Chris Freeman (36) grew up on the East Coast of the United Kingdom and used to race with riders like Ben Proffitt, Dan Ellis and more but knew that he was not really following his dream and quit racing to make his first pilgrimage to Hawaii in the mid 90’s at just 18 years old. In the years which followed Chris struggled to find balance and split his time between teaching Economics and Hawaii. It took 16 years and countless American Airline frequent flyer miles for him to finally relocate full time to Maui, Hawaii following his recruitment by Hot Sails Maui, who tasked him with reinvigorating their global presence and sales. Before his relocation from Bahrain to Maui Chris had joined forces with Tom Hammerton to form Black Project Fins. Besides winning the 2012 AWT Amateur overall title he has been concentrating on judging while competing on the tour. Recently appointed as full time AWT head judge, Chris will also judge for the very first time a PWA wave event. Read an interview about what he expects to be a judge at the highest possible level from October 24 till November 6.
“We have a great crew lined up to run the event including PWA Head Judge Duncan Coombs. The judges panel will consist of many local knowledgeable and trained judges such as Pascal Hardy, Chris Freeman, Alex Bitoun, Michael Archer, Griffin Freysinger and Neil Turpin.” (Sam Bittner, AWT Tour Director)
C7: How are you doing? You used to work for Hot Sails Maui as sales manger, but you have left the company, right?
Chris Freeman: Yes, after two and a half years developing the Hot Sails Maui brand and worldwide distribution I decided to leave so that I could focus fully my own company BLACK PROJECT FINS , which has been gaining momentum here in Hawaii and worldwide. During the past two years I have also become increasingly involved in the running of the AWT (AMERICAN WINDSURFING TOUR) and this move allows me to spend more time on this project, too, which is very exciting. At the moment everything feels like a whirlwind, I guess you could say I am living the dream and certainly there are many envious people out there! With Black Project Fins increasing in sales and global reach as well as my increased commitment to travel with the AWT I was finding that I was in Hawaii less and less and rather than spread myself too thinly I wanted to concentrate on developing my own brand as well as giving more time to the AWT. As a team rider I still have an important role at Hot Sails Maui in both a promotional and testing perspective but I am no longer directing where the marketing and network should go. This new move gives me the time to concentrate on developing our product range further in windsurfing and stand up paddling as well as other extreme sports markets. Added to my role at Black Project I have recently been appointed as the full time AWT Head Judge and I will be looking to develop all aspects of judging to improve validity, consistency and transparency with the aim of improving rider’s understanding and performance.
C7: You will be one of the judges for the Aloha Classic. Are you excited to judge the world’s best wave sailors?
Chris Freeman: Every event is exciting, many would say that I have already been judging many of the best waves sailors this year, with the likes of Marcillio Browne, Camile Juban, Kevin Pritchard, Levi Siver, Bernd Roediger, Morgan Noireux and more regulars on the AWT tour I have been lucky to have the best seat in the house and watch some amazing action. The Semi-Final in Mexico was an stand out this year, with Keith Taboul on the water I was acting Head Judge for the first time and watching Keith, Levi, KP & Camile tear the mast high waves from the Point to the Chili Bowl to shreds, it was like the best video you could ever imagine, luckily I had a good team of judges and was able to enjoy the show, while the video produced by KP was amazing there really is nothing quite like seeing it close up for yourself! The combination of the AWT and PWA in Maui adds a new dimension; it will be great to see how the different styles and tactics match up in this arena.
C7: Will you prepare in a special way for this job. Guess you know all tricks and most of the styles of all competitors from videos at least.
Chris Freeman: Absolutely, thanks to my role with the AWT I have known about the potential for the combined event for a long time and hence have been able to think about that over a number of months. Most of the riders I know personally, some via email and some just from social media etc. With our focus on wave riding I have been watching the ASP and other surf events more and more recently, I find it fascinating to see what they are scoring and try to bring some of that into my judging. The PWA Live Casts have been a great way for me to be in Hawaii and keep up to speed with the latest PWA happenings. Immediately after the last AWT tour stop in North Carolina I was luckily to watch the PWA Live Cast from Denmark and thanks to the live scoring was able to judge at the same time, this really helped to ensure that my views were aligned or at least understand where my views were different. Live scoring, judging and replays is something that I have a special interest in, we have been documenting heats on the AWT for a couple of years and I hope to be able to use this video in the next year to produce a series of examples etc. which can be uses to train judges, riders, the media etc. so that we can develop the openness and increase awareness of what judges do and how riders can improve.
