Controversial first day at Lowers Pro

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

| posted on May 03, 2011

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

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:

  • Dirt

    At least Cory got through. Last year at the Hurley – trestles CT event, Owen Wright got absolutely screwed in the quarter final, everybody was talking about that as well. Owens combinations of huge airs and critical vertical surfing were no match for Kelly’s face carves. I think the judges got confused and thought they were at Bells.

  • Whamo

    Adam surfed with a lot of power.

  • chico picante

    cory getting underscored? what else is new!!!!?
    and is shea the only person that can spell his name right?

  • Random Guy

    Seriously, there was some strange, inconsistent judging going on.

  • Dominic Besson

    judging should always be under scrutiny from other surfers and the media, regardless of the surfer in question, i personally think they (judges) may have lost the scale during the day and may have not scored Alejo’s waves as it should of been scored because they didn’t want to open up the scores for the first few heats of the day, i do agree his wave was way more than a 8.83. As for Mr Reynolds he deserved at least the score Alejo received for his wave instead of the 7.5 they gave him. and this again reflects how the judges lost the scale set during the first few heats of the day, there was some extremely explosive surfing during the early part of the round, which may have desensitized them a bit. although sometimes i feel that the surfers are judge by their popularity and not always on their performance in the water, as such Cory may not be their favorite surfer or simply not as prominent as many of the other surfer and not scored accordingly to how he performed, the wave which Shea speaks of was a well surfed waves and fit the judging criteria to its fullest but obviously fail to impress the judges, and this is why i believe they scored him unfairly, simply because the younger surfer are more popular with the judges, maybe Cory needs to put out a video soon, it may help them remember just how good a surfer he really is. just my thoughts.

  • Whamo

    The surf is too small to even care about the judges.

  • shwack

    cory was not underscored at all. he honestly doesnt compare with the likes of the top seeds

  • Dewey

    Here are some questions. Does the ASP train their judges? If they do, what does this training consist of? Do they use video? Do they use statistical evaluation to determine which judges are the most consistent? How are judges picked for each contest? Is there any ongoing training between contests? There is an obvious difference between judging standards in different countries and between the QS and World Tour contests. Maybe the ASP should look and see how other sports train their officials.

  • Mike

    Case made, point taken! Get it together ASP…

  • JoseNZ

    Surfers scores are all subjective, and the views expressed in this blog are part of the Sport and always have been, think of shane dorians style of surfing and how it tok a while for the judges to recognise is performances (blueprint), i think the best way to find out why surfers got there scores is to get judges to go through and explain controversial scores, should be an appeal process!!

  • Hal from Encinitas

    I’ve been a big fan of Cory for a long time – since way back when What’s Really Goin’ Wrong and On the Road we’re in the VHS. No offense to Shea, but I always preferred Cory and his approach. That said, Cory simply can’t keep up the surfers of today. He’s still surfing at a very top level for himself, but the explosiveness and flow and combos are not there. I also think it’s lame that Shea gets to tell everyone that his brother is getting ripped off and SUrfer Mag endorses this.

  • JoseNZ

    when you think about it when your scoring on degree of difficulty, whos to say a 360 air is no longer difficult?? jadosn was doing the air 360 reo thingy (which is difficult for other to do yet he does it easy) and the judges started scoringhim less the more he did it, wtf if u got a move that slays dragons are we suppose to conserve it or bring it to the table on every wave??

  • Ben

    Dirt – tell the truth: Are you Kanga?

  • Brad Western

    For those who don’t understand how scoring works, wave scores are relative to wave scores in the SAME heat. The judges use playback and compare waves in the SAME heat. The first wave in a heat will most likely not get a 9.5 or 10 because they neeed to give themselves room to move (remember Teahaupo Koby-Cory) but it will still be scored relative to the rest of the waves in the heat. Alajos wave was the top scoring wave of the heat. They got right.

  • Mike

    Brad…Really? If the first wave sets the tone, then no wave after the score of a wave where the surfer fully commits to the criteria should be higher?! As the day progresses, the scores should go lower or higher based on the conditions and the surfing. A two point variation is VERY high for professional judges no matter what the heat or conditions. Period. As for Jose, again, really? Who is to say four variated, fully committed turns do not outscore Slater 1.0?! I do! And, never bring Jadson into the debate with his limited abilities in a heat.

  • Leon

    Sounds like Shea should be the one man judging team and decide the world title.

  • garyb

    The funniest thing about this judging debate is that if anyone was on the beach watching the heats you would have seen what really went down. The surfers were ripping and no one got ripped, it’s just another controversy. Was this the best stuff to report on. Hope the judges do we better so we can here about something else.

