The 2015 XDubai Flyboard World Cup was the fourth Flyboard World Championship ever held and the second in Dubai. It is an event driven by Franky Zapata and his Zapata Racing team along with the support of their lead sponsor XDubai. I know from speaking at length with Franky that this event takes a tremendous amount of energy and financing to execute and so we could see those factors leading to some changes in 2016.
One of the key areas we know a lot of work has been put into has been with the judging. Everything to do with the judging of freestyle Pro Flyboarding is a hot topic with athletes, industry insiders and fans. It is an incredibly challenging task as the sport continues to evolve at a rapid pace forcing the few people in the world currently qualified to sit at the judges table to keep informed while making necessary adjustments quickly.
As much as we would like to say to all of the competitors training around the world that the system has been finalized and polished to perfection we cannot. 2016 will continue to be about looking at new formats, scoring, ranking and transparency. This goes for all Hydroflight events being planned around the world including the Pro Flyboarding competitions.
Now I’d like to introduce you to a friend and passionate visionary who finds himself at the center of this evolution. Jason Burns was our Head Judge at the 2015 North American Flyboard Championship held in Shreveport, Louisiana. Most recently he was one of two technical judges working the 2015 XDubai Flyboard World Cup (the other technical judge being Alex Barreira). Jason has a background in professional Jet Ski Freestyle and from the very beginning taken a hyper active role in the improvement of all aspects of our sports judging.
I managed to pull Jason away from Jonathan Julien’s incredible hospitality as the Burns family vacationed in the Caribbean to talk shop and look back at last months World Championship.
H2RO EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH JASON BURNS
H2RO) Hi Jason, first let me say thanks for consistently posting those painfully beautiful vacation photos for this shivering Canadian to drool over. Very easy to see why every Flyboard Family member should head down to see Jonathan for the time of their life!
The pics don’t lie, everyone is having an awesome time. How are you?
H2RO) I’m doing very well and excited about our sport in 2016 but we haven’t had a chance to speak since Dubai and so I want to ask you how you thought the competition went?
I think it went great. The skill level was simply amazing, it was everything I thought it was going to be and more. We judges had our work cut out for us, we had a few hiccups, we improvised and overcame each situation. One of the reasons that happened is because we were prepared. Led by our head judge PJ, we had serious dialogue going on before the event, covering all the “what if” possibilities on top of fine tuning the scoring system.
H2RO) That’s great Jason as it certainly seemed there was a great deal of working going on pre-event and I know the athletes appreciated the judges efforts and professionalism. Now that the event is over is there anything you predict will change with the Pro Flyboarding rules and scoring?
We made some changes for 2016 at the judges meeting in Dubai, before this competition even started. All through the process of this competition we had discussed improvements for 2016, each judge had input on different aspects of our current system. Remember this sport is only 4 years old and I predict the 5th year to be a breakthrough year.
H2RO) What are some of the changes to the rules and scoring?
I’m not at liberty to discuss all we have talked about but I can tell you combos will most likely be allowed next year in qualifying. Alex and I are fine-tuning the technical scoring. We are also putting more emphasis on style and height, inside our technical criteria. Overall I was extremely pleased with what we had, but of course there’s always room for improvement.
H2RO) What are your personal thoughts on the Battle Round format?
We have discussed many different formats, but we’re not discussing any of those ideas publicly yet. It seems for now battle rounds seem to be the best, it’s a lot easier on the judges, it adds some excitement for the spectators and is less controversial in the end. In a battle round format 90% of the competitors should agree with the outcome. When dealing with the logistics of putting on a competition, time between competitors can’t be eaten up by judging, we need to be quick to have flow in the competition. If you remember at the NAFBC in Louisiana there were hours spent in the trailer placing every competitor by their exact score, this caused the spectators to leave and totally interrupted the flow. The bottom line, you can’t have competitions without sponsors and sponsors want captive audiences and flow to the entertainment.
H2RO) Correct me if I’m wrong but due to employing the battle round format and only providing competitors with a numeric score in the Qualifying Round it means that even if an athlete throws down incredible runs in the next two rounds to reach the top 16 but their Qualifying Run was not as sharp it is possible to drop from a potentially 9th place finish down to 16th. Do I have that correct and if so what are your thoughts on the Qualifying Round being so heavily weighted in deciding competitors final rankings?
I’m not exactly sure how the overall score was formulated, that was not part of my duties. To answer your question on the weight of that score, I think it’s okay if the Qualifying Round is a serious factor in the overall ranking because it is your ranking. What I’m trying to say is the scores were added up by each point, it took a lot of effort and hard work to come up with each competitor’s final score on the 5 best tricks he or she has. In the battle rounds we were able to count tricks, height and add a level of difficulty (tier 1 through 5), this essentially made our job a lot easier. sometimes we would have a tie, like the round between Hunter Verlander and Caleb Gavic so we had to score it like the Qualifying Round. I told both Verlander and Gavic after their battle, there was less than 10 points separating the two of them on my sheet. Gavic had some great height multiplying bonuses on a near perfect run but Verlander pulled off a 60 point quad on his epic run, he was deducted for his landing but received bonus for innovation.
H2RO) I applaud your work and look forward to continuing our conversations as the sport evolves. Do you have any advice for Pro Flyboard competitors in 2016?
Yes I do. For those of you who do not have a guaranteed spot for next years World Cup and plan on submitting a qualifying video, here are some tips.
- Two minutes uncut at the beginning, if you want to put a little interview or advertisement in please put it at the end, it’s not fair to the judges who have to sit through hundreds of these videos sometimes watching them 3 to 5 times a piece.
- Treat it like a resume, come out with your biggest best trick , throw down a two minute routine like you were going to compete with that run, because you are.
- Quadcopters do no justice to height and hurt you from a judge’s point of view. Get that camera stable at ground level, a tripod would be preferred.
- Make sure we can see your face, I’m not sure but there might be a rule change to that effect.
- Don’t try to cheat and edit your video etc. We may see some rules coming up where if you get caught cheating you will get a suspension from participating.
- Make sure you use the best resolution you have and avoid areas where shadows can hide you. We had a couple of competitors that we could not properly judge because of the video quality and they didn’t make it.
H2RO) Great advice that I hope athletes take note of. Before you dive back into that crystal blue water do you have any final thoughts?
It was a absolute pleasure to be one of the judges in Dubai. The entire staff was amazing, my fellow judges were just as passionate as I was about getting things right. Immediately after the competition ended, PJ started the conversation all about next year and was taking notes. Even as we stood at the awards ceremony, we were still discussing improvements. You couldn’t ask for a more dedicated staff.
Photo courtesy of our friends at FullGaz
H2RO) Thanks again for your time Jason, I know the competitors appreciate your dedication to the sport, good luck this summer and I look forward to seeing you soon.
You’re welcome Blaine and thank you for your kind words, stay strong until spring and I’m sure I’ll see you around.
The Burns family all fly together which is a great example of what is becoming the norm on water around the world. Below we’ve got Jacob, who traveled to Dubai for the World Championship taking photos and checking out the action first hand, and then his younger brother Austin who loves to fly and looks like a future champ in the making.