The WSL judging system

With all this talk about the contests and the winners thereof, you might be wondering - how are the winners even determined? What makes ride A better than ride B? If you want to find that out, just read on!

In surfing the conditions can change from one second to the other, making it impossible for two waves to be exactly identical. So seeing as the determining factors vary from wave to wave, event to event and year to year, it is critical that there is a consistent, pre-defined set of criteria to rate the competitors' rides during a contest.

Contests are made up of numerous rounds (e.g. Round 1-5, Quarterfinals, Semifinals, Finals), which consist of multiple heats. In these heats the surfers (normally 2-4 surfers at a time) compete against each other, trying to advance to the next round by getting the two highest-scoring waves. The surfers' rides are rated by a panel of 5 judges, one of them being a WSL approved head judge, on a scale from 1.0 to 10.0. So the highest possible score a surfer can reach in a heat is 20.0. The final score of a wave is determined by dismissing the lowest and the highest of the 5 scores and then by calculating the mean of the remaining 3 scores.

The scale is the following:

  • 0.0 - 1.9 = Poor
  • 2.0 - 3.9 = Fair
  • 4.0 - 5.9 = Average
  • 6.0 - 7.9 = Good
  • 8.0 - 10.0 = Excellent


The judges' criteria for rating a ride are:

  1. Commitment and degree of difficulty
  2. Innovative and progressive maneuvers
  3. Combination of major maneuvers
  4. Variety of maneuvers
  5. Speed, power and flow of the ride


While these elements are always the same, the maneuvers that lead to big scores can vary from wave to wave. A 10-point ride can, for example, either be a perfect tuberide, a combination of radical carves or even a single crazy air maneuver - all depending on the respective surf spot and conditions. But have a look for yourselves:


Keep these tips in mind when you tune in for the first event of the WCT 2015 on February 28th, the Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast at Snapper Rocks!



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