How Does A Surf Competition Work?

With the introduction of surfing in the 2020 Tokyo Olympic games, a lot of people may be wondering how it all works. Surf competitions can be difficult to understand if you have never seen one before. Although, once you understand the basics they are fun to watch.
The sport of surfing is growing rapidly and surf competitions are held on almost every coast of the world that has waves.  

What Is A Heat?

If you have ever watched a surf competition from the sand or from your living room you might have had some questions about what a heat is. A heat is essentially a round of the tournament in which 2-4 surfers will compete against each other.

The heat typically lasts 20-40 minutes depending on the contest. Each surfer will go head to head in hopes to avoid losing the heat resulting in elimination. The top two surfers move on to the next round where they will try their best to keep up with the other competitors and make it to the final rounds.

How Are Heats Scored?

Like many other sports, surfing is scored by a panel of 5 judges. Every surfer is judged for the waves they catch and a single wave surfed is scored out of 10. Each judge will determine their own score for the wave ridden by the surfer. The highest score and the lowest score are discarded and the three other scores are averaged out for the total score of that individual wave. The surfers can only keep their two highest scores and all of the others are discarded. Being that the highest single score is a 10/10, the highest possible score combination is a total of 20. 

Now that you understand the scoring process, it is important to understand what the judges base their scores on. In surfing there are certain qualities that the judges look for when coming up with a fair score. These qualities include commitment and degree of difficulty, innovative and progressive maneuvers, variety of maneuvers, combination of major maneuvers, speed, power, and flow. Each of these qualities weigh differently to each judge and influences the scores that they give. 

What is Priority and How Does A Surfer Get It?

During a heat, multiple waves will come and surfers will have to decide which wave is going to give them the best score. What if a great wave comes through and both surfers want to ride it? The surfer who reached the lineup first, has priority over the other competitor meaning they can take any wave that they want. If the surfer without priority paddles into the wave of the surfer with priority, this is called an interference. The non-priority surfer can avoid this by quickly getting out of the wave. Once the surfer with priority has paddled into a wave, they forfeit that priority to the other surfer. The priority goes back and forth between surfers in the order that they reach the lineup. Having priority over your opponents is crucial to taking control over the lineup and getting higher scores. 

Final Word

Now that you are familiar with the ins and outs of surfing competitions, you can sit back and watch the action with a better perspective. You may even be inclined to learn to surf and take on the waves yourself by taking surf lessons or joining a surf camp! There are tons of locations around the world to learn surfing, but by far the most fun surf lessons for beginners would have to be a surf school in San Diego, California. The best surf school in San Diego is definitely Pacific Surf School. Once you learn to surf it makes watching surf competitions a better experience! 

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