How Long Is a Surf Competition or Contest?
Surfing competitions bring out the excitement of this adrenaline-charged sport, with some of the best surfers in the world producing incredible performances over and over again. However, much isn’t known about the sport of surfing as many people can’t see the difference between when surfers are having fun or competing against each other leaving many to wonder how long is a surf competition.
The truth is that surfing also has its rules and regulations guiding fair play and things surfers can do to win any competition or boost their rankings. It will be surprising if the sport lacks a standardized regulation system, given the fact that there is a World Surf League and many other surfing associations, teams as well as countless international competitions.
If you’ve recently developed an interest in the sport of surfing or have been a longtime admirer from afar, but now want to increase your knowledge of one of the leading aquatic sports the world has ever seen, then follow us as we x-ray the workings of the surfing world.
The duration of surfing competitions depends on some factors such as the type of competition, number of competing surfers, the number of heats, the weather, the swell, the surf conditions and what would be the best day for competition. According to the schedule of competitions provided by the World Surf League (WSL), most surfing competitions have a window of 11 days per competition. Which means that the WSL has the ability to run the competition every day for 11 days but most of the time it comes down to only 4 days with those days being the BEST days for competition and weather.
Surfing contests are held within a Waiting Period. The Waiting Period is the time within which the event organizers are allowed to run the competition. The period is determined based on the current and historical surf and storm forecasts for the location where the contest is taking place. The waiting period is usually longer than the time organizers need to complete the competition so that they can choose the most favorable days to run their event.
The weather can also affect the duration of a surfing competition. If there is inclement weather, organizers may have to wait for the weather condition to become favorable before surfing can continue. In some cases, the competition will have to be moved to another location if the seas are too turbulent for surfers to compete safely, a situation in which the competition is said to be mobile. Accidents and many other unplanned occurrences can further increase the time it takes to complete a surfing competition. If you need more about the schedule of major surfing competitions for this year, check out this site for the dates of every men’s and women’s CT event in 2018.
How Long Is A Surf Competition World Surf League (WSL)
The two most important surfing competitions are the World Championship Tour CT and the World Qualifying Series, both of which are organized by the World Surf League, which is the leading regulatory body in the sport of surfing. The World Surf League also organizes the Big Wave Tour, the Longboard Championship, the Masters Championship, the Junior Championship and the Big Wave Awards.
The World Championship Tour (CT) involves 34 surfers in the men’s category and 17 in the women’s category, in addition to wildcards. The World Championship Tour is the highest competitive level in surfing and boasts the likes of Kelly Slater, Filipe Toledo, and Stephanie Gilmore.
The CT is the biggest competition in the surfing world and attracts an impressive number of top athletes and sponsors, as well as a large number of fans and viewers at home. In addition to the huge attention these events draw, they also pull an insane amount of cash which goes to winners in the form of prizes and endorsements. The goal of any serious professional surfer is to compete against the best at the World Championship Tours.
The wildcards are surfers who are traditionally chosen from the team of the event sponsor or local area to compete against the professional surfers in the CT. The wildcards can also be picked from the top 10 Qualifying Series and Junior ranks. These surfers are usually used to replace injured surfers, and they bring new faces to the competitions and also put up great performances against the well-established guys in the sport.
On the other hand, the World Qualifying Series is a competition for gaining more points to enable athletes to compete in the Championship Tours. There are different point systems in the QS, but the more points you can get from competition, the easier it becomes to qualify. The more points you accumulate, the higher your level in the rankings and you will be entitled to compete in higher level events. The total points gained during the year, is used to rank surfers by the end of the year.
At the end of the year in the men’s division, the top ten surfers on the Qualifying Series are qualified to compete in the WCT while the 22 highest ranking surfers in the WCT are qualified to compete in the CT. Add two replacement surfers, and you have 34 surfers for the men’s WCT. In the women’s division, the six highest ranking surfers qualify for the CT while the top ten surfers on the CT get to compete in the Championship Tours. Plus, one replacement surfer and you have 18 surfers in total for the women’s WCT.
