Pritamo Ahrendt: Confessions Of A Head Judge - Part 1

Steve Shearer picture
Steve Shearer (freeride76)
Talking Heads

Whatever your take on the World Surf League, the common view is that it operates behind a veil of secrecy. Often, key broadcast or executive personnel are quietly disappeared, never to be heard from again: Martin Potter, Barton Lynch, Erik Logan - and every other CEO. Meanwhile, some surfers get celebrated retirements from the sport, like Mick Fanning and Owen Wright, while others, such as Matt Wilkinson, Connor Coffin, and Ace Buchan, are quietly shown the backdoor despite their decorated careers.

Having worked for the ASP and WSL for twenty years, the last five as Head Judge, Pritamo Ahrendt parted ways with the WSL last October. In this interview with Steve Shearer, Pritamo delves deeply into the often turbulent world of judging and gives his informed take on the recent controversies surrounding pro surfing.

Take your time with this dive into one of the most influential positions in the pro surfing caper.

Read Part 2 here.

Upon being promoted to Head Judge, Pritamo had his first official photo shoot and the wider surf world could finally put a face to the name (WSL/Cestari)

Steve Shearer: Pritamo, could you give us a brief history of how you became the Head Judge of the WSL in 2018?
Pritamo Ahrendt: When I was a teenager, I did the Billabong Pro Junior series throughout Australia [as a competitor]. Towards the end of that, I realised that I wasn't going to be a pro surfer and, because I was always interested and involved in being around the competition, I had a couple people invite me back to judge some Pro Junior events. 

I judged two Pro Juniors and then got invited to the Burleigh Pro Junior. During that event, unknown to me, they were looking for the next Australian judge to join the [Championship] Tour. Basically, on the third or fourth day of the event, Al Hunt came up and asked, “Are you available to come and do the event at Bells?”

I was like, “Yeah, sure, I'd love to do it. He came back and basically offered me Gold Coast, Bells, and I think it was Japan.”

How old were you?
I was 20 years old. So just a couple of years out of school, no job, no clear direction, just wanting to be a surfer and find something that could support me to be a surfer. Basically, by the end of the event, they'd offered me to come and do three CT events.

And then, probably two or three days after the event had finished, Al Hunt rang me up and invited me to do the whole year. So the interesting part of that was I ended up judging a CT event before a QS.

My first event was the Billabong Pro on the Gold Coast, and then I went from there to Bells, Japan, and Tahiti. I also ended up doing heaps of QS's that year - I think I did thirty events that year in a whole bunch of countries. I'd never left Australia before that year so in between those events I just stayed on the road and surfed and had fun.

That first year, I was just taking it one event at a time; I’d never really thought of it as being a full-time career. It just didn't seem like that's what I was there for. Like, I was kind of filling in. That led into the next year and the next year and continued on, and after probably three or four years, I realised ‘Oh, shit, this is my career.’

But also, ‘I'm getting good at it. I'm getting to be one of the best, so I'm going to give it my all.’

Looking sun-kissed and lean, Pritamo escapes the Teahupoo tower during a lay day.

What did you develop to be good at it?
I think the main thing was a good memory recall, and I think that's what really helped me at the beginning. I could remember other waves and analyse them, then give reasons for my scores. I could go back and say, ‘Oh, the seven at the start of the heat was this, this, and this, and that's why I gave this one an eight because he did this, this and that.’

I really had the mindset where I could break down the waves, remember them. And from that, just being able to do it consistently, so really tap into watching a whole day and not get sidetracked. I loved it and wanted to be better at it. 

At what point on that journey did you realise you were being groomed to be Head Judge and how did that transpire?
Yeah, throughout my first nine or ten years, Perry Hatchet was the Head Judge. He's a very interesting character. And his style and approach to head judging and life was real character-building for me.

In what way?
He's a pretty full-on character. He very much led the panel with a lot of aggression and kind of weird elements to who he was. It was full-on at times. There was a lot of divide and conquer, and kind of playing people off each other. He thrived on the power the position gave him and he used it to secure himself in that position

Don't get me wrong, Perry had a lot of good attributes and I learned a lot from him in my life, but his style of leadership could only exist in that day and age. Right now, there's no way a company would have somebody with that kind of personality overseeing a team that's making decisions like that.

Through that whole time there was never really a sense of job security or direction because he was keeping his position tight and he was not going to let somebody be trained for the position.

Anyway, during that time there was never a moment where I thought, ‘Oh, I'm going to be the Head Judge.’

