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Watch: Every 10-point ride at J-Bay!

Derek Rielly

by Derek Rielly

The comparisons are brutal!

Oh how J-Bay fed our open mouths with tens. Eight of ’em!

You can watch every single ten below (thanks to The Inertia for finding the clip).

But what’s gonna strike you is that not every so-called perfect ride is created equal.

Compare the ecstasy of Filipe’s double-oop, multi-hack wave with the beautiful, if not exactly white-knuckle, surfing of Frederico Morais.

Of course, as was once revealed to me in the judging tower, heats are judged according to the conditions and all that matters is consistency within that heat. i.e. if you’re throwing everything eights, then a markedly better ride is going to steal a ten. Similarly, if nothing makes you dizzy and a surfer’s gotta work like hell to get a six, you might throw out one ten a year.

But it don’t matter. Consistency does.

And, therefore, there can never be any meaningful comparisons of tens throughout an event, as this clip demonstrates.

Just as the entire 36 surfer, four-day format has proven to be utterly unworkable, J-Bay the rarest of exception, a judging format that renders any sort of heat by heat or contest by contest comparison deprives history of markers.


As I cribbed from a copy of The New Yorker a year ago after a similar raft of tens, maybe the answer lies with gymnastics.

Gymnastics was 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.

Do you say yes?