Surf ContestsYadin Nicol & Kelly Slater At The US Open Of Surfing 

-Words by Ru Hill

My heart went out to Yadin Nicol in the final against Kelly Slater yesterday. Yadin, who is an extraordinary surfer, was waiting for the bigger set waves and when they came, they closed out. He was also too far out to catch the smaller pealing waves too. I’m sure we can all sympathize. It’s nice to know that that happens to the best surfer’s in the world too.

Surf Simply technical surf coaching resort, Guiones, Nosara, Costa Rica

When we do judging lessons at the Surf Simply, I always enjoy the the inevitable discussion about weather it’s good to objectify surfing in the way that contests require us to do. Examples of heats like this one are often cited. I try to instill the rather controversial idea that by surfing to the contest criteria you will improve faster as a surfer, and hence enjoy surfing more throughout you life. On the flip side professional ‘free surfers’ carve out a living by getting shot for magazines and videos. As someone who will never be in a contest or a magazine, which approach do you think will lead you to a more rewarding experience of the sport?

So let’s take a look at Yadin and Kelly heat. A great surfer doesn’t get any (decent) waves, so he loses. Is that symptomatic of a problem with contest surfing. At a first glance you could be forgiven for thinking that for Kelly, or anyone, to win a heat this way is ‘not really what surfing’s all about.’ Actually if you think about it for a moment, the only reason that Yadin was waiting for the bigger waves was because Kelly opened with an 8.5. So Yadin knew he needed to wait for a wave with a scoring potential of more than that. So it really was Kelly’s surfing that won the heat, as opposed to a problem with the structure of contest surfing.

So keep going out there focusing on surfing to the key aspects of the judging criteria, i.e. committed, critical, powerful and fast maneuvers performed with flow, and try to avoid worrying about length of ride or style. If you do that then the long, stylish rides will look after themselves as you complete your cutbacks and floaters with greater consistency.