The view from the Bells judging tower also captures the public's view of the judges: featureless, anonymous (WSL/Dunbar)

What changed?
When they [the ASP in 2010] let Perry go I know now the conversation was like, ‘Pritamo's a good person for it, but he's still a bit young and probably not quite ready.’ The dynamics between some of the other judges that were probably feeling that they were next in line and how to forge the team together and make it a really strong team made things tricky. They couldn't work out how I could lead that at that stage.

So they brought Richie Porta in and his first decision was to bring me and Shipley - Dave Shipley - in as co-Head Judges because he knew that we both deserved to be in that kind of role and we had a lot of good experience and understanding of the level of the sport that he wanted utilise and tap into. I think it was a really smart decision to bring us into the fold to make us close as a team to lead the sport.

Through that, I think we were at a really good moment where we were rotating as scoring judges and then as Head judges during the day. So at the same time, we were giving a lot of our input to the sport and to judging, but we also were getting the opportunity to learn how to be a head judge, learn that skill without actually having to take it all on and deal with all the other aspects a head judge deals with outside of the tower. We really had the opportunity to  learn to become head judges in the tower

That experience gave me the confidence that when Richie left, I was ready for it. I knew that I was capable. I knew that I had the judging level and appreciation of where surfing was heading, and also how I felt the direction of the sport and judging should be going. So I think their decision-making that led to that was actually really good and really helped me become who I was as the Head Judge.

So when you became Head Judge, what sort of vision did you have? You described a style of Perry's that was domineering and ‘my way or the highway’. What sort of style and what sort of regime did you want to bring in as Head Judge?
One thing that I knew was a lot of people weren't happy in that type of environment; they weren't stoked to be in the tower. I wanted to lead a panel with positivity to create a confident and strong team, the Head Judge really has to give a lot back, make them feel confident in who they are and how they’re judging. 

I just wanted to pick the best team, the team that I believe deserved to be there because of their judging skills. And I wanted to make people feel they were privileged in that position; that it was an honour for them and they should be enjoying it and it should be a good environment so when you're at work, you're stoked to be there. I felt this environment helped the panels to do their best judging.

I allowed people to be a lot more free and to learn as well, to learn from their mistakes.

What about the vision for judging?
Probably my biggest thing that I've contributed to the sport was, for the very first event as Head Judge I changed the scale. I believed that the scale had got to a point where no-one needed to progress their surfing to get to a high score. You could get into the nine to ten point range by just getting a good wave and doing really high level surfing, but not including an element of high risk surfing that's going to change the sport. 

There was no apple dangling that certain people could reach yet others couldn't. I felt if you bring the scale down, it allows the top surfers to separate themselves and stand out. If you got a 9.5, that should be something that's memorable throughout a day that people will talk about later, it shouldn't just be another one of ten 9.5s that happened that day.

I really wanted that to be my stamp of how I was going to bring in my head judging position.

At Jeffreys Bay in 2017, judges awarded eight 10-point rides and an incredible 85 excellent rides of 8 points or above - accounting for more than half the scoring rides. The next year Pritamo altered the scale and no 10-point rides were awarded at J'Bay with 33 excellent rides over 8 points. Filipe Toledo, shown here in 2017, won both events (WSL/Cestari)

Where did that come from? Were you thinking about that for a period of time or was that a bolt from the blue?
Once I became the Head Judge, I was reviewing the previous couple of years. And we'd had events where we'd scored excellent surf and I just remember walking away from days going, ‘Fuck, we had so many tens and so many nines, some of those waves have to be better than the other ones.’

I think we were doing a disservice for the surfers and the sport by allowing everything to be the top level when it's not. I didn't feel that the surfers were having to show us another level because there was nothing to gain and it wasn't worth risking more when you're only going to get 0.2 of a point more.

Like if you show them that they're going to get 1.5 points more if they did something crazy…that's where I felt that I wanted to make a change. 

A big part of that story is because I knew there'd be a lot of pushback from it, and not just pushback, but a lot of questioning, a lot of people trying to understand it and having to explain to the surfers and the WSL. I basically kept it a secret and just rocked up the first day with only my team knowing that I was going to do that.

But my whole team backed it, so I knew I wasn't just going solo. Luli, who's going to be the Head Judge from now on, he was like, ‘Yeah, we got to fucking do this.’ And so, I kind of had the confidence that it was the right thing.

And then the first day the media kind of blew up about it, kind of wrote me off in a way. There were a couple of guys that I knew would utilise that to their advantage. So I was OK, that's cool that they can see where they can use this scale and make a point of difference to separate themselves.

Did you get any notable pushback though from any of the surfers?

