- A word of warning to begin with, this is not a recipe for judging! It
is just my analysis of my way of judging. Of course I hope other
judges, either beginning or experienced might benefit.
The technical routine first, because it makes it easier to explain how I work, then on to the compulsories.
will have to be concentrated for 5 minutes, and to prepare I follow a
routine of talking a bit, walking a bit, taking a sip of water and
forgetting what I just have seen. I write name and numbers on my score
sheet and when the pilot is about ready to start, I walk over to my
usual place, about 10 meter behind the pilot. I look around at whatever
is moving in the wind (always hoping to see some single line trains) to
get some feeling about strength, variability, direction. The feeling in
my neck tells me quite precise the wind direction on the ground, so I
use that to guide me to the right spot (for me). The Field Director is
raising her hand, to signal the coming "IN", I can hear the "IN", the
hand goes down, I start watching.
is just what I do the next 3, 4 or 5 minutes. I don't take my eyes off
the kite(s), I don't write. I walk only if necessary, if the pilot
moves a lot, just the necessary bit if the wind direction changes much.
I focus only half, keeping as much as possible of the wind window in my
field of vision. I try to omit drawing conclusions or abstracting. Only
if the kite seems to go into a crash-like move I have a short look at
the pilot to have some notion about "intention" and "control over the
kite". I don't talk, unless I know the other judges well, or if I
assist a shadow judge, but even then it will not be often or much, and
never has anything to do with the quality of the routine. I might smoke
my cigar, stamp my feet a little, but that's it.
"OUT" has been called and I turn away from the FD, the pilot, the other
judges. I now need about 90 seconds to "replay" what I have watched. I
try to make it the first time I "see" the routine. It is not uncommon
to remember just the start, the sensational 10 seconds in the middle
and the last 20 or 30 seconds of the routine. With the "replay" I try
to avoid that. I try to characterize the whole routine using key-words
or better key-impressions. No numbers yet. I know that as soon as I
start abstracting what I have seen (say "nice circle") I will loose a
lot of the replay image, so I postpone that.
"rhythm". How regular is that "spacing in time", or how understandable
the irregularities. Only a very few flyers use rhythm consciously, for
me it is like a "time line with hooks", a piece of music paper with
just the key and bar lines. Quality of timing fits here.
Not simply the degree of difficulty of tricks and other stuff, but also
circumstances, improvisation, adjustments by the flyer (because we
judge control over the kite).
Is the routine more than a bundle of moves, is there cohesion, a
beginning, an end? Is there a kind of story maybe? Is it possible to
fill in notes on my "music paper"?
these characterizations are about the whole routine, and I know they
don't seem to follow the judging criteria in the rule book. For me this
is the necessary phase between having the "raw data" (the replay image)
and starting to score, according to the criteria.
last step before that is assessing the quality of flying, lines,
curves, corners, tricks, window use, speed control (see also note on
pair/teams) etc. again for the whole routine, so again, but now even
more so an impression, a summary.
is the really tricky part. I do not compare with the other routines I
have seen in this competition, and of course not even with the ones I
haven't seen yet... Based on the thousand or so routines I have already
judged, I think I will recognize the "perfect routine", the "perfect
moves", so if I compare at all it will be with those imaginary
I start with writing
down, on the execution part (of my score sheet): the number of ticks I
have noticed, and then l, wu, s, c, tr, var, diff.
"clean" and recognizable are straight and curved lines, are there low
pass, vertical, diagonal, at the left, at the right? Do they have a
beginning and end or
are they just connecting other moves?
wu (window use): control over the kite everywhere? With every kind of move?
s (speed control):
Any speed changes, other then caused by wind changes, any sign of controlled speed changes.
c (curves, corners, close):
Are closed curves closed, in 3 or in 2 dimensions, are curves there as curves or just connecting parts between other moves.
could call anything else than "straight"flying a trick, but I look for
the things that take a lot of practice, and look especially to the
entrance and exit of tricks, since these are telltales for the control
over the kite. I might add a "c" if complicated combinations are shown.
Not as a summary of all other elements, but the extra of "nice variations"
diff (degree of difficulty):
difficulty of the elements of the routine, regardless of circumstances.
This is based on my knowledge, so I am careful with this. To assess it
properly you need to look around much outside competition and talk to
pilots. Flying a kite now and then might help, but there is the risk it
only tells you what is difficult for you!
