Does any surfer wake up one day and say, “I want a career as a professional ASP surf judge?” And if he does, what does it take to achieve that goal or even what the job entails?
Surfer Magazine recently interviewed the ASP’s head judge, Richard Porta, providing some insight into his job.
“For a group that hold such an important role in competitive surfing, it’s surprising how little we know about the World Tour judges. To get a glimpse into the lives of the shadowy figures that dish out the 10s and the 2s, we spoke with the ASP’s head judge, Richard Porta.
Rise the Ranks: The process for becoming a World Tour Judge varies from region to region. In Australia we start at the club level then go to regional, state, and then onto the pro juniors followed by the smaller star events. Once judges have cut their teeth on these types of events, they then move onto the five and six stars, then Prime events, and finally if you’re good enough, it’s onto the World Tour.
Know the Conditions: I’m at the beach soon after first light to make the call with the contest director and the surfers’ rep. Once we have called the day “on,” the rest of the judges arrive 45 minutes to an hour before we start. We don’t actually score the waves during this time, we just see what sort of waves are available and what the surfers can do on them.”
For another perspective on a career as A professional ASP surf judge, consider what ASP judge Pritamo Ahrendt shared with Stab.
“It’s among the surfing world’s toughest jobs. For every complaint levelled by pro surfers – money, bad waves, time spent away from loved ones, pressure and contract negotiations – consider the judges. They suffer it all but for less coin and even less time in the water. Not to mention the endless criticism.
Stab: Describe your job.
Pritamo Ahrendt: ASP International Head Judge and ASP Judge. I work at all ASP World Tour events and about 10 Prime and Star events throughout a year. This is my 12th year full-time judging at the ASP World Tour level.
The positives? It’s a privilege to have the opportunity to watch the highest level of surfing and be one of the few that get to critically analyze it and ultimately decide the World Champion. The life experiences involved in traveling are epic too.
Negatives? Being consistent and critical in your judgment. Surfing is very subjective with a constantly changing platform that surfers perform on which can make it challenging. Outside the job, it can be hard being away from the girlfriend and family and not having much of the stability of having a home and living somewhere. I’m living out of my suitcase from now until early January, but not complaining, life is good.
What level of surfer must you be to be a good judge? Nearly every judge at this level have surfing careers as their backgrounds and the ones that don’t are all good surfers and have other strong attributions to be a top end judge. Most people might not know who the judges are, but all the judges are known surfers in their country or area.
What incentive is there to become a judge? It’s a rewarding job – lots of surfing, excellent office to work in, exotic locations, and decent pay. Definitely a lifestyle job.”
Maybe a career as a professional ASP surf judge would be kind of cool. So connect with your local surf comps and volunteer to do whatever they need help with. Once you’re part of the “team” you can let the organizer know you’d like to start judging.