Experience and Observation – How The Judging System Works

Currently, judging strategies are not fully developed. However, standardsare in the works as major snowboarding organizations are attempting to joinforces and create the best system. Changes will likely be made in certainareas as they develop, but don’t worry about the following information beingoutdated or inaccurate. The basis of this section demonstrates major conceptsand ideas pertinent to snowboard judging which are unlikely to change.

Presently, the judging system is transgressing from older methods. In thepast, five judges gave an overall score and the high and the low scores werethrown out; much like in figure skating. However, due to the nature of snowboardcompetition, such a system lent itself to complete disaster and the resultswere inaccurate at best. Imagine having to watch over a hundred snowboardruns and rank them in order from first to last. Quite impossible. There aretoo many factors to take into consideration. Not even the most skilled judgecould perform such a difficult task.

One possible solution, was the idea of individual maneuvers carrying specificpoint values. Unfortunately, this idea was found to be limiting and quiteunrealistic. How do you rank tricks according to point value and expect judgesto recognize, tabulate, and keep track of such numbers? Also, in order tokeep it fair, it would make sense to require a set number of tricks to beperformed in a certain order. Plus, everyone would need to adhere to thesame routine. Again, this is similar to figure skating. Clearly, this isnot desirable. The riders want to be able to do whatever they want, be original,and develop new tricks. That’s what freestyle is all about. You shouldn’thave to plan your halfpipe run around the ideas of others.

Obviously, if halfpipe competition is ever going to advance into a respectedevent, something needs to be done. Unfortunately, halfpipe competitions areparticularly difficult to judge. Fluid changes are always occurring withthe rapid evolution of the sport. This brings snowboarding to a new level,not seen before in any world organized competition. It allows creativity,unpredictability, and originality. In fact, to a certain degree, in no otherOlympic sport are you allowed to drop in on a course and just do whateveryou want. The concept of freestyle is strong among snowboarders; and it isexactly what they want to maintain. Thus, the judging system must accommodatefor this type of competition. It must be well balanced, thorough, accurate,and allow for constant change.

As a current solution, the judges have been divided into separate categories.If each judge is responsible for only one criteria, it makes his job easierto manage, as well as allowing for a smaller margin of error. Such a systemlends itself to a higher degree of accuracy, provided the judges are trainedcorrectly. It also allows the riders to understand the break down of theirrun. They can see in what areas they are strong, and in what areas they needimprovement. Presently, the five judging criteria are based on the following:Standard Maneuvers, Rotational Maneuvers, Amplitude, Landings, andOverall/Technical Merit. Each judge may give 10 points for a total scoreof 50 points. Combine this with another run and you have a two run combinedmaximum score of 100 points.

Over all, the system works as an integration of checks and balances whereno one judge has more weight or power, and thus neither does one judgingcriteria. For example, someone cannot get a high score by only going highand impressing the amplitude judge, or by only doing rotations and impressingthe rotations judge. Therefore, in order to get the most amount of points,the rider needs to impress all judges by making sure to do well in each criteria.Also, every judge plays an important role in forming an overall score. Therefore,it becomes difficult to get a high total score if don’t do rotations, orif you don’t get high above the lip. If you do not impress each judge, yourtotal score will be compromised significantly. A good halfpipe run is notbased on any one thing, but it is based on everything as a whole. The keyconcept is balance… this is what makes a good halfpipe run, and this iswhat the riders want.

The next problem presented to a jury is: What is ideal and what is not? Thatis, what are the judges looking for? Of course each judge is looking forthe kinds of things outlined by his criteria, but lets look at a few majorconcepts.

First, we have the concept of “variety.” If the athlete can do a large numberof different tricks, he shows a high mastery of the sport and is thus betterthan someone who can do a limited number of maneuvers. Variety is very important.A second concept is “difficulty.” A good rider must be able to perform tricksthat are difficult. In addition, not only should the rider be able to performthose tricks requiring high skill, but also to perform every maneuver ina difficult manner. Third, each trick must be performed with ideal execution.This is where discrepancies in judging are constantly being challenged. Whatis ideal execution? The answer is: it is up to the discretion of the judge.Such is the nature of a judged competition. For example, one who performsa method air by barely bending his knees and just touching his board, hasnot performed the trick in a difficult and well executed manner comparedto someone who grabs his board, pulls it over his head, holds it, and straightenshis legs.

Obviously, experience and observation are the keys when it comes to judgingexecution, as well as difficulty. Therefore, it becomes important that westress the importance of judge training. The best snowboarder in the worldmay also be the worst judge. If a judge isn’t properly trained, his scoreswill reflect it in their inaccuracy.

Now that we have a better understanding of what problems are presented tothe judges and what solutions have been offered, let’s continue to learnmore about competing in the next section.