Can you tell me who?
It was the whole group in the end. Basically, they made me front the surfers, the whole surfing tour in Margs and have a meeting and explain why I did it.

What was that like?
Fuck, it was intimidating leading into it, but by that stage it was the third event [of the season] and the media had kind of turned around by then. I'd had a few ex-pro surfers, plus a few surfers on tour, come up to me privately and say, ‘You're doing the right thing. That's the direction that it needs to go.’

So, by that time I was confident to get up and just tell them why. And I understand why it was tricky for a lot of people to grasp because when you compress the upper end of the scale, things kind of get a little bit blurred in the lower end of the scale. There's probably not enough separation, but you're making the grey area in the lower end of the scale rather than making the grey area in the high end of the scale which is where you want heats to be decided. You want more points of difference at the top so that you can really decide who the best surfers were in each heat and during a day.

Days after squaring off with Pritamo at the Margaret River Pro, the competitors had greater worries when two shark attacks occurred nearby. With the memory of Mick at J'Bay lingering, the WSL postponed the contest after Round 2, resuming it at Uluwatu later in the year. 

So you had to quell the mutiny. After that meeting was everyone satisfied?
I don't think so. I think a lot of surfers really benefited from it, but then a lot of surfers went from surfing for eights and nines, to now surfing for sevens. It was probably a big hit for some egos like, ‘Wow, I'm surfing as hard as I can and I'm only getting a seven?’ It was harsh.

It was a big step that we took, it wasn't just a small shift, it was putting a stake in the sand saying: This is what you need to do. 

The WSL also pushed back and questioned me quite a few times through those first few events.

What was the basis of their pushback?
A little bit of it was: Are you doing a disservice to the sport by not allowing the best athletes to get in that high end of the sport when they've been used to it for a long time?

There's more storylines when there's more of those moments at an event, whereas I kind of saw it as the storylines become more clear when you separate those little moments from the rest of the surfing. I think one of the best things was that the WSL didn't do anything to stop it. They definitely questioned it. Really put it on me like, ‘You better be doing the right thing.’

Is this coming right from the top, from the CEO?
It wasn't [communicated to me] from the top, but I believe that the questions were probably coming from the top. And I think it's right for them to question it. You know what I mean?

Like, if there's a shift and it's not been discussed and I haven't talked about it. But honestly, I knew it would get either stopped or we wouldn't have been able to take it as far as I wanted to take it if we let it go to them.

How happy were you with the results of that decision after year one? Did you think you'd lifted the level of surfing as a whole on the tour?
Totally. There was a shift in surfers’ performances. And I think, whether it was necessarily just from the scale or it was part of the progression of sport at the same time is hard to say. There's always moments in surfing and sport where dynamics change and people don't want to be part of the group. They want to separate themselves and they know they've got the next level.

Maybe they've surfed inside their comfort zone and you just give them a little poke and it’s like, ‘Oh shit, I need to be the guy that's getting the nines.’ I think progression of the sport is either followed by the judging or the judges make a little stance and then the surfers kind of jump to catch up and make their point.

So that was a Medina title year. Finishing at Pipe with Julian Wilson. That was incredible.
Fuck, yeah

That was amazing.
Yeah, the events that finished at Pipe with the title races, like I had that one and I had the Medina and Italo one the following year, which was just heat after heat, just pressure.

And building performances…

Everyone focused on the Italo/Medina battle in 2019, but I actually preferred the year before, the Wilson/Medina one. Medina's backside tuberiding at Backdoor was so next level.

And that was a progression in the sport I thought where he was really separating himself by making a statement: I'm a goofyfooter, I'm going to go right and I'm going to do technical tube riding..
Pumping with no hands and adjustments in the barrel.

Though it doesn't look like much here, this wave from the 2018 Pipe Masters final threw multiple sections over Gabriel, the last of them ridden hands-free, and garnered 9.17 points. Also, continuing on from above, there was just one 10-point ride at the event, it was ridden by Gabriel, with eleven excellent rides of 8 points or above, with Gabriel claiming seven of them. (WSL/Cestari)

Yes, all that stuff. I was stoked to see that get rewarded. So from there, you had to go through this massive series of challenges. Well we had 2019, which was another banner year with Medina and Italo facing off at Pipe. And then the sport had a massive convulsion, we had COVID, plus a major restructure of the whole thing. Just how challenging was it to go from what had been quite a stable setup, where you were able to institute this change in the judging, to all of a sudden the whole sport's been restructured underneath you?
It was a weird year for everyone. At the same time we were going into lots of meetings and kind of deciding the future of the sport. It was the time to do something. There was time for WSL to make decisions that they could restructure it to how they had been envisioning it.

