When it comes to judging most of us normally think we know best. Truth is - being a judge is one of the hardest, most scrutinized roles in professional sports. So it’s clear that whoever has the power to make or break an athletes season should be qualified and have a well-trained eagle eye. FMBA Head Judge, Paul Rak explains what is being done to ensure a fair and competitive FMB World Tour season.
1. How did you become head judge for the FMBA?
My role is more of a judging educator, judge and head judge. At one of the first Crankworx’s, back in the day, I was asked to head judge and it was there I met Tarek Rasouli. After the event he asked me to come to Europe and judge European events and from there it just rolled on.
2. What was the most difficult event you have judged?
Rampage – but I can’t say which one. They are all so difficult to judge. The event modus and type of the contest is so unique. Riders pick their own course (line) and that makes it a lot more difficult to judge than the usual slopestyle comp. But, no matter what the discipline, it’s also the caliber of riders that attend the event.
3. What qualities does someone need to have to become a good judge?
The biggest one is trick knowledge. Another crucial characteristic is professionalism, which basically sums up your attitude towards the role as a judge. The goal of every judge should be to achieve the best outcome in the fairest way. Finally, the person needs to be able to separate their emotions and be non-bias.
4. How many judges are there usually at a contest?
It depends on the event level, but according to FMBA regulations for an event like Red Bull Joyride at Crankworx Whistler, there must be a minimum of 4 licensed judges and one licensed head judge. These judges are the top guys with the most experience. We try to mix their nationalities as well.
5. Judging at events can sometimes cause controversy – how does the FMBA ensure the quality of its judges?
The FMBA hosts annual judging clinics, both in Europe and North America. The European one was now, during ISPO Munich and the North American clinic will be held at the Colorado Freeride Festival. Anyone aspiring to be a judge can apply for a FMBA license. We also talk to the riders at events and get their input on the course. Additionally, we invite riders to judging clinics – this year Martin Soderstrom and Anton Thelander attended. We’re also keen on inviting riders to actually judge at events, like Pierre Eduard Ferry for example.
6. How was 2013 from a judge’s point of view and what can we expect to see in 2014?
It was an amazing year! For 2014 I can only expect more mind blowing action. Each year becomes harder for a judge as the level of riding gets bigger and bigger.
7. What tricks or lines score best at a slopestyle contest?
There is no set score for tricks – so there is no particular trick or line. We use set criteria to help us distinguish between runs. For slopestyle, it’s trick execution, trick difficulty, variety, amplitude, course use, progression and risk.
8. What would be your top tip for riders in 2014?
Don’t hold back – show the judges what you got!
9. Consistency vs. progression. What’s the winning recipe?
Hands down I would push progression. Consistency is important but progression will put you ahead of the other riders. So go for it and don’t look back!