  • Sheapez

    In case anyone missed the ASP press release that goes out around the world to every major surf media outlet, as well as on the home page of, they perfectly recapped all the best action from day 1’s best surfers – I copy and pasted the link above to make it easy. The ASP does an excellent job at covering all the angles of a days competition. My focus is to dig a little deeper to find a story that may need some attention. I’m a very passionate sports fan with my favorite sport to view being surfing. After a lifetime of being involved in the progression of the sport – whether in competition or freesurfs – I feel we must always be moving forward in our ultimate goal of having the best surfers in the world surfing up to the
    unbelievable standard of 2011 and a very forward thinking judging criteria currently in place. As for my brother, I hope you enjoyed another great display of surfing from him today. And the judging today was spot on by my estimation. If you watched the webcast you would’ve seen me spot on with their scores time after time.

    • raul messias

      Cory is a great surfer, nevertheless, on “-Speed , Power and Flow”, Cory possesses plenty of the first two but is short on the last. The same goes for rail work, we’ve seen plenty of surfers with great air skills and variety of face maneuvers, but who fail to use the rail throughout the turn. Time and time over again, we see them utilizing the bottom of the board instead. Maybe “Rail” should be included as a “key element”
      for scoring potential. It would also clarify to the Public the reason behind such big scores to Taylor Knox and others and therefore avoid controversy.
      P.S: To Nike: “Live” keeps cutting off and “Heats on Demand” are completely messed up.

      Surf as much as you can,
      Raul in London, yeah, I know

  • Dirt

    @ Ben. you just blew my cover. I have been appointed coach of the pacsun USA surf team and have been deliberatly teaching them wrong.

  • Brad Western

    Mike you made two points there and I’ll give my veiw. Firstly I think Shea is just trying to get things spicey which is ok but the flaw that I see is comparing waves scores from different heats. Heat scores are a method to find 1st, 2nd, 3rd ect of each heat, nothing more. On the first point about early scores (in a heat) setting the tone. It is undoubted the way it is. Head judges have stated it. Commentaters have stated it and surfers have stated it. It works well. If a surfers betters that early ride they get a better score, simple. In a 30 minute heat it is nearly unheard of for the judges be throwing 10 around in the first 5 minutes. Look at the Bells final. Parkinsons 10 was the last good wave of the heat (and contest). If he rode that wave the same way 5 minutes in he would more likely of got a 9 or 9.5. It would still of been top score of the heat because it was clearly the best performance. If they gave it 10 they trap themseves with no room to reward a better ride.

    The second point is about the scores changing as the day goes on. It can’t work like that. An early heat score sets the tone for a heat not the whole day.

  • Mike

    Brad…But, isn’t it the case that being off 20% is quite a sway? It was my understanding, as I judged in the NSSA in the early 90’s, that the head judge was to set a criteria, also, for the types of waves they would see with the conditions, and the types of maneuvers that would garner the types of scores in the criteria for the day. It is 20 years later, and I am still somewhat surprised by what Shea pointed out. All journalism aside, trying to make something “spicy”, etc.., I am surprised by a seaming inability to set up a legitimate structure that creates consistency between the judges scores, and as the day progresses (both surfing and conditions-note Margaret this year and what substantiated a 9). Totally clear on not giving 10’s on a first ride. Although I have seen many a group miss that opportunity because we had to “leave room”.

  • Brad Western

    I watched the Cory – Cardosa – Robertson – Duru heat again (10 times) and yes the Cardosa score was way to high. They got that score wrong but did they mess the result up? Remember the judges are there to select the two best performers. Each particular score is only a secondary function. Watch how long it takes for scores to drop towards the end of the heat. Late scores take much longer to come through because this year they are watching playbacks. The function being they are comparing waves in the heat so they can put the two best performers through. It was horror heat to judge with 3 very good performances. In the end the only stat that mattered was Corey and Cardosa went through and Robertson lost by 0.49 or 1 bogged rail. I would of had it the same way. Thanks for the banter. I don’t follow any sport other than surfing. I truely love it.

  • Max Tom

    Amen, Brother. It needed to be said. ASP judging is very sporadic and not keeping pace with today’s innovative surfing.

  • http://surfer kimbo

    Danes out , your brothers out . you really need to start to looking at the big picture old trout .

  • The Coach

    Grow up Shea, there was some fantastic surfing going on and you want to point out your brother’s pair of sixes? wow. “Carving tail kicks” and ollie hops were cool when pro surfers rode fishes and people actually cared about the Lopez’s….The Nineties. Besides, Corey got overscored on his first 6 compared to Robo’s 6.7, but you fail to mention that in your analysis. Nepotism at its finest. Great to see “The Bible of the Sport” backing this garbage.Maybe we can get Dino to write a report on Kolohe’s trip to Brazil.