I forget about "taking risks", just a hint of a difficult move is no
more than that, it only adds a touch of chaos to the routine. A
well performed difficult move is just that, and will add to the score!
each “key" I write pluses or minuses to qualify mainly the relative
(within that routine) merit of these elements. Later I will use those
"remarks" when I answer questions of the competitor. At the end of the
competition I will have forgotten most of what I have seen, these notes
will bring back a lot of it. (so I will need my sheets back from the
But even with all these
"objective" notes I can only partly avoid the need to interpret what
the pilot wanted to show, the "meaning" of the routine, the ideas. (you
all know the example: is the wobbly line, a bad straight line, or a bad
This is where rhythm, a story, a well placed trick and lots of other details, give me the context needed.
the content part I basically write down the same letters (usually not
all of them), again with pluses and minuses. But the meaning is
different. To use the analogy of the music paper again, I now decide
how much of these moves/elements are fitting notes. And this again is
where rhythm, a story, a well placed trick and lots of other details
give me the context needed. If I can guess what the whole piece of
music should be like, I can recognize the notes, the ones that fit, the
ones that are "false". Not just the notes, also the orchestration, the
swinging sax (Axel) the long down stroke on the violin (diagonal), the
shifting tone on a steel guitar (stop). Yes, that looks very
subjective, but every serious judge will recognize the - very few-
precision routines that look that way. Judging is far more difficult
with "elevator music"!
Then I give
the scores. To a large extend intuitive, not based on "gut feeling",
but based on the same kind of intuition that lets you (me) pick a route
in a maze, or the way to solve a mathematical problem. Hoping (and
knowing a bit too, from experience) that the subjective way in which I
judge is steered, or channeled by the more or less objective steps I
This is also why I don't
judge creativity or originality, since that is based far too much on my
knowledge, not on the flying abilities of the pilot.
Compulsory figures are different. A prescribed test, I only have to check if it is done well!
place is 10 meter upwind behind the pilot, 5 meter aside, usually on
the right side, even if pilot and kite don't line up with the wind
direction (see also note on "definition"). It is fixed that way for me,
because I need to do calculations about kite positions. I will notice
the signs of the FD about timing and "mirrored" figures, but I just
wait for the "IN". We judges have discussed the figures before (and
picked the "right" ones to fit best the circumstances) so I will not be
surprised. I usually don't focus on the kite, and keep my head still.
The field of vision needed horizontally (in theory) is just 106 deg.
for the flyer, far less for the judge.
a figure begins with assessing the test involved (see also note on
pair/team), I will use a well known old/new figure (Split Figure Eight)
to illustrate that.
The basic test is
having the proportions right, a second, less important one the relative
placement of the two "straight" lines, the least important one the
place in the wind window. The pilot can make it easier on her/himself
by changing the figure a little (smaller curves, higher start of top
curve, more horizontal diagonal) or more difficult (the other way
around). I will deduct in the first case, not change my score in the
second case (if the changes are little; otherwise I deduct too).
first corner will define the place in the wind window, that is easy to
judge, the second "vertical" gives some possibility to suggest a
different position, but I will only check the - constant- distance
between the two "verticals". It helps to have the ground crew in middle
window, as most pilots know too, to judge that, but a pole of the fence
or a tree will help also.
The size of
the first, top curve will set the size of the whole rest of the figure,
I measure the size of the top one in "kite widths" and will do the same
with the bottom one.
"straight" at the end of the curve is there to make it a little more
difficult to get the proportions right, it means steering twice in a
short time, not forgetting the size of the curve. I will deduct between
5% and 10% if both "straights" are not there. I now know if the pilot
can finish the figure the right way, all measures are set now.
pilot knows that too of course and the diagonal will show how "smart"
the pilot solves the problem. It is hard to judge the angle between
diagonal and ground precise, and since the top curve (almost always) is
too big, a "flat" diagonal will give more room for the bottom one,
without distorting the figure too much. It is a good telltale for the
judges, and I will deduct if it is the only mistake (otherwise it will
be in the other deductions).
bottom straight and curve can only have the already set size of course,
but usually there is not enough room. A "flat-bottomed" curve is the
best solution (to avoid touching the ground, as well as starting the
second vertical on the right spot) but is not done often by pilots. I
will deduct in both cases seriously, actually the quality of the bottom
curve sets the basic score for me, since that part shows the quality of
almost the whole figure. If the vertical is on the right place, I check
it's distance with the first one over its length and wait for the
"OUT". I forget about the top corner, the diagonal symmetry with the
bottom one is almost impossible to judge. Only if the second vertical
line is seriously short, I will deduct something
to the routine I compare what I see directly with what I know (diagram
and description). I make small notes on the score sheet (see picture)
that will make it possible to explain my score to the competitor. They
are just the differences with the "perfect" figure, not all lines etc.
