Saturday, September 26, 2009

A House On The Point

It’s a place that finds you when you’re not really looking.  I’d scoured the pages of my Indo surf guide, read between the lines, searching for clues to steer me in the right direction.  But Java hardly conjured the idyllic surfing image that has led many a man to give up everything to plant roots down where rice paddies were once green.

The house on the point faces one of the most consistent waves in Indonesia.  Wet season, dry season, all season; it delivers endless early mornings sessions full of non-descript barrels and long, caramel-smooth bottom turns.  But the wave is fractional compared to the spoils on land. 

Living here, soaking in a way of life so foreign to us foreigners, is intoxicating.  It’s refreshing to be reminded on a daily basis that life will and can go on if the kid’s don’t find that perfect costume for Halloween, or the washing has to be hung out on the line. 

The river flows down past the house, almost as an after thought, nearly forgotten as you stare mesmerized by the pulsing ocean swells peeling mechanically down the smooth boulder-point directly in front of the shaded porch.  But the river is alive. 

Lizards, the size of a small surfboard, slink about on the mud-tinged banks, disappearing under water momentarily in pursuit of sustenance.  Fisherman cast their nets for tiny baitfish, perforating the detergent laden water that carries 40,000 shits from villages upstream into the ocean.  The floating, makeshift bamboo bridge acts as a damn, collecting meters of random rubbish; used plastic bottles, candy wrappers, pairs of unpaired sandals, and empty packets of mie goring and pop mie. 

The river smells of detergent and brine, a milky-slick surface that upon repeated encounters makes you cringe.  But that is Java.  It’s not Disney clean or pristine and untouched.  It’s millions and millions of people living on one of the most densely populated islands in the world.

It’s rice paddies terraced in a river delta.  Redbrick homes with wood fired ovens inside casting a warm glow and billowing smoke into the late afternoon air.  Sounds of the muezzin call most into the mosque to face Mecca and pray to Allah.  “Aaaaallaaahh uuuuu aaaakkbaaar”.

It’s mango trees and pepper plantations, cloves and rubber trees dripping with latex, miles and miles of palm oil plantations where ancient stands of teak and mahogany once stood.  Cacophonies of stimuli hitting you from all sides if you open you’re eyes, ears, and nose. 

One of my favorite things to do here is hop on the back of a motorbike near sun down, and cruise the streets into town.  The mid-day heat has passed and the towns and villages are coming back to life.  Warungs selling bottles of water, packets of instant coffee, and a mystery of fried assortments line the streets.  A sea of motorbikes swallows the road, often with families of five along for the ride.  Dad’s usually driving, an infant pressed between him and Mom, the tail end filled out with respective siblings in order of proper decent, sometimes with cell phones out sending sms’s to the sky.

People are always everywhere.  Squatting along the road, in the road, barely taking notice of the chaotic symphony that surrounds them.  Smiling girls grin and giggle as you pass by, brown skinned with jet-black hair coifed with the typical shark fin inlay across the forehead. 

Fireworks blast off in the distance as children race past with rice-paper kites in tow.  Laughter and exhaust mix with the call to prayer, creating a patchwork of treble and bass, lacing the early evening air in full stereo surround sound.

It’s free and 100 percent pure entertainment that no reality TV show could ever hope to capture, life passing about. 


Friday, September 18, 2009

So Where Is Your Home Break?

Five years ago, I was scouting the coastlines of Lombok and Sumbawa.  On the south coast of Lombok, about an hour east of Kuta, Lombok, I'd heard of a claw-shaped bay that had a heavy right and left-hand reef break, peeling on adjacent sides of the bay.

On this particular morning, the swell wasn't substantial enough to get the far outside points working properly. The only option left for a surf was a mellow inside right-hander that was more directly open to the minimal south-west swell.

I'd left Kuta at dawn that morning with my girlfriend in tow.   After an hour driving on the kidney-shifting track to the mouth of the bay, she was not in the best of moods.  And I was hesitant to push on looking for better waves, with the risk of a potential female melt down decidedly near.  So I decided instead to check out the right-hander tucked inside the eastern fold of the bay.  

To access the wave, I hired a local fishing boat from the small village on the western shore of the bay.  The sun was rising over the mountains toward Bali, and the cool morning air was dancing off my cheeks as we motored offshore.  We approached the wave from the back and I spotted three guys already in the water, floating on their boards and giving me a bit of the stink eye. "Great" I thought.  Not only is it barely rideable, but the scantily layered line-up was laced with blow-in Indo locals. 

I sat in the boat and watched a set come through.  As the first wave broke, I noticed the peculiar location the three surfers had chosen to sit in--a good five meters too far inside of the peak.  Each time a ride was attempted, the same outcome ensued.  Barely managing to catch the wave, each of the three surfers stood on their boards, attempted a bottom turn (this, despite being already caught behind the foam ball of the wave), then proceeded to jump off their boards as the wave continued down the reef for another 50 meters.  

