Was Slater Over Scored?

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There has been a debate going on in the surfing world about the Taj vs. Kelly final at Lowers, especially with those super competitive Aussies. Well, Lewis Samuels from surfline got to the source, the head ASP judge, Perry Hatchett. Here’s the interview:

By: Lewis Samuels

September 16, 2008
In the wake of September 11th’s historic Trestles duel between Taj Burrow and Kelly Slater, many internet sites were a twitter with cries of “Taj got robbed!” Of course, this isn’t the first time one of Kelly’s last-minute victories has been controversial: some pundits felt Kelly’s crucial 2005 win over Andy Irons at J-Bay was questionable, in addition to Slater’s 2005 clinch over Aussie Phil MacDonald at Trestles. (Kelly himself referred to this heat as “getting juiced by the judges and beating Phil Macca” in an interview with me last week.)

Never one to shy away from controversy, Surfline caught up with ASP Head Judge Perry Hatchett for a quick Q&A regarding Kelly’s win over Taj. –LS

SURFLINE: A common fan complaint regarding the judging in the final is “Taj got the best waves and did more turns on them, so he should have won.” As I understand it, the judging criteria no longer explicitly states that number of manoeuvres or the size of the wave determines the points awarded. Is that correct?

PERRY HATCHETT: Yes that is correct, at places around the world when the waves are in the two- to four-foot range, the size is not a factor. Length of ride and amount of turns went out eight years ago and the whole emphasis is on the big maneuvers, commitment and the degree of difficulty in the turns executed.

Can you explain how the criteria of “Variety of Repertoire” may have played a role in the judges scoring during the final? For instance, how might variety have played a role in the scoring of Taj’s 9.00 vs. Kelly’s final 9.27?

The variety played a major part in the outcome of the final. Where Taj was surfing with speed and lots of turns, Kelly was surfing on a wave that did not allow a lot to offer. He turned this wave into exceptional surfing with full rail carving turns in the critical sections with variety on each section of the wave. Over the years it has been the surfers themselves who have stated that ALL guys on tour can surf the perfect set waves but it takes real talent to take off on an average looking wave and destroy the thing for what it’s worth. This was one area the judges who were working on the final felt strongly about when I spoke with them at the after-final meeting and wrap up.
[Kelly] turned this wave into exceptional surfing with full rail carving turns in the critical sections with variety on each section of the wave.

The judging criteria also states that points are awarded based on “Degree of Difficulty and Commitment.” Can you give some examples of maneuvers in the final that stuck out as being more committed or difficult than others?

The difference you see in the maneuvers is one surfer surfing forward with speed and radical turns where the other was doing moves in the critical sections of the wave with the full commitment. Driving off the bottom into the section of a wave and then carving the board back around and dictating to the wave itself and taking each section as it comes to you is the difference.

Finally, many fans wonder whether judges award scores based on whether they think a certain surfer deserves the win. So, for instance, when Kelly needed an 8.93 at the end of the final, do the judges see this displayed as they come up with their score? (Therefore knowing whether their score gives Kelly a win or not). Also, do the judges discuss a wave before giving it a score?

There is no discussion amongst the judges during or after a ride at all. We have video replay to look at when we have difference of opinions. They gave Kelly an 8.37 earlier and then felt that wave was a lot stronger. On top of this 3 of the 5 judges felt the way Kelly surfed the last wave to the criteria was better than the 9 they had given Taj at the start of the final. Two judges went down for the 9.5 they had given Taj and the other went up which gave the average. The whole basis of scoring is a comparison of rides from the 1st wave of each heat they put down.

From then on the judges determine whether a wave is better or worse from start to finish of the scores they have written down in front of them… After the final ALL the judges and myself had a good discussion about the whole final and they all felt strongly about their individual scoring. After watching all the waves again the next day with a total free space of mind and analyzing all waves we feel the outcome was well deserved. However, the final was that close that, I think which ever way it went, we were always going to get scrutinized.”

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