Big Wave Scoring, Explained

With a yellow alert on for the Punta Galea Challenge for Thursday, December 11, the Big Wave World Tour is likely to run its second event of the season. So how, exactly, does a BWWT event work?

Peter Mel Billabong XXL Former big wave competitor Peter Mel is now BWWT Commissioner. - WSL / Richard Hallman

Since the BWWT came under the fold of the ASP, Commissioner Peter Mel and BWWT founder Gary Linden began working together to fine-tune the structure. Mel is a product of the tour, having competed in a number of events and winning the 2010 competition in Pico Alto. The two have also collaborated with current BWWT competitor Greg Long (USA) to shape its overall structure.

What materialized is a scoring system that reflects the BWWT's appreciation of large ocean swells and the athletes most dedicated to surfing them. Scoring now hinges on two key elements: A 30-point maximum heat total, and a tiered scoring system based on conditions, known as a Wave Coefficient.

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A preliminary Tour Rulebook lays it out: "The surfer exhibiting the most commitment on the largest and most intense waves with emphasis on maneuvers will receive the highest scores." In other words: It's not just go big or go home, it's go big and make it look easy.

Scoring Rule No. 1: Weighted Waves
The heat total calculation was carried over from Linden's original creation: Like World Championship Tour (WCT) heats, a surfer's heat total is calculated using his or her two best waves.

Gary Linden at the Quiksilver Ceremonial As the founder of the BWWT, Gary Linden has had a huge influence on the details of BWWT scoring. - WSL

But Linden's "risk equals reward" philosophy adds another dimension to the equation. The top scoring ride in a BWWT heat is doubled. So if a surfer attains high scores a 7.00 and an 8.00, the heat total would register as a 23.00 (8.00 x 2 = 16, 16 + 7 = 23).

Scoring Rule No. 2: Wave Coefficient
The second scoring particular is a tiered system, which will be introduced for the first time at the Billabong Pico Alto. The system is a nod to the degree of difficulty (and courage) surfers display. Out of all ASP tours, none is more dependent on conditions than the BWWT, which explains the delayed start to the season. The tour will not run unless waves are a minimum of 30 feet.

Key Art for Billabong XXL Big Wave Awards Hub Bigger risk equal bigger reward: Conditions will play a big factor in a BWWT surfer's season-end results. - WSL

The tiered system awards victors on bigger waves more points toward their season-end total. The tiers are in 10-foot increments: 25 to 35 feet, 35 to 45 feet, and 45-plus feet--with a 25 percent increase in total points as you move up. Thus, a winner of an event with 25-to-30-foot waves will earn 10,000 points, 12,500 points for tier two size waves, and 15,625 points for waves upwards of 45 feet. In each tier, points are decreased 20 percent moving down in finishes.

The tier is decided just before the Final and agreed upon by the surfers' reps, the head judge, and the Commissioner. Below is the complete list of points distributed based on the tiered system:

Tier 1: 25-35ft
1- 10,000 pts
2- 8,333 pts
3- 6,944 pts
4- 5,787 pts
5- 4,823 pts
6- 4,019 pts
7- 3,070 pts
9- 2,132 pts
11- 1,481 pts
13- 871 pts
17- 420 pts
21- 203 pts

Tier 2: 35-45ft
1- 12,500 pts
2- 10,416 pts
3- 8,680 pts
4- 7,234 pts
5- 6,029 pts
6- 5,024 pts
7- 3,838 pts
9- 2,665 pts
11- 1,851 pts
13- 1,089 pts
17- 525 pts
21- 254 pts

Tier 3: 45+ft
1- 15,625 pts
2- 13,020 pts
3- 10,850 pts
4- 9,042 pts
5- 7,536 pts
6- 6,280 pts
7- 4,797 pts
9- 3,331 pts
11- 2,314 pts
13- 1,361 pts
17- 656 pts
21- 317 pts

The Punta Galea Challenge, which will showcase the tiered system, will stream LIVE on this site Thursday, December 11, with a likely start time 9:00 a.m. GMT/12 a.m. PST.