(Editor’s Note: This piece started from an email conversation about whether judging airs and carves was even possible, or whether it was like trying to judge apples and oranges. We got CJ involved in the conversation, and these were his thoughts on the matter.)
I wouldn’t say it’s impossible to compare airs and carves or carves to barrels, because they’re all hard to do in their own right. First of all, doing different things on different waves gives both the surfer and the spectator different feelings. You’re not comparing the maneuvers, you’re comparing the feelings that those maneuvers give you. Judges are basically putting a number on those feelings.
When you give everything you have into one turn, there’s always that moment of slight disbelief that you’re still going down the line and there’s still more sections to hit, and if you’re predominantly an air guy, that moment of slight disbelief will be transferred to the judges.
When you’ve been on tour for a while, judges begin to get an idea of what you’ll do on different sections, because they’ve been watching your surfing for long enough to get a feel for it. It’s good to add in that element of surprise, though, and keep some of that drama. If the judges know you as an air guy, and you do a grab air three, you’re probably not doing much for them. On the other hand, if you’re an air guy and you just buried your board on a section and then followed it up with an air… they didn’t see that coming, and you gave them some of that drama, which in turn gives them a better feeling to put a number on. One of the most difficult things to do is breaking your own mold and moving your body in different way than you’re used to on a particular section. Repetition is always easier, though not as exciting, and judges pick up on that.
Airs, barrels and carves all have their place on certain days, and if you can fit them all in on one wave, then that might just be the best feeling wave. I know you’ve seen a kid at your local break do an air reverse, and if it wasn’t very good, you were probably disgusted by it. Disgusted equals a two-point ride, and that air reverse that Julian Wilson did in Portugal equals a ten-point ride. The same thing can be said for carves and barrels, so they’re not impossible to compare if they give you a certain feeling – you’re just putting a number on that feeling.