Challenges of judging the Noosa Festival of Surfing

Challenges of judging the Noosa Festival of Surfing

Surfing has become one of the world’s most popular action sports over the past decades and Noosa is home to the world’s largest surfing event by competitor numbers – The Noosa Festival of Surfing.

But with the ocean being such a fickle mistress with conditions that can change by the minute, have you ever wondered how surf competitions are judged?

We interviewed three of the judges from the 2018 Noosa Festival of Surfing about how the judging works and what they love about surfing at Noosa.

Simon Perrow has been surfing at Noosa since he was 17 and knows what to look out for when judging a heat.

According to Simon, the key in accommodating fairness, is by applying a scale to that particular heat given its conditions.

“Essentially it’s about trying to keep your scale across all heats within the division,” he says.

“Within one heat the surf may be pulsing and there’s lots of good waves so you’d expect high scores in that heat.

“Another heat may have long lulls or smaller sets, so the scores reflect that too,” he says.

“Conditions will ultimately change in a broader way through the day with the tide, wind and often swell, so your scale will be adjusted accordingly,” he says.

This change of scale is also critical to fairly assessing different divisions and skill sets according to Trevor Medcalf, who applies 30 years’ experience surfing at Noosa to judging the event.

“We won’t be scoring the grommets (juniors) or the legends on the same scale as the loggers (long-boarders),” says Trevor.

“For example, a 3-point ride in the open Men’s might be a 7-point ride in the over 70s Men’s,” he says.

According to Keenan Roxburg, 20-year veteran of the Noosa breaks, chance, instinct and talent play big roles in how a surfer might take advantage of changing conditions.
“The ability of a surfer to read conditions and judge the best location and timing to get the best waves is all part of the game,” he says.

“Conditions vary from heat to heat and sometimes even can change midway through a heat.

“This makes it tricky, but exciting for surfers, judges and spectators as the ocean sets its own rules.

“The reality is that sometimes conditions and wave frequency dictate the placings!” he says.

So what is it about surfing Noosa that they love the most?

“Noosa is iconic for the layout of its four points, from Granite Bay all the way out the back to First Point, and the variety of waves that can be found in that stretch,” says Simon Perrow.

“But what really makes it is the beauty of the place… with the forest cascading down to the points and reaching into the sea you can imagine yourself in the middle of nowhere, he says.


For Trevor Metcalf it’s the variety of point breaks that offer different types of rides that all are long and great fun that makes Noosa stand out from other locations.

“Nowadays I jog through the National Park to Granite Bay to get my wave count up & then snag a few at Tea tree and the Boiling Pot on my way back,” he says.

Being asked about his passion for surfing Noosa brought flash backs to Keenan Roxburg, who has been surfing Noosa since his Grommethood on family holidays.

“Noosa is just so iconic as it was one of the first top surfing destinations to put on the map years ago by Bob McTavish’s trip in the early 1960’s.

“Longboards were the contemporary boards of the time and to this day the points particularly favour the approach of classic single fin longboards.

It is the diversity of events and competitors that makes the Noosa Festival of Surfing stand out from other events he judges.

“The old mal division is the top shelf for me as I have always enjoyed antique surfboards and I think these boards and pioneer surfers served as an inspiration for the modern longboarding we see today.

“The new generation and overseas surfers are always the best surprises at the festival as they are sometimes unknowns to me. This year the young Hawaiians were definite standouts!” he says.

The Noosa Festival of Surfing is held annually in March. For competitors and spectators, the festival is 8 days of pure stoke with a wide range of surfing events for all ages and complementary entertainment programs.