How to Win a WCT Event

Slater on his way to a win at the Hurley Pro. Photo by Mark Boster

Finals of Hurley Pro

A walk over. Once again.

Why They Will Rarely Win!

First off, one has to think of what a surfing heat is in mathematical terms. Most heats are anywhere from 20 to 35 minutes long. You are judged on your 2 best rides. If you decide to catch the 2 best waves in a heat, then you are giving yourself 2 chances to get 2 scores higher than your opponent. Pretty hard odds. If you catch 6 waves, then you are allowing yourself 6 chances to score higher.

Psychologically, everyone is nervous in a heat to some degree. The less pressure you have on yourself, the better your odds are of making smart choices. The faster you can get into the groove, the better your odds are of surfing to your true capabilities.

When surfers go up against Kelly Slater, they seem to always give Kelly the advantage to beat them. Worse yet, in the interviews, the surfers come right out and say that they feel that they must catch the best waves to take him out. So he already knows the other guy is going for the quality over quantity method.

Amateur Heat Philosophy 101

In my amateur days, I was given a few basic coaching tips. One was to get a quick start. Why? When the other surfers get out to the lineup and are working out what they are going to do and suddenly they realize that you already have a ride under your belt, it suddenly puts some heat on them. Your situation changes too. Now you have a score and hopefully it is decent. If you are on the WCT level, you should be good enough to manufacture a score a point or so higher than the wave’s value. So that 5 point wave could now be a 6.77. Now you can begin to search out a wave that is a bit better and try to raise your scores.

How to Win!

First step is to come out fast against your opponent (who I would think to be a guy with the initials K.S.). He would not be counting on his opponent to take this strategy.

Kelly likes to not have priority so he will either sit on it (not what he wants to do) or turn it over to you. Should you sit out there…no way! Find a wave that appears to be better than your last and catch it. Priority back to Kelly.

Will this let you get a win…nope. So you must also be applying the second step to stopping your opponent. Kelly’s results on the World Qualifying Series are far less impressive than his WCT results. Why is this? Because in 4 man heats, it is a dog fight and he has far less odds of making smart choices. Kelly clearly does not like being hassled. Should you hassle in a two-man heat? In some regards you can’t hassle them but you can pressure your opponent.

Kelly is a smart guy. When you are sitting 3 yards out past him, you are letting him sit and think. He splashes the water…he is watching the waves…and he is getting more scores under your priority. Stick to the guy like glue! Make him guess what you are doing and don’t give him the chance to size up every wave. When Taj put the screws to him in New York, he did a buzzer beater and won. You can’t do anything about that. However, the one time Josh Kerr decided to stick to him at Snapper, Kelly had a melt down and began to blow his air attempts. Kerr spanked him. It should have been a sign to the others on what to do. Only Adriano seems to like to pressure him.

Now it is ten minutes left and you have priority. Now it is time to wait for the best wave to put the nail in the coffin. With four minutes left, here comes the set. You have caught plenty of waves so you are confident. You pick the biggest wave and go to town. Score in the mid-9 range. Game over! Go in and get your giant check.

Final Analysis

If you are Josh Kerr or Owen Wright and you try this in your next heat and lose…don’t blame me! On our one and only meeting as pro surfers, he beat me too!

However, I am still training for the next time we may meet…in the Grand Legends division in the E.S.A. in 2033.


About 1stpeaksteve

Welcome to The Side Wedge! The Side Wedge is a product of the journey through life of Steve Zima. Former professional surfer, a writer, surf coach, and hospitality manager. This is a collection of travel tips, motivation, and stories from my past. Finally, I offer surf coaching through The Side Wedge. Please feel free to contact me with questions if you want to improve your performance today! Thanks for reading!
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