Steve ‘EVO’ Evans talks 40 years of Judging Surfing

Published on 07/07/2023

Steve “EVO” Evans, from Newcastle has been a judge for almost 40 years. That’s about 12 events a year and we reckon that’s more than 2,000 heats. We are talking about tens of thousands of waves that Evo has watched and scored!

Evo judged the first ever regional and state events which began in 1983. He got into judging because he was interested in the scores of surfing. 

Chatting with Evo, I wanted to know about judging back in the day, he described it as ‘a bit ordinary’. “That was because of the lack of judges courses and programs unlike what they have on offer today,” he said. 

Not only has the judging changed since the ‘80s, but so has the surfing. 

“The quality and quantity has changed dramatically,” said Evo. 

“Surfing has evolved from the casual laid back drawn out stylish carves, to the red hot radical hard driven surfing that we see today.

“The judging has evolved with the surfing,” he said. 

“We had to keep up with the surfing to keep the competitors aware that the judges are actually looking at what they’re doing.”

I asked Evo if he can remember some stand out heats, those that stood out. 

His favourite heat goes back to the early to mid ‘90s. 

“It was the Billabong Pro Junior at Copacabana, Central Coast. Back then it was a different format, 20-minute heats, best three waves scored. It was a four-man semi-final. Trent Munro scored 25 out of a possible 30 heat total and came third! And that just goes to show the quality of surfing,” he said.

As far as crazy stands out maneuvers go, Evo said one that comes to mind was the WSL Rip Curl Pro Merewether. It was the Semi Finals of the 2021 event where Medina knocked out local favourite Morgan Cibilic. Evo was lucky enough to be the spotter as part of the judging crew where Medina was rewarded a 9.7.

“Gabriel Medina went left off the Ladies (reef break) and did this insane frontside punt. He must have been two metres above the water and landed perfectly.”

Being a judge comes with responsibility, one that has the power to guide, develop and change the sport. Sometimes tough calls have to be made. They have to be firm, fair and made with integrity. 

Evo’s approach to tough calls and hard decisions when judging is something that is practiced and useful in everyday life. 

“You have to approach tough calls with an open mind and be prepared to cop a bit of a spray from the competitor who comes to address you,” he said .
“What you do is listen to them, you let them have their say, you digest it and then you come back and speak to them in a very low voice, never antagonising!

“I’ve had quite a few people blow up at me and then come back the next day and apologise,” he said.

Being a judge isn’t easy. It takes a certain person to be able to spend all day looking into the sun and writing out numbers. Working together with the panel of five judges to analyse the surfers performances. 

When asking Evo the attributes that make a good judge he said you have to be neatly attired, have a good focus, excellent memory recall and be able to work as part of a team.

But it’s not only a useful tool for aspiring judges, Evo recommends the course is a great tool for athletes too. 

“Surfers should do the judging course too,” he said. “If you want a better understanding of what judges look for, as in quality over quantity, better awareness and understanding the rules I recommend you do the course.”

Anyone can take the online Surfing Foundation Judging Course via the Surfing NSW website. If you’re a member of a boardrider club, talk to your club about utilising their course allocation.

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