Style Bandits: A Case Study

23 09 2009

Style pioneer Miki Dora at Malibu circa 1966.

Style isn’t any exact science. In fact, it’s not science at all. In competitive surfing style is undoubtedly the most overlooked aspect of the judging criteria. If you commit and do something radical, nearly fall, and foresake any resemblance of style you’ll get a better score. If one makes surfing look too easy, the scores will suffer.

There are exceptions, but those with the best style usually hone their skills surfing points and reefbreaks. It makes sense, right? Stinkbug punters and grovelers, for the most part, grew up surfing beachbreaks. Surfers like Curren, Parkinson and even Dora perfected their gifts at world-class pointbreaks.

There is a shift that’s been slowly happening for decade or so. Sadly, style is not what is once was. I see it every day in the lineup. Kids are trying to emulate the Dane Reynolds and Julian Wilsons of the world. But Reynolds and Wilson are fin-free freaks…with style. That is a rarity. Not the norm. These days groms learn airs even before they perfect a simple cutback.

The ASP judging criteria states… “A surfer must perform radical controlled manoeuvres in the critical sections of a wave with speed, power and flow to maximize scoring potential. Innovative/Progressive surfing as well as variety of repertoire (manoeuvres) will be taken into account when rewarding points for waves ridden. The surfer who executes these criteria with the maximum degree of difficulty and commitment on the waves shall be rewarded with the higher scores.” (Note: It was obviously written by an Australian, hence the spelling of “manoeuvres.”)

Did you notice anything peculiar other than the funny spelling? You guessed it. It does not mention style. Repeat. It does not mention STYLE. Not once. Sure it states “flow” will be scored, but not style. Webster’s Dictionary defines flow as “proceeding smoothly and readily.” So if I’m reading it correctly, this means Jihad Khodr will score a perfect 10 on every wave as long as he shaves his entire body, lathers his skin with baby oil and gives the judges a playful San Francisco bath-house wink. If it’s flow they want maybe Marlon Lipke should cohearse Jay-Z to be part of his entourage. Would he then have a better chance of ever making it past the first round? It couldn’t hurt. 

Earlier I stated style is undoubtedly the most over-looked aspect of the judging criteria. Disregard that. I was wrong. It’s not even a part of the judging criteria.

ASP judges, much like a kitten that just witnessed a bird fly past him, are easily distracted. Waving your arms wildly (also known as claiming) scores points. Don’t believe me? How do you explain the longevity of Gary “Kong” Elkerton and Victor Ribas? Maybe the problem is that the long-time ASP head judge was a Brazilian and the system is still recovering, even years later. The irony is the average Brazilian wouldn’t know style even if it crawled up his ass, built a campfire and started roasting marshmallows. But this isn’t about the proper technique for making a Brazilian s’more. I’ll cover that in a future post.

Most will agree Joel Parkinson is perhaps the most stylish surfer on tour right now. His surfing is like sex on satin sheets. It’s slippery smooth. It’s wet. It’s exciting and fun. He’s the world champ-elect for good reason, despite a judging criterion that has always been a few steps behind the times. In the September issue of the Surfer Magazine Parkinson stated this in regards to claiming a wave…“People can give me shit about claiming, but if that’s what it takes to win a world title, then I’ll claim every wave.”

So there you have it. If you wave your arms after that last turn, you’ll win a world title. Now that’s science.




25 responses

23 09 2009

I take your point that style may be scored more than is mandated by the judging criteria. But every surfer in a competition knows exactly what the judges want to see and they all work hard to achieve that. You’ll often see competitive surfers surf quite differently when not being judged. Furthermore, “claiming” is not the only non-surfing trick they will use out there to win. There are tons of tricks they’ll pull to help get that edge.

But I think that the bigger point is that surfing is always evolving and the judging always tend to be a bit behind. It will always take a while for judges to figure out how to score new trends in surfing. In the last couple years, style is really starting to creep in to a surfer’s repertoire.