"No worries", I thought.  I've got the place to myself.  I waxed up my board, slathered on the sun block and told my girlfriend I'd be an hour or so.  There's a snorkel and mask is in my bag, have a look around down below.  

I paddled straight out to the peak and waited for the next set.  As I sat on my board, I listened as the three other surfers jabbered away in German.  "That's odd", I thought to myself.  I've never met a surfer from Germany. By this time the conversation had elevated to a higher decibel with the surfers barking out "Ichs" and "Eins" by the second. 

Damn, this is annoying, I thought.  An otherwise peaceful morning surf was turning into a German shouting match.  I had no idea what they where saying, but it I could tell it didn't have anything to do with the present conditions.  

So as the first wave of the set loomed on the horizon, I spun around and paddled into it.  It was a mellow entry, and I dropped in with a casual stance, eyeing up the next section to see what the wave was doing.  I cranked it off the bottom of the wave, carried the momentum of my bottom-turn through the next section and worked the growing wall of the wave a few times before kicking out over the top.  Cool, that was a fun little nugget.  

As I paddled back out, one of the German surfers yelled something in my direction.  I paddled over to him and said, "What was that you said?", to which he replied.  "Yaaa,  zis is my wave.  I am taking zis wave now so you can go in."  I thought for a moment, your wave eh?  Coming from someone that most likely started surfing a week ago, I was slightly shocked to be hearing the words come out of his mouth.  To clear things up about exactly whose break was whose, I asked him "where exactly is your home break in Deutschland, would it be the Munich River? I didn't wait for a response, and continued my paddle back to the line-up. 

There were no more verbal assaults from the Germans that day, but it marked a fundamental shift in surfing dynamics that I had never experienced before--the rise of the oft land-locked European surfer.

Fast forward five years.  I never did make it back to Bali, or the eastern islands after that trip. I found much better waves and uncrowded line-ups in Java and Sumatra. And, until a few years ago, these line-ups were bereft of Euros.  But the end is near.  This year in particular, I've noticed a phenomenal number of British, German, Dutch, Norwegian and Polish surfers in the water. And they're all beginners.  Now, I encourage anybody to take up the sport and reap the rewards of a lifetime spent in the water.  But what I've noticed is that 90 percent of the euro contingent is not really interested in the soul and the beauty of the sport.  

They want to surf because they've seen it in a magazine and it looks cool.  They want to come to Indonesia for two weeks, and return to their cold, wave-starved countries of origin with a lifetime of surfing history and experience.  

They don't understand wind and tide changes, swell direction and period.  And from what I can tell, they don't care either.  They want to walk up to a break after reading a manual that tells them where to enter the water, how to negotiate the reef, what type of accessories to wear and what board to ride.  Of course, these are all things that are best figured out by simply sitting on the beach and watching the surf.  By spending time in the water and surfing new waves.  By the countless hours, weeks, and years of invaluable experience and dedication that comes from a lifetime of surfing. This, they want to ingest on the plane ride from Berlin.  

So the next time I'm approached in the water by a Euro fresh off the boat--white as a ghost and sinking off the back of a brand new board-- with a sheepish grin and funny accent, asking me "So now I want to surfing in the barrel", I'll simply respond, "Then first, my friend, you should learn how to surf.  And beware, it won't happen overnight."


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Samoan Cylinders

View pics from the trip here.

It was a trip I was looking forward to for weeks.  After four months of solo travel through Australia and Tahiti, I couldn't wait for a laid back escape mission to the island of Savaii, in Western Samoa, with my long-time wingman Jake, and his partner Sandy.  

Leaving the cold, schizo, sun-starved New Zealand winter behind for a week was all Sandy could think about, but Jake and I were fixated on an impressive set of storms developing in the Southern Ocean off the South coast of N-zed.  

Jake was calling for a moderate south swell to arrive midway through the week, with a much larger and substantial pulse near the end of our trip.  You couldn't ask for a better outlook, and it turned out to be a pretty accurate forecast.  

We enjoyed a week of head high, offshore, mechanical left and right barrels with just the two of us to share the fun.  The big pulse showed up a day late as we were flying back to New Zealand, and tempting as it was to change our return date, in the end we let the ocean do it's thing and stick to our original plans.  

Sometimes it's better to be content with what you have, and let mother nature run it's course. You can't always have it all.  

Thursday, May 7, 2009

East Coast Mission

Jake feeling the  drive of the Nugget.

After a week of all-time Kirra barrels, I finally managed to drag my tired bones back to New Zealand for some much needed R&R with my surrogate family.  

Perched high above the sandstone cliffs of Maori Bay on the northwest coast of the north island, Jake and Sandy's cottage has been a favorite resting stop of mine for years.  The exposed west coast beaches and bays are seldom flat, but finding the ideal conditions of wind, swell, tide, and sand can test your patience at times.  

Always the armchair swell forecaster, Jake had been tracking a developing low-pressure system off the east coast of the north island for a few days.  My arrival back to the "Zee" was timing up perfectly with a sizable storm on the east coast and favorable tide and wind conditions -  a lull in the work week for Jake was the necessary catalyst warranting a mid-week mission to Mangahwai Heads, on the east coast of the north island.

All road trips need good a crew.   This particular early morning it was the carpentry team of Jake, Matt and Townie, all playing hooky for the day, plus myself, the career truant, fumbling in the dark to strap down a forward-riding bogan stack of surfboards to the roof of Jakes CRiV.

The 90km drive from Muriwai to Mangawhai cuts across the rolling, pock-marked interior of the north island.  Honing his skills on the icy bus routes of Aspen , Jake was the designated pilot for this voyage.  A veteran of Jakes precise, sometimes heart-stopping driving, I logged zzz's as we crossed the country, but Townie was ready to spew by the time we reached the other side, soft Pommie that he is.  

This swell was adding up nicely on paper, but the east coast can be a fickle beast.  Even with all the elements in place you can never be sure of what awaits you until pulling up to the car-park. And this morning, as we spilled out of the thick-aired CRiV, sleep still in our eyes, was not to be.  

The oftentimes perfect sandbar created by the rivermouth at Mangawhai heads looked as if somebody had sprinkled a boatload of TNT the length of it, dicing the wave into a myriad of incoherent peaks.  The swell was pushing in as forecasted, the wind was fanning light offshore, the tide was just low enough and on the rise - the only thing missing a consistent sea-floor topography in the shape of a triangle.  

So you take what you can get.  We had a fun session at the bar, and found a playful right-hand peak breaking back into the channel.  At least the water was warm, with the sun was making it's standard kiwi cameo appearance, and it beats working for the day.  

Monday, April 20, 2009

Kirra Perfection

This lucky grommet with a view to kill for.

This is where it all happens - Coolangatta, Surf City Australia.

A perfect Kirra drainpipe unloading down the sand bank.

After the Rip Curl Pro I was set to return to hobbit-land with my flight leaving Melbourne in two days.  The only snag was a mean low-pressure system developing in the central Tasman Sea that looked to bear fruit for the Gold Coast.  

A slight alteration to my plans and I was boarding a plane with Jordy Smith early Saturday morning heading north in search of warm gaffing pits.  

I'm glad I did.  

This morning I woke up to four-to-six foot drainpipes stacked to the horizon from Kirra to Snapper Rocks, with a ten-knot offshore breeze attenuating the gape factor.  

Swell reinforcement is forecasted for tomorrow with possible eight-foot sets pushing in by the afternoon.  I better get some rest. 

Friday, April 17, 2009

Parkinson Wins Rip Curl Pro

Joel Parkinson took out wild card and local hero Adam Robertson today on his way to ringing the 'bell' in classic 5-foot, offshore conditions at Bells Beach.

Robertson's path to the final was decidedly longer than that of Parkinson. Since he's not in the top 44, he had to first surf an entire qualifying competition just to make it in to the draw for the Rip Curl Pro.

Once in the Rip Curl Pro, he relied on his local knowledge and powerful, fluid surfing style, to eliminate Bede Durbidge and Mick Fanning to earn a spot in the final against Joel Parkinson.

But Parkinson was in machine-like form, claiming a score of 9.57 following a 7.83, thanks to massive board-drowning cutbacks that propelled him to his second WCT victory in as many events.

Robertson was stoked to make it this far, and I imagine the $24,000 check he collected for his efforts will do well to lubricate the party gears that will be turning at mach-speed tonight.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Slater Sent Packing, Again...

The early morning sun cast its gentle light across the cow paddocks and rambling hills as a stiff northerly wind combed the building six-foot sets that were unloading on the 'bowl' section of Bells Beach. It was a sight I welcomed after a week of below average surf and onshore winds.  

The strong offshore winds were molding raw southern ocean energy into perfect rows of corduroy on the horizon - a vision of Bells I had seen countless times in magazines and videos, but never up close and personal. 

It was barely light out, but I could feel the urgency building in me with each set that came in. While the rest of the media were getting ready for the start of round two of the Rip Curl Pro, I was slipping into my wetsuit and waxing up the nugget for a session at Winki Pop.  

I've been surfing the contest site all week because it goes off.  Apart from a few locals and a rotating crop of the top 44, the lineup has been relatively empty.  I'm finding this the most rewarding part of following the tour - getting to surf great waves with the best surfers in the world.  

Watching Mick Fanning paddle by, spot a meaty set wave and stroke into it - tearing down the line and utterly dissecting the wave - is a rare treat.  It's like watching the NBA finals court-side, pulling up a chair on the bench next to the head coach as the teams do battle on court.  

This morning was no different, as Jihad Kodr, Bede Durbidge, Drew Courtney and even Slater were out at Winki Pop getting loose before doing their own form of battle up the beach at Bells.
Jihad had a great session, sitting deep on the first peak and picking off a handful of gems.  He was having such a good session he almost missed his heat.  

I could hear the play-by-play commentary on the loud speakers in the lineup at Winki Pop - how Joel was surfing lighting fast, and Mick laying down his trademark gumby cutbacks.  After two hours in the soup I caught a wave in, grabbed my gear and went down to get a better seat for the remaining heats. 

I got down just in time to see the heat of the day, Kelly Slater matched up against wild-card Owen Wright.  Wright was visually amped and probably still buzzing off his win in round one, when he sent Dane Reynolds home early. 

Slater paddled out on what appeared to be a normal short board, in the 6'4"range, and was into a wave within seconds of the starting buzzer.  He looked fluid and driven, cranking his bottom turn to the limits before unloading a series of lacerations on the perfectly groomed wave face.  

Wright one upped Slater's wave, dropping into a sizable Bells peak and unloading the most intense backside hack of the contest to date.  He followed that up with three more critical maneuvers before snagging a ride back out with the water patrol.  It was a great starting wave and put him in first position.  

Slater was left chasing a 7.67 after what was arguably an underscored wave that saw him slinking into a tricky Bells barrel, but finding no exit.  As the southern ocean went soft, all Slater could do was wait and hope for one last set.  But it never came.  Owen Wright went on to win the heat, and Slater was sent packing for the second time in as many events.  It was a very close heat, and I'm glad I wasn't in the judges' seat making the calls.

The comp was moved down to Winki Pop as the tide pushed higher, but was soon shut down by a nasty southwest wind after only two heats ran.  There was a magic hour between the comp moving to Winki, right before the wind picked up, when I took advantage of the moment to slay a few Bells beauties of my own.  I'm still grinning ear to ear as I type this, salt water spilling out of my nose over my keyboard.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Men's Round 1 starts at Rip Curl Pro

The rain was pelting the roof above where I was sleeping this morning, making my first night back in a bed for a couple weeks not overly enjoyable.  But it served as a good alarm clock to get up and shuffle down from Anglesea to Bells Beach for day 1 of the Rip Curl Pro.

The Men's round 1 action got underway just after 9:30 a.m. in 4-6 foot semi-clean conditions at Bells.  This event marks the first time the new alternative judging format was put into action this year.  Essentially, the 16 top rated surfers on tour get an automatic seed directly into the 2nd round of the event.  The remaining 28 CT surfers, and 3 wild cards are left to fight it out in man-on-man single elimination heats in Round 1.  

This format is being tested on tour this year, with each event given the freedom to decide whether they want to use it, or stick to the traditional format.  One advantage to the new system is that it eliminates an entire day of competition, needing only 3 days to complete the event and taking advantage of the best swell event within the given wait period.  Time will tell if this system is adopted permanently, or tossed out the door.  One thing's for sure, it puts the pressure on the round 1 seeds who only get one chance to advance.  

The standout today was by far Jordy Smith who used his considerably bigger mass to power through surface chop and link big fluid turns in and out of the unpredictable sections.  He scored the highest heat and single wave of the day, easily moving into Round 2.  

Dane Reynolds was sent packing by the West Australian wild card entry Owen Wright in the day's biggest upset, showcasing the new formats brutal single elimination mechanism.  Wright was surfing on a mission and seemed to find a way to get the waves he needed.  Reynolds never found his rhythm and was left chasing Wright for most of the heat.  

The swell will be on the fade through the end of the week, with another pulse forecasted for Easter weekend.  This surfer will be heading west to score the epic beach breaks while the comp is put on hold the next few days. 

Monday, April 6, 2009

Bells Beach turns on for the first day of competition

The Rip Curl Pro is set to begin tomorrow at Bells Beach in solid 6 foot conditions.  The temperature has dropped and south winds are roaring across the Tasman Sea pushing a solid 6-8 foot swell along the famous reef, and giving the top pros plenty of raw ocean energy to warm up in before the big dance.

Stay tuned for mores updates as the action unfolds...


Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Designs To Free Your Mind

I recently read an article in the current 'Surfing World' about legendary shaper Geoff McCoy. Intrigued by his design theory, I sent him an email inquiring about the possibility of making me a board.  

The culmination of his 40-plus years shaping surfboards for some of the world's greatest surfers has resulted in the creation of his "Nugget" - a unique and inspiring idea in surfboard design at a time of mass production and fashion statement surfboards in the mainstream.  

He doesn't advertise and he doesn't market.  He is too deeply focused on the vision and creation of his own and completely original design concept.  

After briefly talking with Geoff, he sent me to a small shop in Manly Beach where I could talk further with a good friend and fellow shaper.  

For the first time in my life, I had an intelligent and meaningful discussion with a shaper.  I listened to Geoff's design theory, asked questions when I didn't understand and tried to visualize the concepts that were being described.  

The result?  I left with a hand-shaped surfboard like nothing I'd ever seen.  It was made by the hands of possibly the world's greatest shaper.  In the process, I planted seeds for a working relationship with a shaper whose motto is 'Designs To Free Your Mind'.  

My reaction? Excited doesn't even come close.  I'll soon find out if I'm the victim of a skilled salesman, or the benefactor of a gifted craftsman.  

Down Time

With the Quicksilver Pro wrapped up and a new 'King of Kirra' crowned, I turned my attention to the next five weeks - the time gap until the Rip Curl Pro at Bells Beach.  What to do?  

One option, fly back to New Zealand and find some real work to top up my quickly vanishing available funds.  Another - slowly make my way down the east coast of Australia, visiting old friends and surfing my brains out.  Another - hop over to West Oz and surf the pumping North West coast points and reefs.  Another, ehhh...  

Can you see my dilemma?  With endless time on my hands and no real commitments, the options become infinite, limited only by imagination and the number of zeros at the end of my bank account.  

After a day of aimless wandering and countless calculations regarding upcoming swell events, the cost of renting a camper van vs. buying one, fuel cost of driving vs. plane ticket, optimum swell windows, water temp., maximum time spent in the water, etc... 

These are of the types of conversations you have with yourself when faced with this type of decision.  It's one I've faced many times over the years, but haven't seemed to master yet.  It always comes back to this for me: plan poor = pay more.  And I'm a horrible planner.  

My school of thought is you have to get there first before you can figure out why.  The leaving is always the hardest part, although I figured that out pretty well by now.

After an hour spent in an Internet cafe and a tip from a friend about a certain website where you can find camper vans that need to be relocated, I found myself stitched up with a van that needed to be in Sydney in five days.  The cost?  One dollar a day for the rental, I pay gas with a $50 credit.  Where do I click the button that says yes?  

I bought a few additional days at $45 so I had more time to explore the coast.  Easy as. Feeling good with my decision and glad to have shaken the stress of not knowing what's next, I went out looking for cold beverages and good music to celebrate.  

I passed out in the back of the van with a smile on my face; a road trip in the making, a bevy of waves waiting for me and the thought of a thousand kilometers of coastline to explore for me alone.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Parko Brings It Home

On the 14th day of the Quicksilver Pro 2009, Joel Parkinson leans heavily on his local knowledge to navigate his way to victory.

For the second day in a row, the contest was held at Coolangatta Beach, in pumping 6' top-to-bottom conditions.

I even heard Jake Paterson make comparisons to a certain beach break on the North Shore. Not sure if I'd go that far, but there were definitely Escondido like bombs dropping for the semi-final and final rounds.

The first heat of the semi's between local boys Mick Fanning and Joel Parkinson was as thrilling as the 60km wind gusts that cyclone Hamish was punishing the crowd with.

There's no doubt that Fanning wanted this win badly. I saw him out at Kirra for a pre-dawn session before his heat, getting acclimated to the unpredictable conditions. He was casual and smiling, pulling into a couple of inside closeout bombs.

With the Red Bull Jet Ski team ready to scoop them from danger, both Parko and Fanning were able to catch over 10 waves, setting the stage for an action packed heat.

Fanning started where he left off yesterday, getting shacked. His highest scoring wave came 25 minutes into the heat.

He took off late on a mean looking slab, power carved a bottom turn before setting trim for a gaping barrel. Arms raised with stoke, he got spat out the back and claimed a 9.43 for his efforts.

“Cyclone Hamish turned it on for us,” Fanning said. “It’s one of those days where you can have one of the best surfs of your life or one of the worst surfs of your life. It wasn’t the best surf of my life, but it was definitely up there.”

He followed this up with an 8.23 on a dirtier version of the previous wave. With less than 5 minutes left, Parko needed 9.99 out of 10 to win. So what did he do?

Pulls into a 5 second hell pit to claim a 10 point score, advancing into the finals with style.

“I didn’t see Joel’s 9.90 but I saw his 10,” Fanning said. “When his head popped out, I knew. I said to myself I would give that a 10. Congratulations to him, he surfed an awesome heat.”

Heat #2 of the semi-finals forced Taj Burrow and Adrian de Souza to fight off pelting rain and raging wind gusts, to find a wave in the chaotic lineup.

It was a slow heat, and with the relentless rain all the crowd could do was listen for updates from the Tower. Mother nature wasn’t on Taj’s side. He struggled for 40 minutes to catch anything that resembled a wave, resulting in a 3.67 as his highest scoring wave.

De Souza was able to find some hidden gems and easily discarded Burrows, advancing into the final round against Joel Parkinson.

“I felt really lost at sea,” Burrow said. “It was a total lucky dip, then the wind squall came through and it got even more wild and washed out. Every time a wave came that looked any good, Adriano [de Souza] was sitting next to me with priority. I was just really unlucky. Last time I surfed here, I got a perfect 10 as a wildcard, so I have good memories of Kirra. I would have loved a 10 at the end of that heat. I’m just looking forward to the next event now.”

After a 30-minute break, the clouds began to part as the horn sounded signaling the start of the final heat.

I was posted in a warm crook on the groin, below the long-lens shooters, and next to Parkinson’s wife and family. Nervous and excited at the same time, they were well behind Parkinson.

Joel came out on fire, and had De Souza combo'd needing a combined 16.34 after nine minutes into the heat.

De Souza didn’t give in. Fighting like a champion in his first ever final in a WCT event, he clawed out of his combo position, but needing a perfect 10 to overtake Parkinson.

The dagger through the heart was Parkinson’s second 10-point ride in as many heats. Air dropping into a hefty slab, and driving for 4 seconds, Parko made tube riding look easy.

"I was thinking it has been a long time between drinks,” Parkinson said. “Until the hooter blew, I didn’t know what emotion to feel. It's the kind of thing where you're surrounded by a lot of people and it's not until you pull yourself back and you're together with family and friends, that's really when you feel all of your emotions. Right now I'm on a high and I'm buzzing, it will be a few hours to let it all sink in."

Joel Parkinson returns to the winner’s podium and moves into first place in the WCT ratings race.

After the win his wife was ecstatic, saying, “Anything can happen out there.  I wasn’t actually that nervous because I had faith in his abilities, he’s got it all, he knows what he is doing out there.”

Watch for Mick and Joel to battle it out all year on the WC T.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Game Over Dane

Like the outer bands of cyclone Hamish hammering my tent this morning, day 12 of the Quicksilver Pro got off to a sluggish start.  

7am contest call, no word.  9am call, nothing.  Sitting in the media room watching the building swell push through the near empty lineup at Snapper Rocks, I had my doubts.  I was torn.  

The 4th round match-ups for todays heats were stacked.  Fanning vs. Flores, Taj vs. Dane, Damo vs. Wilson.  But after a 6:30am synoptic chart purusal with my mate Punchy, I was feeling the itch to bail 3 hours north and catch the rising ESE swell at Noosa Heads. 

I'm glad I didn't.

The call came in just after 10am.  The comp was relocating just north to Coolangatta Beach, where 4-5 foot short period storm sets were starting to gape in front of the Kirra groin. 

A small but dedicated crowd watched as the remaining 16 souls went to battle under a water laden sky.

The last 8 heats of round 4 went down business as usual with Fanning, Parko, and the Hobgoods surfing like veterans to advance into the quarter-finals.  

Julian Wilson might've felt like a man jumping off the headland into the line-up yesterday at Snapper Rocks, but he was sent to the beach like a child after Damo disposed of him with his patented backside attack.  A feat not lost on the judges in the forehand favoring right-handers.

The main battle took place in Heat 7.  Taj Burrow, guardian of the old school air mavericks vs. Dane Reynolds, super stylish and carefree new school air monger.  Slater even scampered down the rocks with Benji Weatherly to get a front row seat for the action.  

Taj came out early with clean barrel riding and consisten hacks off the top, forcing Reynolds into a combo situation needing a 12.85.  Reynolds answered back with a deep barrel, charging out and gliding over a massive end section.  The judges handed him a 9.5.  

Taj was not to be outdone.  With an inconvenient squall line pushing through, he pulled into a massive outside pit, driving and driving like he was back in Mexico running the sand off the bank.  Rewarded with a 9.10, he backed this up on the next wave with a 7.9.  Super Dane needed a 7.5 or better with less than 8 minutes left. 

The rain left all but those equipped running for shelter.  As the skies cleared with just over 2 minutes remaining, Slater pops out from under a rock completely dry, to cheer on Reynolds.  He catches two waves, grabs a mean barrel, and a 6.73 from the judges.  Game Over Dane.  

Slater said the judges were crazy.  He was totally in Dane's corner, and I see why.  I think he sees the immense raw talent there, the immediately identifiable style, and the passion in his surfing.  But he knows that Dane isn't a natural competitor.  Without some big finishes early in the game to keep him addicted, he might just bow out of the big dance altogether and go about his business, not looking back, not giving a damn. 

Let's hope for the spectators sake he keeps his eye's on right ahead.


Dane the Mane...

Cyclone Hammish moves further offshore northern Queensland, showing signs of fizzle and sucking the wind out of the building swell hype around Quick-Pro base camp.  

The contest is on hold this morning with a 9am call at Kirra.  Conditions will be assessed and one of the 3 points (Snapper Rocks, Greenmount, Kirra) will be dubbed to hold center court to the quarter final action.

The second half of round 3 was held yesterday in building ESE swell, at Snapper Rocks, with no major upsets. 

The buzz on the beach is the much hyped Dane Reynolds air show that comes to town whenever he paddles out.  He's posted the two highest contest scores and the only perfect 10 with his laid back, no worries attack on unsuspecting wave sections.  

In his heat against focused Hawaiian, Roy Powers, you could feel the hair raising on the backs of the tour veterans necks, as Reynolds casually huck'd a massive air reverse, where most would have opted for a safe power carve to appease the judges.   

The fault line has cracked, and the tremors could be felt when judges rewarded his no regrets style with a 9.4 score, on a wave with only 2 maneuvers, and half as long as Powers previous contest safe textbook 8.77.  

Good on ya' Dane.  What most fail to realize is that a fall by Reynolds, and he's packing bags.   I doubt he'd be crying, more time to crush brew, or go free surfing, or paint.  

Precisely what the top pros fear.  A mega-talented dream spoiler, dropping a shaka as he floats air 2 feet above.   Reynolds would rather set his fins free and show the people on the beach what they came to see.  Progression.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

King of the Peak Sent Packing

For Kelly Slater, winning might not be everything, but losing is something he's obviously not good at.  

In today's 3rd round action at the Quicksilver Pro, crowds swarmed the beach for the much anticipated match-up between 9 time world champ Slater, and event wild card Julian Wilson. 

The last heat of the day, held in 3 foot semi-clean conditions at Snapper Rocks, lived up to the hype.  

Wilson got out to an early lead taking off on a beefy set-wave.  He unleashed a mean forehand cutback, then sped down the line linking stylish turns with power and fluidness, working the wave all the way inside where it reformed and offered a jacking face that Wilson destroyed.  He copped a 8.5 for his efforts.  

With 12 minutes left in the heat, Wilson had Slater combo-ed.  Which means Slater needed 2 scoring rides to take over the lead.  A position Slatz is more than comfortable in. 

Riding his self shaped 5'3" board, Slater picked off a good sized set wave and carved a few signature turns, before slightly bogging his rail.  It seemed his equipment was holding him back from doing what he does best. 

He posted an underscored 6.17, and needed a hefty score to move in front of Wilson.

Wilson had wave priority, and with time ticking down it didn't look like mother nature was going to produce the goods for Slater.

Then, with 4 minutes left in the heat, Wilson let a decent sized wave go by.  Slater pounced on it.  In classic Slatz style he charged down the line throwing spray higher than the looming Point Danger. 

He milked it inside, laying down a massive tail slide cutty, but it wasn't enough.  With his early departure from the Quicksilver Pro, Slater's march for a tenth world title is off to a crumbling start.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Contest Site A Ghost Town

With the flat, onshore conditions hanging around like a parasitic kook, the pros take another day off to rest, praying for a cyclone in the near future.  

The scene at ground zero is grim, not many people around, barely a wave to ride and light rain bands passing through on the hour.  

I managed to get a session in at D-bah on the early and had fun.  It was empty except for a few pros keeping limber and the odd euro monger getting in their way.   

If the forecast holds we should see some action tomorrow.  

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Gold Coast is Flat

No contest on today for men or women, experiencing extreme flatness on the Gold Coast today.  Looks like swell building on Thursday, possibly Wednesday afternoon.  We should get a decent southerly pulse by the weekend, hopefully it will be enough to move the comp back to Snapper Rocks... 

Monday, March 2, 2009

Rookies Take Over First Round of Roxy Pro

The first round of the Roxy Pro was held at D-bah this morning, while the men had another lay day.  

Round 1 saw explosive action from the young guns, with 4 out of 6 heats won by rookies.  Sally Fitzgibbons (AUS), the fastest ever to qualify for the women's tour was on fire, surfing with power and precision scoring a 9.6 on her way to winning her heat. 

Long gone are the days of sludgy bottom turns and near off the top maneuvers by the ladies. This years Dream Tour collection of women is by far the most progressive ever.  With 10 point rides going down and floaty frontside airs, it's no secret that women's surfing has arrived.  

I paddled out after the comp and witnessed some unbelievable surfing from the worlds best women surfers.  I was amazed at the speed, flow, and altitude these women were showing on the mushy 2 foot waves that I was barely able to stand on.  

If you thought woman's surfing was boring and slow, think again.  Log on to and check out the coverage live and see for yourself.   

