Although the Bible says, “Judge not, that ye be not judged”, humans (and surfers in this context) have nonetheless placed their wits and skills in front of judge and jury for many millennia, long before and certainly after the gospel of disciple Matthew was proclaimed.
We can, perhaps, attribute this practice to the significant evolutionary strides made in many sports, and surfing is no different. As usual, it’s the athletes performing at the top of their game which garners all the limelight and attention. But, it’s the judges themselves who are under pressure to make the right call according to the set criteria. So, what are the requisites for a winning wave? As stated by the official SHC18 website: “Fearless. Full tilt. We’re looking for that life-changing wave. Anything over 6 foot and dredging is contestable. Southern Africa is the battleground, where and how big, that’s all on you. Bring on those waves of consequence!” Pretty straightforward. Go big and win. Of course and in the spirit of “may the best man win”, the Striped Horse Challenge 2018 entries must be expertly critiqued and evaluated by the most capable panel of individuals. We’ve assembled a highly experienced bunch. Now, let’s get to know them and what they want to see from your entry.
First up is Greg Emslie, World Tour veteran, and multiple time SA champ. “The Foot” has competed in and won just about every major and minor surfing event ever presented in South Africa. So, what is this competitive warhorse looking for when reviewing an entry of a would-be SHC18 round winner? “I want to see the impossible made possible. I want to think ‘there’s no way’ and keep watching, just in case. I want to see the kind of ride where I continuously hit the replay button to see what exactly happened, and how they made it. It can be big, mean or crazy, as long as it’s got my attention and I want to see it again.” The impossible made possible? Right. No pressure, lads, and ladies.
Then we have non-other than Mr Alan Van Gysen. A dynamo, photographically, literally and physically. He’s covered much of Africa and beyond in the name of adventure and exploration, and earned the hard-won reputation of the go-to guy for African surfari-ism. He’s surfed with and photographed many talented surfers around the world and has a particularly discerning eye. “I’m not looking for the biggest wave or the biggest barrel. I’m searching for something with a wow factor. Honestly, I’ve seen so many huge waves and sick barrels in my time that I’m more interested in seeing something that shows off the wave and the surfer’s ability, together. Something that’s pretty special that stands out above the rest. A ride of meaning.” Hmm, this definitely conjures up images of a long, dreamy Mozambican tube ride. And yes, if you got pitted there in the last few months, send it. Mozam is an eligible entry location.
Judging is a tricky and technical job, and Etienne Buys has made it his business to be one of the best in the biz. The WSL tour judge travels the circuit from event to event and is a hugely knowledgeable man to have on any panel. Unfortunately, we couldn’t get a comment from “Drop the Buys” in time for this piece. Possibly due to that little event happening up at Huntington Beach right now.
Paul Canning is another retired top-tier competitive powerhouse and owner of one of the meatiest backhands in the business. PC plied his trade on the World Tour for 4 years and understands the underlying mechanics required for a solid entry. However, at the time of going to print Paul was deeply immersed in a yearly sales meeting and unavailable for comment. You can be sure to hear from him soon, though.
What we do have for you is insight from certified platinum level surf royalty: the legendary charger Johnny Paarman. Johnny throws haymakers in waves of consequence and lends some serious heavyweight credibility to the line-up. His uncle, the infamous John Whitmore, showed him and his brothers the ropes and they never looked back, taking on the best that Cape Town and Hawaii had to offer. Johnny has an interesting approach to reviewing SHC entries: “I’m looking for a combination of skills between the cameraman and the surfer. I want to see the video or photo pick up the entire sequence of the wave from start to finish. To reveal the paddle-in, the setup and the skill involved in the navigation. the Striped Horse Competition started out as a big wave competition dominated by Andy Marr and the likes but has since moved into more of a heavy wave/ tube riding event. I want to see crazy slabs being skilfully charged by a competent surfer. The camera guy definitely needs to get it right, too. For example – we gave the June round win to Jordy because he rode the tube through three sections and the camera framed the whole ride perfectly. The camera needs to be as on it as the surfer. Basically, I’m looking at the whole picture.”
So, there you have it, straight from the Striped Horse judging panel’s mouth. If you haven’t already – go check out some of the insane entries for July. They will quite literally blow your mind. We’re quite sure of. But, hey, we’ll let you be the judge. Amen.