It was already the plan - the thoughts had already been there - they'd kind of tried to do it a few years prior and it just didn't happen. Pat [O’Connell] was in charge and he was kind of playing with a few ideas and that's what it ended up on, which everyone has very strong opinions on.

Did the judging panel have a role in that restructuring of the sport?
Yeah, since about 2010, when we went from the top 44 to the 36, I changed the format that they were planning on using. Since then, they’ve invited me to be a part of the tech committee and then the tours and comm afterwards. So from that stage I'd always been a part of decision-making.

A lot of the tour restructuring came to us as a done deal and we had to work out the specifics. The big picture was done way above me.

Shortly after Kelly Slater won the 2010 Hurley Pro at Trestles, journalist Phil Jarratt broke the story that Slater had thrown his weight behind a rebel tour orchestrated by, among others, Terry Hardy and boxing promoter Matt Tinley, and backed by ESPN. In swift reply, the ASP announced a big shake up that included a reduced-field format Pritamo had been working on.

Fast forward two years, the ASP implodes, the rebels become the establishment, and Pritamo's format continues.

No-one ever really seemed to take ownership of that restructured tour vision. Who was the architect of it? Who was the brains behind it?
I'm not sure if I know the clear answer to it. I'd say the Top Five concept is probably more Dirk and those right at the top. I don't know that for a fact, but I'd put that right at the top there.

The restructuring, or the regionalising, of the tour comes back to probably a group of people wanting to have fewer international events with everyone just spending so much money. I think there's elements of that that really worked. That decision-making I think came from COVID and kind of looking at the next few years like, ‘Well, what are we going to be looking at? Let's work out how we can still run this tour and let's see if it's something that can last and be the future of the Qualifying Series.’

Going into 2018 there was also a new element which was the wave pool. First at the Founder's Cup in May and then the first official CT in September. This is a completely new element, you've now got an artificial wave. How did that influence the judging and how hard was it to deal with that? All of a sudden, you're looking at hundreds and hundreds of waves almost exactly the same and you have to differentiate them.
It's interesting, that's one of the more-asked questions: How is it to judge that wave? And obviously, we had some controversy there last year, but as a wave, to score and to judge, it's probably one of the easiest in that you know what that wave is going to provide. You know, even though surfers might not follow it 100%, what can happen in each of those sections.

So the surfers themselves have a pre-plan of what that wave is, where they can do their turns, what turns are possible. It's been one of the events where the judges see pretty similar things [to each other]. I don't get much fluctuation in scores at that event. If you don't finish the wave, it chops your scores away really easily. But in the same sense, there's not as much to separate on those waves, so you do get a lot of scores that end up in a similar range, which makes it difficult to find the moments that you've got to separate because it's literally nine turns and two barrels. The Head Judge provides a very detailed Criteria for that Event for the Surfer's days before it started.

A lot of the fans complain the wave pools very quickly become monotonous to watch and people get bored with it quickly, and even Kelly admitted that. Is that the same from a judging perspective, would it get boring or monotonous?
Probably for a few judges it was a little like that. For me, and it's probably an unpopular view, but I actually liked it for the sport. There's a standard for the wave, no one's getting a bonus wave or the random wave that's way better than anything else, and it's basically your performance on a similar wave. 

For me, I liked that for the sport and I was never bummed that it was part of the tour. The only part that became tricky, I think, is that some people have surfed it so much more than others and that's where the advantage/disadvantage came in.

Richie Porta and Pritamo at the first Surf Ranch Pro in September 2018 (WSL/Rowland)

So you think that was an advantage to have more time in the pool?
Yeah, definitely. Also, some people's surfing fits it anyway so they can kind of break that disadvantage. But not many people turned up and really performed there.

I mean, even John John never really quite looked completely comfortable out there. He had his moments on his forehand, but his backhand, he never quite seemed to come to grips with that left properly.
There's definitely a couple of top surfers that really, in a way, didn't fit the wave and didn't look as good as they do in the ocean.

Tune into Swellnet on Tuesday to read Part 2, where Pritamo expands on his sometimes-contentious role in 'Make or Break', including acting as peacemaker to a furious Italo, why surfing progression includes the rail as much as the air, the wavepool fiasco that ended his tenure with the WSL, the Erik Logan question, and his legacy for the sport.


velocityjohnno's picture
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velocityjohnno Saturday, 27 Jan 2024 at 6:25pm

That was a satisfying read, I have a burning question that might get answered in the 2nd part, it's about the air reverses. There was a moment (was it 17,18, or 19, or later?) when an air reverse was like a wild card that could win any heat from behind. Most obviously Italo and Gabby's talent, but I think of JJF at Narrabeen, dying moments of the heat, he's behind iirc, away from his competitor who is frantically paddling towards him with priority - he catches a small closeout and does an air reverse, lands it, walks in, thanks for coming.

