With the start of the ASP World Championship Tour in Australia coming up tomorrow, thousands of surfers and spectators alike will gather to watch the annual competition, whether it live at the event or on their televisions and computers.
But other than your usual ogling, casual surf fans may just not have any idea how to follow the competition. The World Tour is an exciting event with some of the world's most dedicated athletes–and a great place to start learning more about the world of surf competitions.
After the jump: Your quick guide for new competition spectators to learn the basics of following a pro competition.
The ASP World Championship Tour (WCT) is an annual competition with both a Men's and Women's division. The winner earns the titel of World Surfing Champion of the year.
The Men's Division is comprised of the top 45 competitive surfers in the world–the top 27 surfers from the previous WCT, the top 15 rated ASP World Qualifying Series surfers and (potentially) three ASP World Tour surfers who were awarded the ASP Wildcard by the World Professional Surfers (WPS) the previous year. Each season's Women's ASP World Tour seed list is made up of 17 surfers: The top 10 rated ASP World Tour surfers, the top six rated WQS surfers and one ASP Wildcard. There are 10 events in the World Tour that take place in various locations.
ASP and Surf Competition History
The first thing to know is history–as always, evolution and origin is key.
Back in the 1960s, when structured competitions were first introduced to the sport of surfing, guys and girls surfed for fun and bragging rights: There was no industry or any sponsors to fund competitions, meaning no cash prizes. Although the sport brought a peaceful and fun environment, the world at large did not yet appreciate surfing.
Moving into the '70s, isolated pockets of structured competitions started to emerge. Hawaii served as the pioneer of competitions, starting with the Smirnoff Pro, the Duke Kahanamoku Classic and the Pipeline Masters offering around $10,000 in prize money.
With the beginning of an established industry, surfers like Reno Abellera, Gerry Lopez, Jeff Hakman, and David Nuuhiwa became surfing superstars.
The International Surfing Federation (ISF) was then organized to develop standardized rules and to conduct future world championships. The ISF held championships in 1965 and 1966 and then staged them at two-year intervals from 1968 through 1972. The federation then fell apart because of a split between amateurs and professional surfers.
By the mid-'70s, events started forming from Sydney to Rio and from Florida to Durban. Two new governing bodies were formed in 1976: The International Professional Surfing (IPS) to organize and govern the pro tour and the International Surfing Association (ISA) for amateur surfing. The ISA has held world championships in even numbered years since 1978–this then led to the beginning of the Association of Surfing Professionals (ASP), which replaced the IPS in 1983.
After the first four world champions were crowned (Peter Townend, AUS; Shaun Tomson, ZAF; Wayne Bartholomew, AUS; Mark Richards, AUS) a new era emerged, and by 1984, the tour had expanded to in excess of 20 internationally rated events.
The ASP grew to become a fully developed organization. They held events in exotic locations, scheduled events for the best waves, and created a rating system.
One of the most common and recognizable manoeuvres is the cutback, which involves the surfer turning back to the wave's breaking part. Another common one is the floater where the surfer rides on top of the wave's breaking curl and the off the lip in which the surfer backs off the wave top.
A couple of other easy to spot tricks are the air, where the surfer is actually able to proper himself or herself off the wave and then re-enter it. Then there's the most common trick, tube riding when a surfer moves to a position where the wave curls over him and rides the inside of the hollow tube-like portion, from which the move gets its name.
Judges analyze the following major elements when scoring waves: Commitment and degree of difficulty, innovative and progressive manoeuvres, combination of major manoeuvres, variety of manoeuvres, speed, power and flow. The emphasis of certain elements is contingent upon the location and the conditions on the day, as well as changes of conditions during the day. The wave scoring is done from 0.1 to 10, broken into one-tenth increments (e.g. 7.3).
Here's a quick look at manoeuvre scoring:
- One basic manoeuvre completed = 3 – 3.5
- Two basic manoeuvres completed = 4.5 – 5.5
- Three manoeuvres completed = 6 – 7.5
- Four or more manoeuvres completed = 8 – 9.5
- One big manoeuvre with speed throughout = 6 – 7
- Two big manoeuvres = 7 – 8
- Three big manoeuvres = 8 – 9
- Exceptional, surfed wave to its full potential, could do no more = 10
A wave should always be surfed the longest possible distance that can be ridden in the horizontal plane across the judges.
Judging gets more complex as each move is weighed more based on the dangers it took to complete it.
So: Now that you know the basics of following a surf competition, you're all set to watch the 2010 World Championship Tour. To find out how you can watch the world's best surfers in one of the biggest competitions of the year live, just click here!
Also Quiksilver Pro will have live coverage of the first event on Feb. 27 through March 10 here.