Being a judge at Red Bull Rampage is an honour, but also a difficult job that is almost always criticized. For 2019, there are five judges for Red Bull Rampage, all of them former Rampage competitors. Scoring Judge Randy Spangler is joined by Josh Bender, Greg Watts, Nico Vink, and Kyle Jameson. We caught up with Randy Spangler and Josh Bender to find out more about their process on event day and what they're doing in the days leading up to the event.
How are the judges chosen?Randy Spangler:
The judges are all chosen from people that have ridden the event. They know what it's like to be up there. They've ridden the dirt, had the nerves and excitement. We've just gone with riders that we feel are even across the board. Judges that get along with other riders well, pretty level-headed, really think about all the factors and come from different areas of riding themselves as well as having ridden Rampage.
In the days leading up to the event, what are you doing?Josh Bender:
As judges, with the days leading up to the event, we're watching what riders are riding, what lines. We're seeing how they attack the lines, how they're sussing everything out, how comfortable they're feeling. And that gives us a gauge. Plus, we're walking the entire venue and all the judges have been former competitors so we know what these guys are up against. Randy Spangler:
I start off on the build crew, the actual main build crew that does all the preparation with the water lines and so forth for the riders and gets the top started. Then I switch roles to judging. In between that time I'm able to go out and scout and see what's going on. I'm really in tune with where the riders are headed, what's going on, changes from last year.
Then once all the other judges arrive, we all walk together and get to those spots quicker since I've been able to preview a lot of things, do more chatting, make notes and so forth. Talk to the riders, see where they're going and hear from them where they're going. Not necessarily what they're going to do, just where they're going to go. That's pretty much our thing - mental notes, notes on paper, walking it over and over until we have the lines down. Once we're in that mode, it's a different focus. But since you have the pre-prep in your head from what you've seen, it all comes together.
Are you watching the mountain or a screen during event day?Randy Spangler:
It's changed. The format, which we did last year as well, is that we are watching a screen. We have tons of views and what's unique now is that we can see reviews and previews of stuff. We can put riders next to each other and compare lines which we weren't able to do visually. So that's pretty amazing.
At first, we were kind of skeptical about how it was going to work out, but it actually turned out really good. There's a lot more focus in the room and it's quieter for all the judges in there. We're kind of in this little box with a massive screen and we can focus a lot better. It seemed to work out really well so we're going to stick with that.
How do you get the scores done so quickly?Randy Spangler:
That is just doing it for years and years and trying to have a system. You may have a guy that you may call 'The Hammer' who always hits hard on the scoring and have a judge that hits more as a rewarder, and that's fine as long as they stick with that throughout the whole judging. You take those five scores and add them together and that's where it comes out.
As far as doing it quickly, we do have a timeframe that we have to work with. We've got TV and so forth. We don't want riders to stand there looking around forever. And you know, they're excited from their run and so we try to be as quick as possible. In that timeframe, we're able to take our notes, look through them, and we can bring up the screen and look at stuff real quick if we need to and compare it. That way we can really be solid and also get our scores out as quick as we can.
Are there any special considerations for the people who are building here for the first time?Randy Spangler:
No, it is what it is. Contest day is even for everyone across the board. The preparation they put in is part of it, but when it comes down to it, it's how it's ridden that day. The other part is getting there.
With Red Bull Rampage being less natural now, how does that compare to when you rode it?Randy Spangler:
It’s nowhere near as natural as when we rode it. There was no water, there were no buffed out lines, it was as raw as it could be.Josh Bender:
It's safer now. It's become way more of a production. The natural aspect of it has gone away in a sense. When you look at the mountain it's way more manicured and there's way more defined lines than the old days where we didn't even get tools.
Do you think it’s easier or harder now? Randy Spangler:
It’s a combination. Easier that they have the tools to make it better but harder since it’s bigger. Back when we were doing it it as harder because we didn’t have the watering capability and it was really like riding in sand and soft, loose dirt. A lot of times we’d land stuff or go to turn and flip over the bars where now having the watering capability lets them progress and move on past what we were able to accomplish. Josh Bender:
Over the years many fans have felt that natural, raw creative lines haven’t been rewarded enough. What would you say to those people?Randy Spangler:
It’s a combination. That’s great it’s a natural line - that’s what we want to see at Rampage. But at the same time, tricks have come into play. To be able to progress to that level of tricks, it needs to be a little bit more manicured. Josh Bender:
Come out and ride.
With Brendan’s score last year, what were the elements holding that line back from a higher score?Randy Spangler:
It’s not necessarily the line that’s holds back the score, it’s everything combined into that. Josh Bender:
Tricks. Speed. It wasn't as Rampage, it was more a racer-built line.
What will it take to win this year?Josh Bender:
What it takes every year. What it takes to win Rampage is either you've got to be willing to stand on the podium or blow up trying. With the competitor field that we have this year, as always, it's anybody's game.
As judges, on game day we look for four categories. We judge on air and amplitude, tricks, line choice, style, speed and fluidity. Then we balance those over into a fifth score and that's the total overall, and then we drop the lowest score. Randy Spangler:
Nowaday's that's getting harder and harder. Really it's putting all the pieces of the puzzle together from top to bottom, and however that may be and where their puzzles lay. You want to look like you're in control, you want to look like you're confident, progressing and pushing the sport a bit since that's what this event is kind of about. So if you're putting all those together in your run and looking confident top to bottom and basically just throwing down, that's where you need to be.