Water Patrol Australia's picture
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Water Patrol Au... Wednesday, 31 Jan 2024 at 10:23pm

Haha what a load of shit, Pritamo & Richie were never good enough to be Head Judges or strong enough. Sure I was dominant but in a sport full of egos you have to be strong. I changed the criteria 3 times as a Head Judge and introduced the best 2 waves into surfing comps which changed the sport as a hole. Quite disappointing to read this shit from someone who you gave an opportunity and both were only given the position due to being yes men and never confrontational when it was required. I was actually selected by the surfers at the time I took over which says a lot. I'm happy & proud of the achievements I gave to the sport of surfing and the weak & those who were intimidated by me will always complain. The surfers didn't, Rabbit our,President didn't and the godfather of judging Jack Shipley didn't so that means the most to me not weak whingers.

Mal Caithness1's picture
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Mal Caithness1 Thursday, 1 Feb 2024 at 9:19am

Straight up, always highly rate your journalism Steve & congratulations on this current expose. Pritamo was always a good scoring judge but that's a yeah but nah, for me, on his legacy & tenure at the helm, as the big dog.
Lot's to unload here but I'll keep my opinions brief.
Too much confusion on score's & scale over his time had fan's, surfer's, officials, journeymen & enterouges scratching their heads. We saw weird results which in turn culminated into questionable World Champions. The new format didn't help that process, in fact it fostered the soft serve WSL smear on our sport. Core was no longer cred.
During this whole time,he had the opportunity to define his legacy as head judge. Maybe even help burn their wanton failure in the above process however nothing, crickets. We discovered our Big Dog was a poodle, neutered by the overlords & apparently complicit in the fall of grace which was once the ASP & the Dream Tour.
Your legacy was a format change? The format is arguably worse than it's ever been with the non elimination round & the final five. Your legacy is crowning a World Titlist who is still today too scared to paddle out at heaving Pipeline & your legacy is about being side shifted by a bunch of competitors who correctly pointed out the anomalies coming out of the tower.
Don't get me wrong, Pritamo you tried but the creed of " Don't be a buddy, be a boss" wasn't adhered to & we've inherited the dumpster fire that is the WSL in all it's manifestation. Hopefully Luli can right the listing ship.
A bit rich on ur part dumping on your previous counterpart in a public forum, didn't think that's what Event Officials did. Would you have said that to his face? His legacy was the best 2 waves & conjointly the culmination of the Dream Tour, worthy World Titalists, a sport that was core & cool, a connected fan base,a future for prospective aspiring pro's, a springboard for progression in judging & criteria, basically, a positive legacy. Not sure how your sooking about what came before has been enhanced in any
way whatsoever. I'll let other's judge that.

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centralscrutinizer Friday, 2 Feb 2024 at 8:48pm

Some points in there, but still, to put pro surfing and the Pro Tour's relevance on the back of a head judge sounds a bit too much. As if one could separate pro surfing's downfall from the industry's meltdown. It's all part of the changes in society, consumption models, and attention fragmentation that ultimately have led to the unmasking of what Nick Carroll once called "a scheme, and a damned good one."

Island Bay's picture
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Island Bay Saturday, 27 Jan 2024 at 6:47pm

Very interesting, and I'm throughly looking forward to the second instalment.

I do get the feeling that Pritamo has been living/working/operating in a bit of a cocoon - the WSL - with the outside world and the views of the surf fans being a parallel universe that he just doesn't get.

Edit: and thank you SN and Steve. It's a rare pleasure these days to really be able to sink your teeth into something surf related.

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memlasurf Sunday, 28 Jan 2024 at 10:40am


Major kong's picture
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Major kong Saturday, 27 Jan 2024 at 7:23pm

Wow amazing bring on part 2, lost interest a long while ago but always kept an eye and ear on it all... Love to read some info on the judging etc... and the darkness the wsl has thrown over it all. Awesome read cheers

tubeshooter's picture
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tubeshooter Saturday, 27 Jan 2024 at 7:59pm

Excellent read.
He might want to check with his lawyers before answering anything about Elo though. ;)

I always thought that the final 5 thing was Dirks idea anyway,
From his 'Waterman of the Year' speech....
“The event format remains confusing to new fans. Think about it. A surfer can finish second in three separate heats, and still finish second in the overall event. We continue to have an antiquated system for determining world champions, in which all events count the same, and points are simply added up until someone has an insurmountable lead, regardless of when that happens.

