Surfing is as much a skill and a science as instinct and timing. It starts with learning to read ocean swells to anticipate wave formation to quickly execute a maneuver.
Here, we explain what you need to know about surfing to enjoy your Olympic debut at the Tokyo Games.
Surfing has its own language, and the first thing you need to know about surfers is that they have a lot of popular phrases to express their enthusiasm and enthusiasm for a good ride.
Enthusiasm. Sparkling. Gnarly. Sick. Rad.
Waves are created by the way swells interact with the contours of the ocean floor, called the break. Beach breaks – like the Olympic site at Tsurigasaki Beach – occur because of sandbanks, which can shift over time or due to storms. Point breaks are made against a point of land, such as a jetty. Reefs are often further out in the ocean.
The technical composition of a wave is also important to know in oceanography. The lip of the wave is the curling part at the top, the face of the wave is blue water and flowing water is the foam that results from the energy of the breaking wave.
Hit the beach early in the morning and you’ll find swarms of surfers paddling out to the ocean, seemingly full of zen and sitting on their surfboards in the water. In fact, they are focused on gauging the feel of the surf conditions.
Serious surfers also study oceanography and atmospheric data before taking the plunge. Smart surfers are becoming science junkies. They study the weather forecast, wave heights, wind direction and tidal movement with obsessive detail.
âA lot of surfers will look at satellite maps and watch storms on the ocean, which will create swells. And then there are the buoys that measure the height of the swell in the interval between the waves and there are the tides. and the wind, âsays Richard Schmidt, a retired professional surfer who now runs a surf school in his hometown of Santa Cruz, Calif..â And to get really awesome surfing, a lot of those things all have to coincide and meet.”
How does competitive surfing work?
Timing and positioning are essential when it comes to surfing a wave. Competitive surfing in a nutshell is all about deciding which wave to take and which move or moves make the most of what the ocean has to offer at the moment.
“By doing any maneuver, you want to have a lot of speed and enter a turn, it’s putting everything on the rail and pushing very hard but adapting the power of the waves so that you don’t slip”, explains Carissa. Moore, the reigning world champion and woman to beat in surfing’s Olympic debut.
While men’s competition typically dazzles with explosive tunes, women’s play often features a more danceable pace that showcases the speed, power, and fluidity of the run.
Most maneuvers are types of turns; where you look is where your body will go.
To do a barrel roll – where the surfer rides inside the tube of the wave – it’s crucial to find the section of the water that is steep and hollow, and then balance in the height of the loop so that the water surrounds you. Surfers who disappear into the barrel and then come out smoothly at the end show control. Smaller surfers can enjoy getting into the tube without crouching or squatting.
For a tune, look for a soft wave crumble to pick up some speed before heading out to the beach to harness the wave’s momentum.
âYou have like a wave that is never the same, so you have to constantly adapt to what you see and adapt to the situation,â says Moore.
How is Olympic surfing judged?
Unlike other sports, competitive surfing is practiced on a literally uneven playing field: the mighty and uncontrollable ocean.
Each ocean wave and each beach is different, so the criteria for judging depend on the surf conditions during the heat and the quality of the execution of the maneuvers. The score is admittedly subjective and the conditions unpredictable, which makes surfing a unique four-dimensional sport with the vagaries of the ocean as the X-factor.
In competitive surfing, athletes take turns in timed heats on the waves of their choice based on their position in the surf zone during the heats.
For the Olympics, a panel of five judges will then award scores – up to a perfect 10 – for each wave a surfer rides during the heat, which can last anywhere from 20 to 35 minutes. The highest and lowest scores are eliminated, leaving the middle three to the middle as the trip score. Then each surfer’s two best riding scores are combined to become their heat score, out of a total of 20 points. Scores are not carried over, so each round is a new start.
Judges take into consideration difficulty, innovation, combinations, variety and speed, power and flow, for an overall impression of each wave surfed. It is important where they occur in the wave; the most critical section is where blue water meets white water.
There is no hierarchy in the way maneuvers are scored. But if there were two identical movements, the bigger wave would prove more difficult to achieve.
âSomeone could make a really shitty tune in a very small section of water – it’s like 2.5 (in score). And then someone could do like a really sick carve in a critical section – it’s like 6, âsays Tory Gilkerson, who will score as an Olympic judge. âThere is no ceiling or floor for each maneuver. It is about the way they are executed, the technique and the quality of the maneuver.