23 09 2009

Part of the problem is the WQS. The majority of the guys qualify in shit waves with shit style.

23 09 2009
Billy's Bong

Nug…your talent is undeniable. With the end of Postsurf, this is the best independent surf blog on the entire Internets. Love the Miki Dora pic. The Parko video is sick. Great post. Bro bro surf journalism is dead. You tell it like it is.

I await your post about Brazilian smores.

23 09 2009

Yeah, dude, keep up the good work! Much better than the vindictive, over the top sarcasm at PostSurf. Looking forward to your posts on the QuikProFrance.

23 09 2009

Joel’s claiming is irritating . Dane is arguably the best there is and never claims. Some what ironic that the poster boy for cutting edge surfing has an old school mentality when it comes to self congratulation. Before anybody replies that “Joel’s gonna be world champ so Dane should do the same blah blah” let me point out that I don’t think claiming really works anyway – just look to the brazos who employ the claim frequently. And, as was made clear at Lowers, Dane (I didn’t believe this until last week) will probably be world champ in a year or two…without the claims. The judges have totally bought into his way of surfing. Like Kelly, he has the potential to make waves that should be 5’s into 7’s or 8’s.

23 09 2009
Blasphemy Rottmouth

The only thing Jihad Khodr will earn if he “shaves his entire body, lathers his skin with baby oil and gives the judges a playful San Francisco bath-house wink,” will be a perfect 10” turgid beef piston jackhammering his colon into Jell-o, courtesy of Jeremy Steele.

If you ask how I know this, I’ll introduce you to the four bags of lime and freshly dug hole in my backyard.

23 09 2009
Nugable Sux

This blog sux. There are plenty of good surf blogs out there…like…uh…Ok, I guess it’s not half bad.

23 09 2009

Excellent piece, Nug. I think we’ve found a new home. I can feel BR’s excitement over the thought of a playful San Francisco bath-house wink.

23 09 2009

@ BR. HAHAHAHAHAHA “turgid beef piston” HAHAHA

23 09 2009

You guys ever watch chicks play volleyball? They claim after every point, en mass, even when they lose. Insufferable.

Touchdown celebrations, lame. That’s the only thing I like about baseball, claim a homer and you’ll have a high inside fast ball next look.

I dont’ think you should claim anything in surfing unless it’s ridiculous and you just can’t help it. As we watch the elite progress, it will be the fly boys that have an “on wave attack” as well that oozes with style. The trampoline recovery acts will fail competitively. Dane, Julian and Jordy will just keep getting better assuming they don’t go troppo and drop out.

No surprise what imagery inspired Blasph….

Nug is delivering, keep it up buddy.

23 09 2009
Blasphemy Rottmouth


Yep. You’re spot on with the claiming. Can’t wait until Julian joins the big boys next year. Even seeing a Goodasskiss brother trying and making a rodeo or two would be fun to watch.

I was just tugging yer pud (as hard as it was to find)about Mick. I mean, don’t get me wrong, Mick still sucks alpaca balls – but, he’s the consummate professional and he’s definitely a top 5 – 10 contender on the current tour. I just defy you to find a clip of Mick’s surfing with more than three hits on it. Nobody cares. He’s like Tim Duncan to Kobe Bryant or Lebron. He’s a champ and a fundamental workhorse, but nothing groundbreaking will ever be inscribed in the annals of surfing lore at the hands of Mick Fanning’s surfing.

Okay, enough of this serious talk. Wheya tha white wemin at?

23 09 2009
The Nug

The Quik Pro starts in about an hour if I’m not mistaken. Julian killed it yesterday.

I was going to write about surfers with underrated style but it evolved into this. I always thought Gerlach was underrated in that respect. I might revisit the subject at a later time. I have a special surprise coming on the Quick Pro. I know for a fact Blasphemy is going to love it.

23 09 2009
Blasphemy Rottmouth


So… what you’re saying is that you’re going to foist a post with topless Gerr pics uponst us?

I’m not sure what to say; other than that I’m praying with all my heart that there aren’t any bottomless pics of Snips included. I’ve already have mental images of a Number 2 pencil with an erect grain of sand strapped to its torso… these are thoughts that I can’t unthink.

The horror…

… the horror.

23 09 2009
Blasphemy Rottmouth

*I already have mental images…*

The whithky feels esthtra sthmoove tunight…

24 09 2009

Hey BR, if you don’t mind me asking…are you homo, bi, necrophiliac, something else, all the above in addition to other perversions…?

24 09 2009
Blasphemy Rottmouth


No. I am merely a Presbyterian.

24 09 2009

Well I’ll be… I figured you for a Methodist…

24 09 2009

Julien’s wave in the first round heats was sick for what it was. Multiple upside down hits and a punt to end on a decent size wave…. 6.5 How much would Dane have gotten for the same effort?

Do the presbyterians understand the judging…. or the methodists….. they are used to fantasy so they may better attuned to ridiculous conclusions.

Not a eugune fan Blasph, but scoreboard is scoreboard. Surfs better than I do and the other guys have to beat KS, Parko, Fanning, Taj, Bobby and the double mint twins. Those are the winners…over and over.

Credit where credit is due. Conjecture about talent finds it’s footing when it generates scoreboard. Until then, it’s just bullshit. For Sale.

24 09 2009
Blasphemy Rottmouth


Yes, I remember the first time I did meth too.

Cheerio mate! You’ll feel better in 17-26 hours. Just drink plenty of water when you wake up. And stay away from anything BVB has written in the last 24 years.

Heh heh.

24 09 2009
Blasphemy Rottmouth

I think you would agree that our personal judging extends beyond the scoreboard. Otherwise we’d be ASP judges ourselves. What would Dane have received for the same wave Julien rode? Because Dane is currently sitting in 11th in the standings, and finished somewhere in the mid teens to early twenties last year, we can’t accurately assume he’s a judges darling just yet. In other words, Julien, part of the same Young Guns hype pack, may not be as inflated or deflated any more, or less, than The Dane.

As for religions… Mike, get a grip on yourself man. Presbyterians are much more skilled at rodent sodomy than the Methodists. Plus, ‘They’ wipe with their left hands. And I have no idea why. Perhaps it was the Apostle Paul that gave those instructions.

Your quote “Until then, it’s just bull. For Sale” was one of my favorites from my hero Don ‘The Magic Wand’… so big ups, brother.

25 09 2009

Blasph, swear I didnt’ lift that phrase…. not my style.

My point about Julien’s wave is that I can’t understand the judging criteria. Traveled the world, surfed for 40 years and still can’t figure it out. Never played a down of pro football, but I know the rules inside and out. If someone like me has no idea, how was this ever going to translate to a bigger audience…. and why do we want that?

As for Gerlach, he was a guest at a prime camp this June and I was told that he was the most genuinely helpful guy anyone could be…. spending time with each guest, breaking down technique and each lineup and ripping for example. Good guy enjoying the good life, cheers….

Side note, the Aussies are getting resentful with the Post Surf crew over at Stab…. pretty comical.

1 10 2009
Dave Mailman

Speaking of chicks and volleyball, check this out!

15 12 2009
The First Ever Nugable Surfing Awards « Nugable

[…] achievement Oscar. Like Scorsese, Taylor Knox is a legend and perhaps the smoking gun against the ASP’s refusal to implement style in its judging criteria. Can you believe Taylor Knox has won only one WCT event in more than 15 […]

13 01 2010
Style Bandits Part II « Nugable

[…] few months ago I stated style is the most overlooked aspect of the ASP’s judging criteria. Of course with a sport as subjective as surfing it’s […]

6 05 2013
Mini Simmons Surfboard

Dude mini simmons boards are so much fun. I am addicted to the Carrozza El Stumpo shape. Its more of a simmons inspired board but rips non the less.

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