“I am so happy to be welcoming Chris to the Head Judge position for next year. He has been amazing over the past few years in helping me to grow the tour and promotions/marketing. Chris’ heart is windsurfing and I am confident he will continue to help grow the AWT in a positive way.” Sam Bittner, AWT Tour Director
C7: Do you know a few other judges, who will work at the Aloha Classic this year?
Chris Freeman: Yes, we have a great team and that is very important when you spend day after day together in a tent! It will be great to work alongside Duncan Coombs who is Head Judge for the combined event. I first met Duncan on the way to a BWA wave competition in Ireland when he was just starting his judging career in the UK 18 or so years ago. The primary judges are currently confirmed as Pascal Hardy, Alex Bitoun, Mike Archer, Griffin Freysinger, Neil Turpin & Myslef, who all have considerable Ho’okipa and AWT experience, we also have the possibility of some guest judges for different parts of the event including Robby Naish, Pio Morasco, Keith Taboul & Robby Swift. Judging has been a great learning experience for me and for that reason I have been encouraging the younger riders to get involved and therefore I am pleased that Bernd Roediger and Morgan Noireaux will both be helping out with some AWT heats, it is great to see these young rippers realizing that there is more to competition than just winning at such an early stage in their career.
C7: You already judged several wave events on the AWT tour this season. You even made the head judge at Pacasmayo, Peru. Will that help?
Chris Freeman: Yes, I have judged at all Tour stops except Pistol River so have built up more than a few hours in the tent. The Pacasmayo Classic was an amazing opportunity; this was another combined event, this time with IFCA. Running the event in Peru certainly adds more experience and makes judging this next event easier, however the role of Head Judge is more management really, ensuring that the judges are interpreting the criteria correctly, ensuring timings are appropriate, meeting with media, so really in many ways judging is probably the hardest and least glamorous of the two roles. I have plenty of experience in management and with the media so the Head Judge role is a little more natural for me.
C7: What’s the hardest thing about judging wave sailing?
Chris Freeman: Style, sure some have it some don’t but those who do are all different, how do you compare Levi’s 360 with Bernd’s 360 both amazing, both different and then on the next wave Camille blows your mind with a huge head dip aerial, it is very hard and you have to think and watch a lot, I am lucky that I am here in Maui full time and can study what people do. Ultimately you have to look at the criteria, take lead from the Head Judge and make your best possible professional judgment but it is not always easy. Judging jumps is much easier; while style comes into it they are more similar.
C7: Are you used to the PWA judging rules?
Chris Freeman: Yes, many of the rules are the same; it will be great to work with Duncan and exchange ideas.
C7: Who are the favorites for the event in Ho’okipa and who will be on the podium?
Chris Freeman: Going into this I have an open mind, while there are lots of riders I love to watch I actually don’t have a favorite, which is a good thing as a judge! There are many riders who I have mentioned, often going into a contest there are only few real contenders, this event is perhaps different and the first time when the Hawaiian based riders come into the event with lots of competition experience, this is the 6th event of the year for some, the AWT has meant that the local riders have been traveling, have been competing in a variety of conditions and they are hungry, watching riders like Levi, Bernd and KP really focused on competition has been great. They have a good number of challengers for the Ho’okipa crown, I see almost twenty riders who could win either the AWT and/or the PWA brackets. It is going to be very exciting!
C7: Is it possible that someone from Europe will win the event?
Chris Freeman: Absolutely, it has happened before and I would not bet against it this time, riders like Victor and Robby have spent so much time here they know Ho’okipa like any other, it will be very interesting to see how riders like Philip, Leon and Alex adapt to the venue especially with the current wind forecast they could be straight into action without time to warm to the conditions. Marcillio and Ricardo are two more riders who will expect to be at the top and on the back of victory in Denmark and the potential of a world title Marcillio sailing at his home break will be harder to beat than most!
Find out more about Chris Freeman – http://www.k97.co.uk