It's quicker, and it works for me (and the competitor) If there are no
touches, or other problems I will need about 10 -15 seconds; knowing -
all- the details of a figure well means I score while I watch. (To have
consistent scoring for all judges in the same competition, and over
more than one competition means though that all judges know and
understand these details.)
Plenty of time to position myself for the next figure…
Getting Prepared again...
it is a competition in which I had a hand in organizing, team ballet
will be the crowd-pleasing Sunday afternoon event, and I will be
prepared as soon as it starts!
having judged the rest of the weekend I will need to stretch my legs a
bit, and may feel a bit tired, but that will go away as the first music
starts. Just quickly write names and numbers, look around to see what
the wind is doing. Then find my place on the field, which will not
differ that much from the precision one, and wait.
prefer to have the competitors call "IN" with ballet too, so I will
watch and judge, just like the other disciplines, only between "IN" and
"OUT". Makes it also easier for competitors, especially if they want to
There is sound coming
from the speakers, "IN" has been called and I watch and listen. That is
all I do, watch and listen. Well, actually I usually move my feet a bit
with the music (would not call that dancing), whistle softly with what
I recognize (so quite often), and I might even smoke a cigar again.
or twice during this competition I might sing along with the music or
text, if it does not annoy the other judges or the pilots. I enjoy
with rhythm and structure of most western-style music I try to find out
if what I hear and what I see have anything in common, I listen to
text, if it is there, maybe it contains clues, but mainly I try hard
not to draw any conclusions at all, yet.
When pilots ask me what a ballet should be, in my opinion, I explain it usually in the following way:
a routine, either with or without music you should show a poem. Since
nobody knows your language, yet, you must first teach us (the ones who
watch you) your language, or at least prove you use a language. Then
you have to teach us the words you use so we can understand your poem.
It is also the way I look (and listen) to a ballet. Ballet has the
advantage of a context (the music), so teaching the language and the
words might be easier. That works only, of course, if the connection
between music and flying is understandable, at least at the end of the
But if it becomes only clear
at the end I, as a judge or spectator, must keep in my mind all that
has been done before in the routine, without drawing premature
I enjoy – judging - ballet, but it ain't easy...
after the "OUT" I stare at the grass, the sky, the fence for a minute
or two, to find out if the end had something to do with the beginning,
if the middle was something special, if I can assume I understood, some
And start writing, first the
execution part. Basically the same list as with a precision routine,
for the same purpose, but with ballet I add (r) rhythm and (ti) timing.
With timing I assume the real cues are in the music, so even if pilots
watch each other (-s kite) to "time" their moves, I compare that timing
with the music. I use pluses and minuses again to mark strong and weak
points and go on with choreography.
Here I start with...
there a connection, similarity (or maybe a strong contrast) between
sound and image, between the "mood" of the music and flying
If the music has different themes are these treated differently. Either in time or by one kite, compared with another.
the beat used, how (just the beat, two bars) and how well. I make a
note here if only the beat is used, because is it a real ballet if any
piece of music with that beat would do?
I write again the technical marks (lines, w.u., sp, tricks etc.) and
value how well these… technical means are used to get the overall
picture. As analogy: the way paint is used by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Van
Gogh, Appel, is totally different. With paintings the final resulting
image may be the most important, not that much the painting technique.
With kite flying we want to decide on who is the best pilot, the
quality of the use of the technical means is - at least as - important.
I don't judge the music or
the music choice (like "does that music fits a team routine"), nor do I
judge or score missed opportunities, they are not there anyway..
score I put down for the technical part are based on the quality of
flying, obviously, as analyzed in the above way, more or less without
taking into account it is a ballet. And because I value much the use of
technical means to get the end result, part of the score for
choreography is a bit a technical score too. The main part of the
choreography score is based on how well I recognized the poem. I don't
care, and how could I, if that is something else than the pilot(s)
If the score is initially
above 90 I will add points if I was touched emotionally and or if I
laughed because of the routine (happened 4 or 5 times in 13 years)
otherwise I'll leave it as it is.
than with precision there is the problem of (my) knowledge. I will
always try to look at a routine as if it is the first time, but the
music brings it own meaning, for me, that I can't ignore. I listen much
to music, often with kite flying in mind (ever since I flew in a team)
and many pieces carry a kind of image with them.
