What it’s really like to be a surf judge…

From humble beginnings at Trigg Junior Boardriders, to a seat on the judging panel the recent Australian Surf Championships at Port Macquarie, 27-year-old Nick Muntz is fast becoming one of the nation’s youngest and most respected surfing officials.

Nick recently caught up with Surfing WA’s Raeley Jones to talk about the path that led him there and what it’s really like to be a judge.

Growing up in Perth, you surfed with Trigg Junior Boardriders’, which is the largest junior club in the metro area – can you tell us about how that helped hone your surfing skills? 

It was really good back in the day, all the best surfers in Perth would do TJBR so that was pretty epic, and it was my entry into competitive surfing. You had to surf out of your skin to win a few heats and the older boys were always really good but in my second year in the U18’s I won as the overall winner.

As a youngster, you represented WA at the National Junior Titles, can you tell us about that and some of your other successes?

I represented WA at the Junior Aussie Titles in Coffs Harbour for the School Surfing Titles. I think it was called the All Stars back then. My partner was Nalu Keala and he’s one of my really good friends. That was probably the first team travelling experience I had in terms of surfing. It was also the most competitive and professional style of surfing, so it meant a lot.

I also won a Pro Junior Summer Surf Series at Margaret River, and the under 21s Volcum comp, which used to be at Scarborough every year. It was probably one of my favourite comps ever since being a kid.

Can you tell us about the path that led you to becoming a judge with Surfing WA and now with Surfing Australia?

The first ever comp I judged was a Catch Surf softboard comp at Trigg Point one summer. I had probably worked for around 3 years with the Surfing WA event crew and one day I remember Juzzo (Surfing WA Marketing & Events Manager, Justin Majeks), said “Oh we’re down a judge, do you wanna get on the panel?”, and I was like, “Yeah no worries,” and that was the first comp I ever did and really enjoyed it. I was like “this is kinda better than work crew!” (laughs), because the judges are almost the level up from the work crew I guess, and it was nice to feel a part of that. I was keen to judge more comps, so I did the courses and then I was pretty much a judge from there.

How long did it take you to do the Surfing WA judging courses, and what was the process?

I did the first course (the Foundation Judging Course), in a weekend, which involved online learning and some video judging exercises. And then I moved onto the Progression Judging Course, where you have more online learning and 20 hours of shadow judging. For Level 3, which is an elite surfing judge, you have to have over 100 hours of experience. Once you do that you can do higher levels of surfing like national and international comps. I started with shortboard judging and then I started diversifying into longboard, bodyboard and SUP (Stand Up Paddle) judging because I’m interested in all sorts of surfing, so basically I can judge any form of surfing now.

It must take a lot of concentration to judge a surf comp for the entire day, how do you go with that?

You’re always on a bit of a roster so you could be on the panel for 5 heats and then you’re off for 2 in between. So, you do get a lot of breaks and it’s needed too because when you’re on, you’re switched on mentally for every second on each heat because you’re trying to not miss a single thing and then when you have your heats off, you’re just cruisn’. So even though they’re big, long days, you do get plenty of time to relax.

What have been some of your judging highlights?

I did my first ever National Titles at Cabarita (NSW) in 2019. It was the biggest comp I’ve ever judged up until that time and it was where I learnt the most from a competition because there were people from all over the nation sending their top judge from each state.

I also judged the Australian Boardriders Battle in Newcastle in 2020, which was insane. All the best surfers in Australia, including the CT guys, were there because they all compete for boardriders clubs too. There were people like Steph Gilmore, Tyler Wright, Joel Parko (Parkinson), Mikey Wright, Ryan Callinan and all the upcoming QS (Qualifying Series) people and others as well. So, the level of surfing was through the roof. There was $20K prize money up for grabs for the winning club so there was a lot of pressure on everyone, including the judges, and the waves were good too. It was probably the best comp I’ve ever judged. It was an opportunity to showcase my judging skills and utilizing all the camera replays was epic. It felt like the top tier of judging, which was cool, and there were hundreds and hundreds of spectators.

Then, I remember in the final the winning team literally won in the dying seconds and there was a huge eruption of excitement, so that was probably the coolest thing I’ve seen.

“It only takes to start off at your local boardriders club, and once you start the opportunities follow pretty quickly.”

What do you enjoy about judging?

Just being near the ocean and the beach, you can’t really complain when you’re working at the beach. The social aspect of meeting like-minded people and making new friends and connections has been really cool too. And the travel – being able to go to new spots and new places. I’ve done a few stints over east now and lots of places through WA too like Denmark and Geraldton. And I will be going to North Stradbroke Island at the end of the year for the Junior Australian Surfing Titles, so that’s exciting. I’ve never been there, so the travelling aspect is one of the perks of the job, for sure.

Where do you hope to take your judging career?

The more I’ve been doing it, the more I’m keen to keep improving, and now it’s just a matter of pushing into the higher levels of the surfing world. So, the QS’s (Qualifying Series) would be the next big level and doing some international comps would be amazing.

What advice would you give to any young kids who want to get into judging?

Just give it a go and start because you can fall in love with it pretty quickly and you’ll be able to judge all sorts of comps. It only takes to start off at your local boardriders club, and once you start the opportunities follow pretty quickly. And there is a lot of room and opportunities that will come up for judges in the next few years.

Have you ever given any perfect scores?

I gave three 10s at the recent Aussie Titles in Port Macquarie, which is pretty epic. I judged a heat where a 15-year-old from Queensland, Landen Smalls, got a perfect 20 heat. I gave him two 10s in that heat. That was probably the first time I’ve ever seen a perfect 20 heat. And I gave another longboarder a perfect 10. They’re hard to come by but when the stars align, and the surfing is to that high level it’s pretty special. One of my judging mates said you always feel when you want to throw a ten so you’re just kinda waiting for that weird feeling inside to happen, like that’s as good as it’s going to get.

When you’re out surfing, do you find that your judging has helped your own surfing?

For sure. I feel like judging, and surfing go hand in hand and there are positives that you can take from both. I think it also helps my judging too, having the background, knowledge, and skillset of surfing. I can be like, “Ok that was very technical, or that’s really hard to do,” so that helps a lot, especially for the innovation side of surfing.

“It’s a good lifestyle and most of the time it just turns into a working holiday and it’s really enjoyable. I would recommend it for sure.”

Do you ever sit there as a judge and go “I wish I was surfing right now?”

Yeah, a lot of the time actually (laughs). It can be pretty excruciating sometimes when you see waves just absolutely pumping but then in saying that I would way rather judge good waves and good surfing any day of the week than average waves. It makes the judging side of things a lot more fun and interesting when the waves are pumping.

And I guess you can always go out after?

For sure (laughs). It’s a good lifestyle and most of the time it just turns into a working holiday and it’s really enjoyable. I would recommend it for sure. And you never know where it could take you.

Where are your top 3 favourite surf spots?

I’m pretty biased these days, coz I live in the south west in Dunsborough and Yallingup.  I’d say Rabbits at Yallingup would be probably my favourite wave to surf and all the waves around there, so my heart is in the west for sure. The point breaks on the east coast are pretty phenomenal too like Snapper. Then I’d say the north west is pretty special – Red Bluff and Gnaraloo are always amazing.

Speaking of the north-west, you spent over a month in the desert making a film. Can you tell us about that experience?

Yeah me and three of my really good mates created a little surf film up in the north west. It was called Desert Blue and spent 37 days in the desert, and it was absolutely epic. It’s still probably one of the better surfing holidays I ever went on. I haven’t been able to go this year, but I’ll definitely try and get back there next year.

Who is your favourite board shaper?

I would say Von Boards by Ryan Von Dresslet. He shapes boards in Vasse, down south and he’s been my shaper for about 5 or 6 years, and I think he shapes truly amazing surfboards. He’s got a really creative mind and the quality of product that he produces is phenomenal. I generally only have 3 board models and I take them everywhere I go, and I’ve got all areas covered.

What projects have you got coming up?

Next on the judging horizon is the Pro Junior in Manduah and QS 1000 in Yallingup coming up in October and I’m super excited for that. I can’t wait to see some high-quality surfing and all of the up-and-coming surfers who are starting their journey to becoming professionals. We haven’t done it for a few years because of COVID but I remember the waves we scored at the last QS 1000 in Yallingup, and they were insane. It was pumping Injidup for like 4 days and it was just incredible to judge so I’m looking forward to that, and then the Junior Australian Surfing Titles in North Stradbroke Island will be really epic too.

You’re also involved in the surf industry in product manufacturing, can you tell us more about that?

Yeah, I’m doing Pistol Surf Co. which is a surf hardware and wetsuit brand, and I also started All Terrain Thongs with one of my best mates who runs Menace, so that’s been pretty epic. We’ve been working on that the past year and a half together and trying to grow something from the ground up. It’s cool coz it’s not necessarily to do with the surfing world, it’s an outdoor adventure brand, so fishing, diving, surfing, just anything that involves being outside is what you can use the thongs for so that’s pretty cool. I just trying to fit it all in between surfing (laughs). Surfing still comes first (laughs). Basically, when the waves are bad, I do work, and when the waves are good, I have some personal time.

If you are interested in becoming a surf judge or would like more info, click here.









Other News