Has the "perfect ride" outlived its usefulness? Does gymnastics offer a solution?
Does the scoring of rides at a WSL event sometime leave you feeling a little odd? Cold? Confused? Maybe wrung with despair?
I remember, once, spending a day in the judging tower at a WSL event and not being able to get close to the numbers being punched into the little blue machines that look like they were made by IBM in 1978. My threes were their fives; my sevens were fives. When I hyper-ventilated over two Toledo airs and yawned at three safety turns by Brett Simpson, the judges gave ’em identical scores.
It wasn’t until the fundamentals were explained to me: judge for the conditions and all that matters is that you’re consistent in the heat, that I got it.
And, so, a ten-point ride, the theoretically perfectly ridden wave, can happen in two-foot surf, as it can at 10-foot Fiji.
Doesn’t that irritate you?
Don’t it make you want to get rid of the 10-point scale for something that reflects the…difficulty… of a wave, of a move?
That a 10-foot Cloudbreak barrel will always…always… score higher than a full-roter in two-foot beachbreak? That a Julian Wilson or Kelly Slater turn, more earth shifted, more ground shaken than a bottom-rung guy, will always score higher.
There’s a precedent.
Gymnastics were all about the perfect 10-pointer, a mix of artistry and athleticism, but then in 2006 they tweaked the game for a system that rewarded difficulty over everything.
Ten pointers? Gone!
Was there a consensus? Not exactly.
“It’s crazy, terrible, the stupidest thing that ever happened to the sport of gymnastics,” the gymnastics supercoach Bela Karolyi told the New York Times. “How could they take away this beautiful, this most perfect thing from us, the one thing that separated our sport from the others?”
Reeves Wiedeman in The New Yorker explains:
“By the turn of the century the limitations of the ten-point scale had begun to stunt the sport’s growth. To score well, a gymnast simply had to meet a minimum level of difficulty and not screw up. Gold medals were being given to safe routines that limited mistakes, while gymnasts who pushed the sport’s boundaries received no reward… The new system, laid out in the Code of Points, is an open-ended one, in which gymnasts are given two marks: one for execution, worth up to ten points, and another for difficulty, which is theoretically infinite.”
Change gymnast to surfer and you start to feel it, right?
Should there be two scores, each from its own panel of judges, given to a ride?
The first, say, is the usual, best moves in the most critical part of the wave, combos, speed and flow etc. The second, is a score given to the technical difficulty of the moves, of the wave.
Overly complex? Or beautiful in its transparency and bias towards the best in the game?