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International surf competition ditches judges for digital technology

Fifteen-year-old Griffin Foy is among competing in an international contest remotely through a small, flat disc called a Trace that's attached to his surfboard.
Fifteen-year-old Griffin Foy is among competing in an international contest remotely through a small, flat disc called a Trace that's attached to his surfboard.
Jill Replogle / KPCC

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Fifteen-year-old Griffin Foy was among a dozen or so surfers catching waves just north of Huntington Beach pier on a cold, windy Friday afternoon. But he was the only one there competing in an international contest — against surfers as far away as Australia and Barbados. 

This year's Trace Up Stack Up digital surf competition features 17 of the world’s top groms (surfers under 18) tracking their waves during the month of December via a small, flat disc called a Trace that's attached to their surfboards.

The device collects data on speed, distance, airtime and number and swiftness of turns. Foy said when he finishes a session, he takes the device off his board and downloads the data while he’s driving.

“When I get home it’s already downloaded to my phone and I can check everything out,” he said.

Foy said the advantage of this kind of technical competition is that there’s no room for biased judges. 

"You can never, like, favor somebody in anything,” he said. “It's all facts, you can’t really deny it."

Foy was leading the competition Friday afternoon for number of waves, total ride distance and number of turns. 

You can track how he and the other competitors are doing on Trace’s website