On Style

Light / Dark

From the ASP Judging Criteria, 2000 (abridged): “The surfer must perform committed radical maneuvers in the most critical sections of a wave with style, power, and speed to maximize scoring potential. Innovative and progressive surfing will be taken into account when rewarding points for committed surfing.” From the WSL Judging Criteria, 2010 to present (abridged): “Judges analyze the following elements when scoring waves: commitment and degree of difficulty; innovative and progressive maneuvers; combina tion of major maneuvers; variety of maneuvers; speed, power, and flow.”

Careful readers will notice a crucial word missing from the contemporary platform. While it would be disingenuous to cite bureaucratic oversight as the reason so many modern pro surfers have regrettable style, it’s worth noting.

It speaks to a disconnect—and to what Sherlock Holmes might call “a three-pipe problem.” To wit, should a style-bereft world champion bear an asterisk on his or her record? The performance strivers, the trainers, the parents of child pros all would take great offense. The record is the record. Purists, though, often have trouble with surf contests generally and modern performance specifically.

Objectively, a top-flight surfer rides boards for conditions. They shift into neutral on quiet sections. They efficiently glide through transitions, not forcing matters. They don’t needlessly pump and tictac, telegraphing
“look at me” moments. Yet, like nearly all of today’s professional surfers, they are squarely in command when shit gets real. Most of these points of separation come down to equipment. The rest is nuance. And nuance is the key signifier of style.

Submitted for your approval: Luke Egan, 2002, Lower Trestles. “Style” was still on the judges’ punch list. He won the event, but he won something deeper long before that. It’s well beyond any official criteria.

[Feature image by Grant Ellis.]