What seems like such a simple thing can get confusing for new and old surfers alike. You just show up, get on your board, and ride the wave, right?
Yes, but there is a little more that goes into it in order to keep the competitions running smoothly and most of all fun! Virtual world competitions are not set up the same way as RL competitions. First off, we don’t have a week to dedicate to the event. We all have real lives, you know? So there are event rules set up to keep everything running like a well-oiled machine.
For SLSA competitions this is how it goes. Number one – You have to be a member of the SLSA. Just join the group. That’s all there is to it. No fees, no dues. One group slot is all it costs you. Number two- you have to join the SLSA forums. Why? Two reasons. First, you can keep your eyes open for an announcement for an upcoming competition. Next… How do you register for a comp? That’s simple, look for the Competition Registration thread and sign up.
There are 2 parts to the event – the Open and the Pro. The Open and the Pro are held on two consecutive weekends. The Pro is for anyone who is ranked in the top 20 (and remembers to register for the competition). The Open is for everyone else. But it is not a guarantee that both the Open and the Pro will be held. If more than 30 surfers register prior to the registration deadline, then both will be held. If 30 or less surfers register, then the two are combined into one event to be held on the date scheduled for the Pro. With me so far?
After everyone is registered, the head judge makes up the heat draws. That is who surfs when and what color jersey (or rashie as we call them) you wear. Shortly before the event the competition organizers send out a notice with the heat draws and a “comp pack”. Inside your comp pack you will find all the possible color combinations of rashies they will use and several note cards full of information about what is going on. Sometimes you find extra goodies too!
Okay so now you are registered and have received your heat draw. What is this heat business anyway? Well, the heats are the group of surfer you will be out on the water with. This can vary from 3-6 surfers depending on how many people have registered and what heat it is. So how do the SLSA organizers figure out how the heats are set up? Again the Open and Pro are a little different.
In the Open event, when there are between 11 and 14 surfers registered, surfers are divided into 3 heats. If there are 15 or more surfers registered, then it is divided into 5 heats. Part of the Open event is deciding who gets to advance to the Pro event the next weekend. In an Open with less then 15 surfers, the surfers with the 10 top scores in the preliminary heats advance. When there are more than 15 surfers, then winner of each heat and the next top five scorers advance to the Pro event. Surfers who do not automatically advance are put on “stand-by” for the Pro event, in the order of how they scored, to fill in for any surfers who qualified and registered for the Pro event, but are unable to surf.
Okay… how does heat set up work in the Pro event? In a Pro event, there should be 30 surfers. They are divided into 6 heats of 5 surfers. These are the preliminary heats. There is also semi-final heats and then the final heat to determine the winners. In the preliminary heats, the winner of each heat advances to the semi-finals. Then the next top 6 scoring surfers across all heats also advance to the semi-finals. You have to keep your eye on the scoreboard to see who is in the running for those top 6 six scores. The semi-finals are 3 heats of 4 surfers (12 total). The winner of each semi-final advances to the finals, and then the next 3 top scorers advance. So, we now have 6 surfers in the finals. Winners are naturally then determined by order of scores in the finals.
Still with me? Good.
Scores. Scores are awarded by the judges. There is a head judge and 2 additional judges. They each give a score for each surfer for each wave. Surfers get three waves and the two highest scores are then added together. For example, let’s say you get a 5.0 6.5 and a 7.o. The 5.0 is dropped. Your score for that heat is then 13.5.
How are those scores determined? A surfer can receive between a 0.5 and 10.0 for each wave. Each judge determines how well the surfer performed on that wave. There are guidelines on how to score them, but as with everything in life the guidelines are subjective. More about this in a second. Scores are broken down into 3 categories; style and control are worth 4 points, tricks are worth 4 points, and length of ride is worth 2 points. To receive the best possible score, a surfer has to blend a good combination of all three categories. For example, style and control is very subjective, but each judge scores consistently throughout a competition based on their interpretation of style and control. Typically, the judges are competition surfers, so they know what the tricks are and their degree of difficulty, this is less subjective. Length of ride is purely objective, did the surfer stay on the wave until the end, and did they belly. This isn’t the olympics and we don’t have instant replay, so don’t get upset with the judges. They are doing their best and are consistently fair. After 5 years of being part of SLSA, as a surfer, a judge, and in other roles, judging has always been the most consistent part of a SLSA competition.
And that is pretty much it. Actually it’s not that complicated… basically you show up, pay attention, follow directions, ask questions, have fun!
Most of all have fun!. There is always a party in the event stands. And being out on the water with your heat buddies is always a good time.