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 Roxypro.com 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.