The Court Is Now Being Sessioned by Billy Miller 7/30/99

It had to come to this: The no-nothing freestyle judges faulty scoring, recruited for being somebodys sisters brothers somebody and the only warm body nearby, has at long last been replaced in contest courts &#133

Seriously. At any pro or amateur event in North America (cant speak for Europe, Japan or Oz and this isnt the case in Canada, those dudes know everything) you’d find the scorers table occupied by snowboarders, thankfully, of varying abilities and accomplishments. During the contest, the rider in question would complete a run and if anything wasnt readily apparent, the judges would all be cheating off the one Dudes curve-setting scores like they were in an SAT.

The reason why, duly noted by one whiz kid juror at a Mt. Hood Meadows big air: I know what those tricks are because I can do them.

This is the conflict keeping down snowboard contest judging¿if you can do a math book full of inverted spins and flips, the variations complicating by the hour and the individual, then youd be out there instead of watching and grading. That makes the International Judges Commissions non-profit mission all the more admirable: Finding and educating judges in a standard for freestyle snowboard contests¿constantly progressing events that by nature resist being defined.

Youd have better luck waxing a board mid-Haakonflip.

But that hasnt stopped the IJC. Talked about by all the top pro tour judges, the group was formed last year by Olympic halfpipe Head Judge Greg Johnson and Tom Wagener, the German ISF judge Johnson brought to Nagano as score verifier. After breaking with FIS, he and Wagener held an on-snow pro judge training on Mt. Hood and conference in Hood River. Twenty-seven people were certified at various levels, with funding provided by USASA and ISF. Some judges even paid to attend since they knew it would mean jobs waiting for them on the pro circuit.

It just went from there, Johnson says. Around the globe¿the IJC scrambled up on-snow judges trainings for Scandinavia (Oslo, Norway), Europe (twice in Davos, Switzerland) and a video session in Tokyo, Japan.

This summer there are 107 IJC-certified Pro Judges, levels I-III, from 35 countries and the conference, back at Mt. Hood where they were just hosted by Windell&s Snowboard Camp. For the first time, would-bes were even certified to be Technical Supervisors, coordinating details on whole snowboarding events. Only five were eligible&#150a TS must be a prerequisite Level III pro judge.

All this comes as a major sidestep of the FIS-ISF bi-polar disorder continuing to block up freestyle events. For practically the first time, a contest group is focused on education and not control. The IJCs interest is in solid judging and an authentic portrayal of the sport, not milking a promising cash cow.

Instead of one or two making decisions the IJC has Johnson deflecting praise to new N.A. Coordinator Jason Grossi, Maria McNulty who looks over contracts and sits on the board Vicki Spencer, the Treasurer looking over limited funds Jay Moore, Head of Training in the U.S. David Desa. the Canadian Snowboard Federation coordinator, Mike Chantry, Johnsons peer and judging coordinator for the USASA, and to the young Wagener who as IJC Chairman, did the hands-on work of their signature accomplishment¿a full freestyle manual.

It lists out contest formatting, judging procedures and complies the most complete trick breakdown in existence¿from Roast Beef to Fresh Fish. Haakonflip to Michalchuck.

Thats not easy! The book has holes to be filled. Training sessions can produce more questions than consensus. But the IJC is not only trying to standardize criteria across a broad base of riding, perspective judges dont even come from the same countries. The terrain, preferences, references¿theres a lot that’s different.

Wagener describes culture shock during Japans video training, It was interesting. For the Japanese, you don’t discuss, you’re the teacher who tells them what to do. But were trying to reach everyone through things like judges exchanges¿last season each contest in the states had a European judge and each contest in Europe had someone from the U.S. In Sapporo, Jay was the head judge and two Europeans were there. They did the Nippon Open, too. That way you can always see the same faces and get educated judges who understand the riding.

Their program embraces change, too, since someone is on snow everyday somewhere in the world. It has to change, Wagener says. They recognize that instead of controlling the flow, you move with it. Theyve employ modern methods¿on-snow and video trainings, a database of judges worldwide, and tinkering with the contest format to reflect rider input. Johnson and Wagener agree most riders want to see some kind of jam format, possibly seeded, with throw-away runs and time maximized in the pipe and minimized sitting, waiting to go. This also produces results more in line with crowd response.

But again, every contest has different needs. Former Pro Tour ruler Jeff Davis is employed as IJC rider liaison to ensure athletes get their say and everything stays up-to-date and rider-driven.

The more we can help educate people, sponsors, event coordinators, race directors, the better those events are going to be, Johnson says. You know he means it. 0hes given up IJC day-to-day to focus on future development to ensure, The best judges in the world are IJC judges.

The ISF, USASA, U.S. Open, Vans events, X-Games, Gravity Games and even the USSA already thinks so. This year USSA will fund the IJC to train their judges¿something not in keeping with the top-down control of FIS, who USSA ultimately answers to for the Olympics. On their Grand Prix Olympic qualifiers, the one franchise USSA has built in snowboarding, maybe they recognize what Johnson thinks, that FIS is three years behind the scene. They just made an update to have a two-out-of-three run final which they shouldve had at the Olympics!

And through his track record promoting fairness and justice, Johnson is emerging as snowboardings moral authority, working hard to ensure the one Dude who knows everything is every dude who sits in judgment at freestyle events.

The International Judging Commission:, e-mail:

&copyopyright 1999 by Billy Miller