5 Questions with Aritz Aranburu

Coming off an injury plagued rookie year on tour, Aritz Aranburu is hoping learn from his mistakes and climb up the rankings this year. 

Hailing from Spain, Aritz joins Jeremy Flores, Tim Boal, and Mikael Picon from France, Tiago Pires  from Portugal, and Marlon Lipke from Germany as part of the largest European contigent ever on tour.  

I sat down with Aritz to ask him about his life on tour...

What is your favorite wave in Europe?
Mundaka for sure.  It's where I have my best moments when I'm free surfing.  I hope we have good waves there this year on tour.

Who do you think is surfing the best out of the Europeans?
Jeremy is surfing strong, he did really well in the first round.  I think everyone is in good form, you just have to wait for good waves and I think anyone can show their best time.

What do you do with the down time on tour?
You know, I think it is really import to connect when you are surfing, but it is also just as important to disconnect.  When the contest is finished you try to learn from the mistakes you made, and don't make them again. After that I like to spend time with friends, go to the cinema, listen to music, or read a book.

What is your favorite event on the tour?
I really like the events at Teahupoo and Pipeline.  The feeling is so different out there where you can surf big waves, it's really special and dangerous.  You respect the wave.  

Is there an element of fear when you surf these waves?
Yah, there is always the fear.  You can get seriously injured, or die you know.  But when you have a heat you always go 110 percent.   You push yourself a lot more than in normal situations.

What is your goal on tour this year?
I know that on the WCT, you need a lot of experience for this tour.  I want to keep learning from the guys that have been there the longest.  And, just try to stay on the tour and claim some positions. 

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Contest Off Today

Small swell and howling north winds crushing the lineups today.  

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Quicksilver Pro Round 1 Relocated to Duranbah

The first round of the 2009 Quicksilver Pro kicked off this morning in classic 2-3 foot offshore conditions at D-bah beach.  The swell wasn't doing it for Snapper Rocks and the points, so event organizers moved the comp up the beach for a 7:30 a.m. start.  

The Europeans came out blazing with Jeremy Flores (FRA), and Tiagoa Pires (PRT) both winning their heats and advancing directly into the 3rd round.  Marlon Lipke (DEU), the first ever surfer from Germany didn't fare as well.  He struggled to get momentum in his heat and failed to connect more that a few turns on his scoring rides.

2007 World Champ, Mick Fanning (AUS), patiently waited for his share of waves.  Catching his two scoring rides with less than 10 minutes left in the heat,  Fanning just slid past Phil MacDonald (AUS) for the win.

Riding a newly designed 5'4" hybrid stick that he shaped himself, Kelly Slater (USA) pulled explosive moves in the pocket to easily win his heat.  The champ seemed very focused and ready for his 10th world title run.  After the heat he didn't stop for autographs and ran up the beach, away from the onslaught of spectators en tow.

Other standouts were ozzie Julian Wilson (AUS), Damien Hobgood(USA), and Taj Burrows(AUS).  

Wilson was surfing harder and going bigger than anybody else, landing 360 airs and destroying lips as he nudged out world number 2, Bede Durbidge(AUS) for the win.  He seemed the crowd favorite.  With the local lasses falling at his feet he signed autographs and posed for photos for nearly 15 minutes after winning his heat.  Look for him to go big in this event. 

Dane Reynolds surfed strong and looked relaxed as he shot it out with fellow aerialist, Burrows coming in a close second.  He'll fight it out with local hero Corey Ziems in round 2, hoping to stay alive. 

Brazilians Heitor Alves, and Adrian de Souza both looked strong.  Alves was throwing massive amounts of water on his backside attack, going beyond vertical to win a close heat between the German Lipke, and Ace Bucham. De Souza was smooth and consistent to beat out the South African phenom, Jordy Smith. 

Round 2 action looks like a go for tomorrow morning at D-Bah.  Check in for updates...

Friday, February 27, 2009

Corey Ziems wins final wild card slot for Quiksilver Pro

Local ripper posts the highest score in preliminary rounds to win the last wild card seat into the main event.  

"I can't  believe it", said the 25 year old from Currumbin, QLD.  

He'll join fellow wild cards, Danny Wills and Julian Wilson on a mission to collect a chunk of the $340,000 in the contest vault.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Good friends in the ZEE

It's always good to catch up and reconnect with old friends.  I spent the last month living with my best friend from early childhood, on the west coast of New Zealand.  After 18 months working hard in Orlando for another great friend, it was nice to finally relax and get back in the water again.  The surf was solid and consistent most of my time here, even if the mud bay sand banks weren't showing their best face.  When I wasn't surfing I was playing guitar or jamming with an old mate down the street.  Tomorrow I'm off to the Gold Coast for the first stop on the tour, Superbank...