When it comes to any competition, it’s hard to like the judges. It’s understandable, they’re either the reason you lost or the reason you ended up winning by just not enough, always. You can understand why so many of us spend so much of our time thinking every judge spends their life overthinking, obsessing over decimal points, and figuring out how they’re going to personally ruin your day.
Competitive surfing judges aren’t exempt from this sort of thinking, sadly. Whether you win or lose a heat, a judge can seem like some faceless individual who spends all their time in the safety of a tower. That’s not the case, however.
For the most part, surf judges are either former professionals or local legends. A lot of the time they’re a combination of both. They know what they’re doing. If they didn’t, why else would they be invited to judge in the first place?
One of our 805 Authenticos Mike McCabe is maybe one of the best judges out there. Not only is he very good (and fair) at what he does, but also he’s an excellent surfer, an 805 native, and a close friend. And with the winter surf competition circuit in full swing, we thought it’d be great to call up Mikey and talk about judging, surfing, and more.
Hey Mikey! How’s the year been going?
It’s been going good.
How’d you first get into judging? Was it more natural or was it something you sought out?
I initially started judging when I was about 16 years old to help pay to get to events I wanted to compete in. I started to really enjoy it and stuck with it throughout my whole surfing career.
If you’re judging somewhere you don’t normally surf how do you familiarize yourself with the wave?
I do like to paddle out the day before or the morning of an event to feel out the conditions. When I go somewhere that I have never surfed before, usually it’s similar to a spot that I have surfed. Either way, I like to feel out the break before judging it.
How do you stay objective? Some people in surfing tend to enjoy a particular style or approach over rather, such as rail-surfing versus airs. What’s your idea of, “good surfing.”
You score strictly based on the criteria. It doesn’t matter the way you surf or what you prefer to watch. In the end that’s the way everyone wants to surf and what everyone wants to see.
Where’s your favorite wave to judge?
One of my favorite places to judge was Teahupo’o. I was there in 2018 and the waves were absolutely pumping. I couldn’t pick a favorite heat, because there were so many excellent heats.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Looking forward to another exciting season!