive?
Updated: Nov 28
The WSL promoted long time WCT Judge Luiz 'Luli' Fernando Steffen Pereira as Head Judge to replace Pritamo Ahrendt, but will it make a difference? Anyone that watched Pritamo on 'Make or Break' knows he used his head judge role to guide the judging panel in their decisions including saying things like, "Well, that was the best wave of the heat", and "That looked like a smaller wave."
My question is whether or not this is within the scope of the Head Judges role or did Pritamo curate his form of judging upon the WSL? And, more importantly, what will Luli do? Will he let the judges, 'judge'?
While Luli is from Brazil, and it seems clear the WSL wants to appease Brazilian Storm fans, what kind of surfing will judges favor? Interestingly, in some of the controversial heats during Pritamo's tenure (think Italo vs. Griffin at Surf Ranch or Italo vs. Connor Coffin in the infamous board stomp at Narrabeen) the Brazilian judges actually favored those opposing Italo in both instances.
In my opinion Italo's surfing has been slightly underscored since he won his title. Sure, he used to go for the predictable air reverse finish to seal a heat score, but Italo has rounded out his surfing the past two seasons with more power turns and advanced tube riding. You know if its big he's going to charge. His surfing is raw at times, but enjoyably unpredictable too. A lot of you won't agree with this, but read on..
It seems judges (with head judges influence) determine what kind of surfing they want to see through their scores. This has been a mystery in the past leaving pro surfers guessing, but lately we've seen judges release notes on what they want to see. Sometimes its the obvious, "We will favor tube rides at Pipeline", but often these directions are short sighted, maybe even baffling. There have been some controversial emails to surfers to be sure.
Which brings us back to Luli. Will he release notes to the surfers on what they want to see? How strong will his influece be on the judges? And what ultimately will be the result? Will there be a lean towards power surfing? air surfing? or will they walk that razor thin line and try to focus on a 'performace surfing' combination?
Each venue is different and the conditions during the event dynamic. Each surfers approach is unique. Good judging takes all this into consideration and subjectively enters a score on an activity that was never really meant to be scored.
Judging is a tough game. I feel for the men and women that take it on. Respect. It will always be controversial because my idea of a perfect ride is different from yours and different again from someone else that grew up surfing in a different location with a distinctive surf culture. Our differing conventions can lead to conflicting tastes in what we think good surfing should look like.
I grew up in a time before airs. Where a deep rail turn was acknowledged and respected, but the sport progresses and so should our criteria. Let us approach the season with an open mind and an understanding that we bring along our beliefs when we judge the judges. There will always be controversy and I don't think I've made my last side by side comparison video! Ha!
What do you think? What's your take? Let us know in the comments below.