The International Surfing Association
The International Surfing Association also organizes competitions, but these only offer medals for participating countries, not monetary prizes. The ISA competitions involve different countries sending surfing teams comprising of 4 men and 2 women to compete in the name of their countries. These competitions are an avenue for surfers to showcase themselves to the world, network and win endorsement and sponsorship deals. ISA competitions last for about 8 days and are held in different part of the world every year.
What is a Heat in Surfing?
Heat refers to each phase of the surf competition, i.e., a surf competition is divided into a series of heats. Depending on the type of competition, a heat can last up to 20-40 minutes within which surfers must try to catch the best waves. Each surfer is allowed to catch as many waves as possible, and each wave is scored separately on a ten-point scale. Irrespective of the number of waves a surfer rode, the panel of judges only counts the two best waves, culminating in a total score of 20. A 20/20 score means a surfer caught two perfect waves, although this is rare it is possible and we have seen it over the years. The highest and lowest judge’s scores are also discounted, and only the three median scores are used to calculate the score of each surfer.
During a heat, it can be quite hard for the untrained eye to identify the best surfers on the waves, but you can listen to the announcements. In addition to informing the spectators, the announcements also let surfers know how they are faring on the waves.
In professional surfing competitions, heats can be man-on-man, three-man, or four-man and the winner of each heat in a two-man or three-man contest or the two best surfers in a four-man contest qualify for the next stage of the competition until the last round.
Unlike other major sports such as soccer or basketball where there are scientific and objective officiating rules, surfing is heavily reliant on the subjective judgment of each member of a panel of five judges as there are many variables at play.
Professional judges award scores by looking at the difficulty of the heat, maneuvers, power, and speed of the rider. Controlled and completed maneuvers will also earn riders higher scores. According to the WSL, here are the criteria for scoring surfers per heat:
- Commitment and degree of difficulty
- Innovative and progressive maneuvers
- Combination of major maneuvers
- Variety of maneuvers
- Speed, power, and flow
There are five quality levels in wave scoring including 0-1.9 (Poor), 2-3.9 (Fair), 4-5.9 (Average), 6-7.9 (Good), 8–10 (Excellent). Surfers are always careful to choose waves because a small wave that allows them to maneuver and perform at high speed is more rewarding than a huge wave that prevents peak performance.
Also, judges have to the consider the type of waves, the quality of the waves on the day of the contest, time frame of each heat as well as the impact of ocean conditions on the performance of surfers on each heat. All these factors have to be considered and used to adjust scoring criteria.
Surfers can lose some points if they violate the rules of the competition, although onlookers may never notice any rules being broken. Dropping-in and interference are some of these violations, and an erring surfer can lose half of the points on that wave. Surfers have different tactics of turning the tide against other contestants, and this is why being skillful is not enough to win as a surfer. You need to be aggressively competitive as well.
How Many Heats in a Surfing Competition?
The number of heats in a surfing competition depends on the number of rounds and type of competition. Each round is divided into some heats, which decreases as the event progresses and surfers get knocked out of the competition. Here is an example of a surfing event where the surfers engage in 3-person and 1-on-1 heats.
Round 1: 12 3-person heats in which the winner advances to the third round and the other two move to the second round.
Round 2: 12 1-on-1 heats in which winners here move to the next round while the losers crash out of the contest.
Round 3: 12 1-on-1 heats where the winners move to Round 4 while the losers are eliminated.
Round 4: 4 3-person heats in which the winner and runner-up progress to the Quarterfinals while the rest is eliminated.
Quarterfinals: 4 1-on-1 heats. The winner of this round qualifies for the Semifinals.
Semifinals: 2 1-on-1 heats. The winners of the semifinals qualify for the Finals
Final: 1 1-on-1 heat that produces the winner of the contest and a runner-up.
From the breakdown of the surfing competition above, it is clear that a surfing competition can have up to 50 heats and above, depending on the type of competition. Surfing competitions can be local, state, national or international and the scale of the competition determines the number of heats. Invariably, the number of surfers also determines the number of heats in a surfing competition.
From its ancient roots as a sport of the nobles in Hawaii, surfing has grown to become an internationally recognized and money-spinning sport drawing professionals and amateurs as well as millions of fans all over the world. The next time you are watching a surfing contest, we hope you won’t be confused by the prevalence of heats and waves from the podiums.