Side Judging

Why is a Side judge Needed?

Some judges claim they can side-judge from the back-judge’s position.  This maybe possible but a review of the below table demonstrates the difficulty of this task.

For a 17′ caber, the handle of the caber needs to rises 15.41 feet off the ground for a 65 degree turn and 15.97 feet for a 70 degree turn.  To make the call between the 65 and 70 degree turn, the back-judge, who will be at least the length of a caber away, will need the ability to determine the differences in which the height that handle rose, a difference of 6.81 inches. if your 17′ to 20 feet away, can you honestly make that call to determine what was a 65 degree and 70 degree turn?

As the turns get closer to vertical, the differences in the 5 degree difference calls get smaller and smaller:

  • between a 70 to 75 degree turn, a difference of 5.35 inches
  • between a 75 to 80 degree turn, a difference of 3.85 inches;
  • between a 80 to 85 degree turn, a difference of 2.32 inches;
  • between a 85 to 90 degree turn, a difference of 0.78 inches;

The table demonstrates the difficulty for a back-judge or a thrower to determine the angle of a partial turn from their vantage point.   This is why throwers think the partial angle should be higher.  This is also why the back judge should not question the side judge as it is tacky and unprofessional.

This emphasizes that if a competition is going to score a partial turns, a side judge should be used.

Number one rule of side judging cabers is consistency.

  • Accuracy of angle does not matter as much as the angle given needs to reflect the relative placement of the partial turn when compared to the other partial turns.
  • This requires practice and a good memory.


All rule sets are about the same:

If the competitor does not turn the caber, then it is the responsibility of the side judge to determine the angle at which the caber was tossed with respect to the 90 degree vertical. The side judge should be perpendicular to the competitors’ line of approach in order to make an accurate call. A picture of a view from the side judge’s position is shown below. 

This rule does not provide much help when faced with the task of side judging. Hopefully, the following will do much better.

Side Judging and the Back Judge

The side-judge makes the partial turn call.  The table above demonstrates the difficulty for a back-judge to make an accurate call.

  • If as a back-judge, you have questions, then you should show respect to your co-judge and prove your a professional by questioning the call discretely.
  • If as a side-judge, the back-judge is openingly questioning your calls, pull the back-judge to the side and point out that he is being unprofessional and extremely disrespectful.  This may not solve the problem.

Back and Side Judge Conflicts

Side Judging and the Pick

The side judge has as good if not better vantage point on whether the thrower picked the caber and sets it back down, which would constitute an attempt.  A side-judge should not be afraid to call this.

Position to Make an Accurate Call: 

In order to make an accurate call:

  • The side judge should be moving parallel to the competitor’s run direction (not just perpendicular to the caber)
  • During the run, the judge should be slightly ahead of the competitor, so that when the caber is tossed, the judge is between the middle of the caber and the landing point of the caber:
    • This allows the judge to be near to but behind the vertex of the angle (landing point) giving a proper perspective on the angle of the partial turned caber.

Side Judging: Uses of a Protractor

A protractor can be used to help side judging in the following manner:

  • Do Not Use It at all: The judge makes a mental call of the angle taking into account his memory of other partial turns and how this partial turn ranks compared to prior partial turns.
  • For Consistency:  Same method as above, but the judge uses the protractor to help make the angle calls of the initial few partial turns.
    • In other words, it can be used to check the degrees called.
  • Reading the Angle: The judge reads the angle directly from the protractor, with that being the call of the partial turn.

Using the Protractor

I recommend using a clipboard to duplicate the greatest angle of the caber (when it stopped its upward movement):

  • This allows the judge to hold the protractor up against the clip board, making sure the protractor is parallel to the ground and the caber/clipboard goes threw the vertex of the protractor.
    • To often users of the protractor do not get the vertex of the angle dialed.
    • If the clipboard is positioned close to the actual caber angle and the protractor is used correctly the resulting call should be representative angle.

Why use the clipboard? 

  • There is a tendency to watch the top of the caber and how high it rises and when it stops its upward movement.  Often, there is less concern about the position of the vertex of the angle (where the fat end touches the ground).  However both are needed to get an accurate angle. Thus, using the clipboard helps accurately capturing both the maximum rise and where the fat end touches the ground.
  • When just holding the protractor up and calling the angle immediately from the protractor, the judge needs to remember the position of the vertex (landing point relative to the top of the caber).

Reading the Angle:

  • I would recommend calling degrees in 5 degree increments, anything else implies a degree of accuracy that just is not there.
  • For consistency and ranking, use degrees between the 5 degree calls to place partial turns in their proper order.

Digital Protractors

Do they provide an element of accuracy or just adds a perception of accuracy to a very inaccurate process. If they are used correctly, they can add an element of accuracy but I fear that they could be counter productive generating lax side judging.

I would hate to see a contest determined based on a 62.5 degree and a 64 degree turn.  I still think that turns should be rounded to 5 degree increments.