In talking with pilots afterwards I normally don't ask why a piece of music is chosen, or what was the idea behind.
problem is the fact that a ballet is, for a large part, homework.
Improvisation is difficult, so the second, third time I see a ballet,
it will be the same "design", and I will probably recognize large parts
of it. If I want to treat a ballet, or precision routine, as "fresh" I
need to know as little as possible!
third problem is the music itself . There is much music I like, and
even more I dislike, but both feelings should not make a difference,
and they normally don't. I treat any sound produced by the speakers
between the "IN" and "OUT" as ballet music, and all ballet music as
sounds escaping the speakers. (well, I try hard) One problem remains:
if I really like the music, and the flying is lousy I might be a bit
hard on the pilot.
An advice (just
one) to pilots: don't try to please the judges (it should not be
necessary, allowed or effective), just try to fly as good as you can,
and that will be better the more you enjoy the flying itself!
Notes on Precision
As was written in the old rule books, and a bit hidden in the current
one, a compulsory is a technical test. To work well, what is to be
tested should be described precise. The description should also give
information about how to value non-perfect flying..
of the old, and so quite some of the new figures I designed or
co-designed. Of these I know what is meant to be tested. It can be
speed control, proportions, window use, tricks. For pairs there are
also things like spacing, timing, how well can fly near 2 independently
(in "Split Pair Square", or "Meet Again"). The same for teams, but
also, as in "The Basket", change of the leader, or being a team, as in
"Knit One, Purl One".
For the execution part of the routine I add to my notes
Consistent, variable with a meaning.
Is nr. 2 (and 3,4..) following the flight paths nr 1 is doing, or suggesting.
How precise are pair or team members in their moves and turns when it is their turn.
Is it just follow the leader or is the team showing more variations (3-1; 2-2).
For content I will add spacing and timing (how successful are these means used to get a “piece" of music) and
a pair one plus a mirror image, or does nr 2 also know how to fly
without calls, is it a pair, not two individuals, or a small team, I
want to be convinced flying with two, and not one or three, was the
right choice. For me the difference between a pair and a team is like
the difference between a duet and a choir.
Basically the same for teams. If I miss a fourth person in a 3 person team I will write a minus.
Being head judge
prefer to talk to (shout to) the field director as little as possible.
With the FD's I know I use a few hand signals that cover most
situations. I press my judges to use not more than set-up time to do
the scoring, judges are always ready, flyers do not have to wait, and
the FD just can call the time till the „IN". Smooth, simple and silent,
so I can concentrate on the judging.
Discussing with competitors
on my score sheets are very important, not just for the way I get to my
scores, but also to inform competitors. I emphasize to competitors that
the scores are only important for the competition, if they want the
"real results, real advice, want to improve, they should make good use
of the trained observers behind them. At the end of a competition I
don't know much about all routines anymore. But seeing the face (or
back!) of a competitor, a few words about what they liked themselves,
and my notes will bring back the routine, not completely what I have
seen, but what I concluded, and why. Then I can do the better and more
important part of judging.
the definition of compulsories should be followed by the judges, of
course. As long as possible, and as long as they make it possible to
have a fair and honest competition. Judging things like the intentions
of the pilot should be avoided, questions like "where is the grid" or
"does the grid moves with the pilot" should be answered before if
possible, or prevented by good definitions. There is some work to do
there I think
A sample European score sheet:
The second figure in this competition was the Split Figure Eight. (first Launch, Circle and Land, third Stops)
pilot had the first corner already on the right (instead of the left)
side of center window, and tried to correct it by going left. Both
verticals though were on the right of center, and too close together.
Despite flying the diagonal too much in a horizontal direction, the
bottom curve was too small. The little straight parts were there, since
there is no note about it. Not very good.
routine was not bad, a great variation especially in tricks. But "var"
is not put down in content because they were done on "random" times.
The three ticks were from badly executed or suggested ground work (I
Note on ballet.
in ballet are often seen a bit as a special case. Early 95 I saw a
ballet (by Michael Seehorz) with a lot if axels in it (I think it were
more than 30). All exactly timed on a note on the guitar. Quicker ones
on a short note, slower ones on long notes. A brilliant routine! These
axels fitted the music, the choreography. Since then I treat tricks
like any other move, if it fits its good, if not I'll wait for the next
Hans Jansen op de Haar
A long time contributor to Kitelife and STACK panel member, Hans
was selected as a judge for the 1994, 1995 and 1996 World Cups, as well
as Chief Judge at the 1997 and 1998 World Cups... You can visit his
home page here: