Answering Your Olympic Inquiries: What is the Scoring System for Surfing?

Movie DetailerSports Answering Your Olympic Inquiries: What is the Scoring System for Surfing?

Thank you to all the individuals who have shared their insightful inquiries about the Summer Olympics. Remember, there is no question too grand, too minute, or too quirky! To have your questions answered, send them to, and I will continue to address the most intriguing ones as we near the Paris Games.

Today’s inquiry hails from Steve in British Columbia, who wonders about the judging and scoring process of Olympic surfing. This topic is particularly relevant, considering the recent conclusion of the World Surfing Games, which serves as the sport’s equivalent of the world championships, in Puerto Rico.

Notable news for Canada emerged as Erin Brooks failed to secure her spot in the Olympics. The 16-year-old prodigy appeared to be a strong medal contender following her gold medal victory at the 2022 world junior championships and a silver medal at last year’s World Surfing Games. She even obtained her Canadian citizenship just in time for the upcoming Paris Games. However, her dream was shattered as she missed her final opportunity to qualify.

With Brooks out of the picture, 18-year-old Sanoa Dempfle-Olin is poised to become Canada’s first Olympic surfer. Hailing from Tofino, B.C., recognized as the country’s surfing hub, Dempfle-Olin secured her spot after clinching a silver medal at the Pan Am Games in Chile last year and tying for 13th place in Puerto Rico. It’s worthy to note that no Canadians managed to qualify for surfing’s Olympic debut in 2021.

Although Dempfle-Olin will be competing in the Paris Games, the venue is not anywhere near Paris itself. Surprisingly, the Olympic surfing events will unfold approximately 15,000km away in Tahiti, the French Polynesian island situated in the heart of the South Pacific.

Returning to Steve’s query, Olympic surfing consists of two events: men’s and women’s shortboard. Each event features 24 athletes who are evaluated by a panel of five judges. During the competition, surfers are grouped into heats of two or three and venture into the water together to catch numerous waves within the designated time frame, typically spanning 20-25 minutes. However, the officials may extend the duration based on prevailing conditions. Judges assign scores ranging from 0.1 to 10 for every wave surfed by the athletes. The surfers’ two highest-scoring waves are amalgamated to determine their total score for the heat, with a perfect score being 20.

In the initial round, the winner of each three-person heat directly progresses to the third round, while the remaining two participants move to the second round (no eliminations take place yet). From the second round onwards, only the victor of each two-surfer heat advances to the subsequent round.

Judges evaluate the surfers based on various criteria such as the level of difficulty, diversity, and innovation of their maneuvers. Surfers can impress the judges by executing sharp turns and seamless transitions between tricks, showcasing the ideal blend of “speed, power, and flow” sought after by the scoring panel.

Should you desire additional information regarding Olympic surfing and Sanoa Dempfle-Olin, I recommend exploring this article on the Canadian Olympic Committee’s website.


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