We caught up with Kings Beach resident and head X Games snowboard judge Tom Zikas on the heels of Shaun White’s historic, perfect-100 halfpipe run at the 2012 X Games in Aspen, which he judged. White had already taken the competition with a run that scored a 94, but perfection came unexpectedly during his victory lap, which included his newest trick, a frontside double cork 1260, as well as an 18-foot backside air, a fronstside double cork 1080, a cab double cork 1080, a frontside stalefish 540, and a double McTwist 1260. White is now officially the first person to land a frontside double cork 1260 in a competition, and beat his previous all-time high score of 97.66. This gold was his 17th X Games medal.
Tom Zikas had the best seat in the house to see the action. Here’s what he has to say about judging the world’s first perfect halfpipe run.
What was it like being there/judging such a historic run?
It was pretty awesome. I think we all just knew it. All the scores came in, and at that point I had a quick discussion with the whole panel. I said, “Guys, it’s coming in as 100,” and everyone was like, “Yeah.” It was unanimous as to what it should be.
What was so amazing/”perfect” about Shaun’s run?
He had four double cork rotations, which one on its own is pretty insane, and his amplitude, height above the pipe, was 15 feet average, which is tough on its own too. So it was the combination of having the height and four double corks, the two pairs of them back to back. It was definitely the best run in snowboard history, the best run of the night, and it was the last run of the night so no one could top it at that point so we were safe with the score of 100.
Typically when someone has already won an event, their victory lap is usually just coasting through the pipe and doing a few fun tricks, but he just threw down. You never see someone going balls to the wall on their victory lap, and he did it. It was really cool to see.
Did those tight zebra pants help in his perfection? The pattern has been described by the media as snakeskin, leopard, and zebra… tell us, what were they?
I saw them fairly close. He was claiming they were leopard-zebra. That was straight out of Shaun’s mouth.
What do you say to the “haters” who point to Shaun’s “hand drag” after his final hit as not deserving of a perfect 100 score?
I looked at that on video again after the event. Basically he’s coming down off his last hit and he puts his hand out horizontally and grazes maybe 2 or 3 fingers against the pipe wall. It’s really insignificant, because it’s not like he reached down forward to hold himself up. It was more of his hand being out a bit horizontally and skimming the wall. So yes, 100. Scores from each event are relative to the competition that day. This was the best run of the day, not to mention in the history of pipe. The hand touch on the last hit? After a double cork frontside 1260 [first one ever landed in a competition], 15 feet out… please, this is not figure skating we are judging.
Shaun does seem to get a fair amount of hating-on in general, not sure if it’s due to his popularity within the mainstream public or his choice of apparel. Either way, as judges we are simply looking at what he and all the riders are doing in the pipe.
Can you tell us how the judging process works? Where are you sitting, and what’s the protocol?
We judge from the third floor of the main tower at the bottom of the pipe. Our area is walled off on three corners with glass open to the pipe. The judges are fairly isolated; we have a few production guys around us for TV; since it’s live we have to make sure our scores are in a timely manner. There are 5 judges plus a head judge. Each run is scored from 1 to 100, and we throw out the high and the low score and average the remaining three.
We have our own system for judging. Snowboarding is a unique sport, and each judge really has their own opinion of a run, and their own style of riding, which ultimately translates into their scoring. We try to keep it fairly loose and not be so structured in scoring. We like to avoid riders trying to ride to a system.
The 5 judges have a keypad, and each judge is actually writing down each trick and any notes during the run in shorthand, so it’s really detailed. Each judge can recite each person’s run to a T, what they did, what imperfections they had, how high they went, pretty much every detail so that if anyone does ever come back with a question we can say, “well, this is exactly why.” Each judge then enters their score and that comes into the head judge’s monitor. I review each score and then submit it and it goes live.
What’s next for you?
I’m just finishing up judging the World Snowboarding Championships in Oslo, then heading to Tignes, France, for Winter X Europe in March.
When he’s not judging snowboarding competitions like the Dew Tour, X Games and World Snowboarding Championships, Tom Zikas works as a professional photographer, and is the official photographer for US Snowboard team. What did you think of Shaun White during the Winter X Games 2012? Let us know in the comments.