As some of you may already know, The Keuka Boardroom had the pleasure of judging the first annual wake surfing competition in the finger lakes area last August ("No Half Sends", sponsored by Fullsend Ski & Outdoor in Canandaigua, also made possible by Parker Surfcraft and Marks Leisure Time). This competition brought together surfers young and old, novice and advanced, and offered prizes in every category imaginable. Surfing competitively, even in a lower-tier competition like No Half Sends, can still be daunting for many beginner surfers or surfers who have never ventured off their personal surf boat. With another finger lakes competition in the works, we figure this is the perfect time to offer some insight to prospective competitors -- or to those simply looking to refine their surfing. Note: though this article may focus on wake surfing, these tips apply to most water sport competitions.
What beginner competitors should know
#1) You are being evaluated at the highest level you are comfortable surfing at.
If you are just learning how to throw the rope, don't worry about being pitted against the kid next door who can pop shuvit for days. Almost all competitions are divided into brackets and divisions, and these organize competitors based on their ability, age, and occasionally gender. Rest assured, you will be judged within a reasonable frame of reference.
#2) You'll get more than one chance to show your stuff.
Whether it's rogue chop, a passing boat, or you just haven't warmed up enough, sometimes you'll wipe out before you have a chance to get into your groove. Surfers get it. In almost every water sports competition, you're allowed a certain number of attempts to show your best moves. For example, it's common in the big leagues for surfers to be allotted three falls before they end their run.
#3) Show up with an idea of what the judges will be looking for.
Judges score a set by looking at four main categories, and rating the performance in each class -- often on a scale of 1-10. Take a look at the ways your ride will be analyzed (note: in beginner divisions, not all subcategories will be taken into account, see asterisks):
DEGREE OF DIFFICULTY: innovation, stance, embellishments, board position, combinations*.
INTENSITY: force, speed, power, pace of execution, overall amplitude.
VARIETY: diversity of maneuvers, stance (regular and/or switch), grabs, rotations, performing on both sides of the boat*.
EXECUTION: Stability, fluidity, confidence, exhibiting mastery and control.
At a novice level, a high score can be obtained by a rider who is stable on their board, exhibits good form, and maintains a steady speed within the wave. At an advanced level, high scores will be given to athletes who showcase their widest range of maneuvers, execute their moves with power and strength, and innovate their performance in a way that sets them apart.
#4) Compete for the fun, the experience, the atmosphere, the connections -- not just for the prize
The best part about being at a competition isn't the money you may or may not win, but the people you are surrounded by. What's better than being out in the sun with fellow water bugs who all love the same sport as you? Take advantage of the network of surf-lovers, trade tips and tricks, and maybe make a few new friends.
Take a look at this clip from 2018's comp on Canandaigua Lake, and consider signing up for the next event in your area!