“This all too frequently results in confusing scenarios at the end of the season. Many times since we have become involved, the new world champion was sitting on the beach, not even at the last event of the year, hoping for someone else to lose. This is when many fans tune out.

“In 2016, when John John won the title in Portugal, the audience for Pipe was down almost 50%. The title was not on the line. This is not great sporting drama, in my opinion. Just like the thrilling finals of our individual events, I believe our world champions should win the title in the water."

surfer1971's picture
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surfer1971 Sunday, 28 Jan 2024 at 7:11am

He does not know what happened to Elo. I know him well and he said no idea a number of times.
What is tragic is that he was shown the door cause of the pressure of a certain nation of surfers.

tylerdurden's picture
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tylerdurden Saturday, 27 Jan 2024 at 9:19pm

You and Pritamo missed a couple of points Steve.
Pritamo had an idea come to him sometime around early 2010 while surfing one day at Tallows to introduce an expression session style, no knock-out round which was ultimately taken up by the then ASP, becoming “round 4” in 2nd half of 2010 which lasted for a few years. Shortly thereafter he was made head judge.

Maybe that visionary idea was what got him the top job? Certainly couldn’t have hurt

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sean killen Saturday, 27 Jan 2024 at 9:28pm

Thanks Steve incredible insight cheers some great reading !!!

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simba Sunday, 28 Jan 2024 at 6:56am

Hope the burning question gets asked in part 2 ....where to now for the wsl ?

Lost1's picture
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Lost1 Sunday, 28 Jan 2024 at 7:34am

Thanks Steve, great read. Looking forward to pt 2.

Lanky Dean's picture
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Lanky Dean Sunday, 28 Jan 2024 at 9:26am

Be interesting to see if part 2 gets pulled.
woz soo salty about articles like this.

Takes balls to hold your ground,
Usually in the end though ....especially nowdays majority wins.
As is what happened to Prit.
Its pretty hectic calling the shots and usually takes a certain person.
As society constantly evolves these people get fried and punished.
discarded, usually without pay or regard.
Pioneering's a bitch and someone else usually takes the credit.....

Liked that he ripped the scale to shreds.
Left a slew of journeymen in the dust.

Like iv'e said before, bring on the mid year cut, bring on the guillotine.
we want to see the best surfers in the best waves.........
problem is surfing has tried too hard to chase $
rather than building a larger core audience.

Think the problems are also grass roots.
no one is supporting the middle and regional series in surfing now.
things are far too fractured in surf culture.

Wandi's picture
Wandi's picture
Wandi Sunday, 28 Jan 2024 at 11:37am

Spot on Lanky Dean
No one cares about the local/state/country comps anymore except for those directly involved.
Nowadays it's more of a headache rocking up to your local seeing a random tent with horns etc and kids in rashies scrapping for whatever.
In todays crowded environment the only care is a quiet wave to yourself.
And as for money, you have companies like this.
That have no care about developing surfing.
Where does it go from here?
Feel sorry for the soccer dads with no backup plan.

san Guine's picture
san Guine's picture
san Guine Sunday, 28 Jan 2024 at 5:07pm

"Like iv'e said before, bring on the mid year cut, bring on the guillotine....." my thoughts exactly.

Let's cull the also-rans and see some jeopardy.

Then there are 4-5 remaining events with the sports elite.

Double the points (or bonus points for finishing top four, whatever )for the remaining events in J-Bay...choose 2-3 others, finish at Pipe (incentivise top 4 finish points wise).
And may the best surfer win

Sprout's picture
Sprout's picture
Sprout Sunday, 28 Jan 2024 at 11:40am

Good read thanks Steve. Not much insight really, but like Barton said there's a complete lack of feedback and communication top down, unsurprising corporate strategy. I doubt we'll ever get the turncoat we desire, too much money at that level. Need someone like Kelly, financially secure, legacy secure, to retire and drop some insight with nothing to lose, not that he knows the top level wankery either.

Faunt Leroy's picture
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Faunt Leroy Wednesday, 31 Jan 2024 at 11:46am

Barton said?? Must be true then...

Denyer's picture
Denyer's picture
Denyer Sunday, 28 Jan 2024 at 11:59am

Thanks Steve. Are we going to find out what the vibe is like inside the WSL around this final 5 nonsense?

And also, whether the WSL are aware of, and taking the temperature of their fan base?

The second question may be better suited to an exec, which would be impossible to get a real answer on based on WSL's opacity.

I can't think of another sport rooted in so much controversy around the structure.

mpeachy's picture
mpeachy's picture
mpeachy Monday, 29 Jan 2024 at 8:49am

It would be impossible not to know how much the fans hate the final 5.

They obviously just don't care.

andy-mac's picture
andy-mac's picture
andy-mac Sunday, 28 Jan 2024 at 12:20pm

Look forward to part 2!

Seaweed's picture
Seaweed's picture
Seaweed Sunday, 28 Jan 2024 at 12:34pm

I bet he gets heaps of waves gifted in those free surfing sessions around the competitions.

NDC's picture
NDC's picture
NDC Monday, 29 Jan 2024 at 8:07am

Yeah... funny thought that.

You could see that unfolding ... some surfers giving him extras in the pre-contest free-surf sessions, others getting shiity about that happening.

Makes you realise what a hard setting it would be to avoid toxixity - lotsa uber competitive alpha types moving around the world in a close proximity bubble under plenty of recorded scrutiny and social media posting etc. Suddenly the pro-surfing dream doesn't seem so alluring

linez's picture
linez's picture
linez Sunday, 28 Jan 2024 at 1:41pm

That's a very insightful interview FR, really enjoyed that. I've always been somewhat interested in what theses guys, and the commentators, make. Like, are they riding the gravy train, or do they sort-of struggle between events etc. It's obviously a private question, but I have always wondered.
Anyhow, really enjoyed it, thanks.

burleigh's picture
burleigh's picture
burleigh Sunday, 28 Jan 2024 at 1:47pm

never met the guy and he seems pretty chill. It would be a fucking hard job being head judge.

goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot's picture
goofyfoot Sunday, 28 Jan 2024 at 3:20pm

Yeah I enjoyed that, he seems like a pretty open, honest fella. Looking forward to part 2

san Guine's picture
san Guine's picture
san Guine Sunday, 28 Jan 2024 at 5:22pm

Thanks for that interview.

tip-top1's picture
tip-top1's picture
tip-top1 Sunday, 28 Jan 2024 at 5:46pm

good read , would be hard job being the head judge , he's lucky sunny Garcia's not on the tour , imagine being the guy who has to front him when he's got steam pouring out of his ears

seahound's picture
seahound's picture
seahound Sunday, 28 Jan 2024 at 7:53pm

Good interview thanks Steve. Hope we get more info in part two about what exactly the role of a head judge is, other than a spotter making sure all paddled for and ridden waves are observed by the judges. Yes, there’s dealing with competitor’s queries too etc. But does the head judge exert too much influence on the panel? In other words, how much sway does one person have on regulating the scores of the five judges paid to adjudicate on their own observations? So what’s the point on having a panel of five if they all have to be reined in by one person’s take?

dawnperiscope's picture
dawnperiscope's picture
dawnperiscope Monday, 29 Jan 2024 at 9:17am

Great questions, he really opened up. Was interesting that they swap the head role throughout the day. Makes me wonder if the judging anomalies that have happened over years during mid contest have coincided with a shift change in the tower. I don't have any examples, but have memories of plenty of WTF moments.

seahound's picture
seahound's picture
seahound Monday, 29 Jan 2024 at 6:02pm

Interesting possibility.

pvfloripa's picture
pvfloripa's picture
pvfloripa Sunday, 28 Jan 2024 at 11:20pm

Cool interview! Looking forward to part 2. When should we expect it? :)

basesix's picture
basesix's picture
basesix Monday, 29 Jan 2024 at 12:10am

tuesday : )

pvfloripa's picture
pvfloripa's picture
pvfloripa Monday, 29 Jan 2024 at 12:36am

Thanks! I realised it is written in the text.

gm14's picture
gm14's picture
gm14 Monday, 29 Jan 2024 at 9:58am

I'm not sure I agree completely with his version of history, the scoring is as unclear as it's ever been, but it's great to get a bit of a peak behind the curtain.
his big scoring shift of the late teens coincided with the retirement of Mick and Parko and the boys who got a high 8 every time they stood up, and the actual progression of JJF Gabey and co. i wonder how much of it was Pritamo's direction and how was was just literally the changing of the guard.

Nick Gee's picture
Nick Gee's picture
Nick Gee Monday, 29 Jan 2024 at 2:33pm

agreed with some of his wave pool comments. it was clear the consistent surfers that had massive moves dialed in were way ahead of the pack. there was only one year where Medina fell otherwise both men's finalists jagged massive scores. take away the random aspect of the playing field and 9 times out of 10 the more successful surfers in a wave pool have the mental strength and consistent body mechanics of figure skaters or billiards players. a talent, sure, but... no thank you.

jasper99's picture
jasper99's picture
jasper99 Monday, 29 Jan 2024 at 9:08pm

Good read. Judging always difficult no matter whose in charge....I do scratch my head with some of it though. I did a judging course a few years back and in a part of it we were told to look at the depth of a bottom turn heading into a turn as a point of difference in the scoring potential which doesn't seemed to matter so much at the CT level.....

What is Pritamo up to these days?

surfer1971's picture
surfer1971's picture
surfer1971 Tuesday, 30 Jan 2024 at 4:49am

Spending time with his young family weighing up his options.

Stephen Allen's picture
Stephen Allen's picture
Stephen Allen Tuesday, 30 Jan 2024 at 9:47am

Shifting the judging criteria toward "progressive surfing" has increased the occurrence of debilitating injury. And it is courage rather than progressive surfing that counts in waves of consequence.

Stephen Allen's picture
Stephen Allen's picture
Stephen Allen Tuesday, 30 Jan 2024 at 9:48am

Shifting the judging criteria toward "progressive surfing" has increased the occurrence of debilitating injury. And it is courage rather than progressive surfing that counts in waves of consequence.

peabo's picture
peabo's picture
peabo Wednesday, 31 Jan 2024 at 12:26pm

Increasing levels of courage in heavy surf is progressive surfing, particularly if you looks at the women's side of things.

southernraw's picture
southernraw's picture
southernraw Friday, 2 Feb 2024 at 9:03pm

It was a good interview.
But i dunno. How many times over the last 10 years myself and friends have shaken our heads and said, 'are the judges on drugs?'
And i just don't get this whole thing of keeping the score in a certain scale/within 1 point.
What's the point of having 5 judges? Why not just have one?
I reckon i'd rather see 5 judges with wildly differing perspectives of how they judged the wave. Surely that would all balance out in the end.
Having 5 judges restricted to a an anchored score that they can't stray within a point of to me reeks of not trusting the opinion of your own judges, and one person ultimately controlling the outcome.
One more thing. This whole thing of judging waves against waves that were ridden earlier in the heat is farked as well.
Judge a wave on it's merits, as it happens, If you're good enough you won't have to look backwards. Fark me.
Two thumbs down from me Prittamo.

RB's picture
RB's picture
RB Sunday, 4 Feb 2024 at 3:58pm

I couldnt agree more. I also heard judges are ranked and rewarded for always being most accurate to the final score. I'd be more happy if a good wave had a spread from 7.5-9.0 than everyone pussyfooting around within .5 of each other. This has leaked down to us having trained head judges at our boardriders events asking me to reduce my score because its too much of an outlier ( i always refuse and say "thats my score and my opinion".

Mal Caithness1's picture
Mal Caithness1's picture
Mal Caithness1 Sunday, 4 Feb 2024 at 10:15pm

I'm with you on this. If you as a scoring judge are on the panel then you're there to do your job. You've been selected because, ( at the club or professional level), you're designated to do that specific job. Period.
The Head Judge's role is to " eliminate obvious discrepancies". I'd counsel said judge & as long as he could confirm he hadn't missed anything in the ride & he could confidently confirm to me why he arrived at that score, just let it go. FFS it'll get thrown out with the hi/low deletion. The only albeit slight problem with this is that unless said judge can't abide with the teams decision his ability to compare subsequent rides could be brought into question. Up to him or her, shouldn't matter however they're tenure should be considered if they appear to have obvious discrepancies in their decision making process. Simple really.
The bullshit call that the panel needs to judge to the " average" is so flawed & outdated. Let the computer tabulated system do what it was designed for otherwise continue to have sheep on the panel. Encourage professional interpretation of the criteria by talented individuals without fear or favour & reward those who get 1st & 2nd correct in the majority of instances, who gives a fuck about the winning margin per se.
So much more I could elaborate on but this is not my place. Reward excellent surfing guy's, & for the also ran's ... "Torch that shit !!"

southernraw's picture
southernraw's picture
southernraw Sunday, 4 Feb 2024 at 10:22pm

Bloody oath. Touched on so many of the flaws and failures of the woz judging system in this post.
+1. 100 percent in agreement.

Mal Caithness1's picture
Mal Caithness1's picture
Mal Caithness1 Sunday, 4 Feb 2024 at 10:37pm

Some Head Judge's want to circle the wagons, protect their nest eggs & stifle the criticism of their own performance hurdles. I personally remember 2 at the elite level who didn't, & our sport was waaayyy more relevant then. Jus sayin'