The first day of surfing competition started a little bleak at the Laguna Real Estate Noosa Festival of Surfing, with a steady stream from the heavens dampening the sand a First Point, but if couldn’t dampen spirits.
While the festival officially launched yesterday with exhibitions and the first round of the Garage Handplanes Body Bash, Sunday kicked off with the longboards, and first into the water were the teams for the Bendigo Bank Family Challenge.
With great results already under their belts in the Body Bash, the Marr family, Jae and Tom, surfed superbly to win through to round two, knocking out the perennially strong Nortons. Gus O’Malley brought his outstanding form of last year, with 52 weeks more experience, to the festival, leading his dad, John, into heat two, while the Takayamas, Kaimana and Michael also had a very strong win.
It was fantastic to see the Brits showing up strong, father and son, Chris and Connor Griffiths journeying from the other side of the world and showing no signs of jetlag to progress, and the dynamite local team of Thomas Surfboards glasser, Jake Bowrey and daughter Liliana surfed a blistering heat to victory.
The change in tide meant big lulls between sets, and patience was the competitors’ best friend in a challenging semi-final round of the Garage Handplanes Body Bash. Maroochydore’s Zane Baxter – the division’s youngest competitor did excellently against a tough lineup to come second to current world champion, David Ford, while defending champ, Tom Marr, was joined by his younger brother Jacob to progress to the final.
The Classic Malibu Teams Challenge is always a hell-for-leather frantic race against the clock. The teams of four have thirty minutes to catch one top wave each, with a five-point penalty a constant threat, should they not make it back to the beach by heat’s end. Several teams throughout the opening round suffered such consequences, but the diverse range of surfers offered some incredible action for the spectators.
Defending champions, Ray White Noosa, lead out by Jai Lee and Jared Mell, were little short of perfect, decimating heat one for a strong lead, while their second team, the Ray White Holiday Noosa team did likewise in heat two. Former world champion, Taylor Jensen, was simply remarkable, but it was the familiar names were the ones creeping through to round two. MS Surfboards – a young team all shy of 20 years old, showed maturity and talent in equal portions to claim a healthy second, making the second round a very exciting prospect.
The heavens gave way and the sun shone upon round two of the sudden death Bendigo Bank Family Challenge, only the winning team being permitted progression to the final, to take place next Saturday. The lulls had expanded with the dropping tide, and teams were challenged to find a significant ride. The Marrs were unable to match the English contingent, the Griffiths family surfing brilliantly to progress, joined by Chris Cox and Matt Schuler in heat two, and the Californian Takayamas in the third.
Back again to the teams, and the Ray White Noosa team again showed sublime talent, but despite doing enough to progress, wee unable to hold back the youthful consistency of the MS Surfboards foursome. The Surf Relik team, headed again by Taylor Jensen, took the win in the second semi-final, with the two teams from Thomas Surfboards both making up the numbers.
The two Garage Handplanes Body Bash finals – the men’s and inaugural women’s, displayed almost dolphin-like prowess from contestants. Without the assistance and floatation of surfboards, it was a wonder they could even catch a wave, let alone perform spectacularly.
It was in the last ten minutes that Californian Kate Maxfield caught her first significant wave, a high seven-point wave, but the big flat spells in between sets didn’t offer much hope…until the final thirty seconds. Queensland’s Lynda Franklin had been leading for much of the heat before being ousted by Loz Williams from WA, but a miraculous set saved the Californian, Maxfiled in perfect position to take a beautiful wave that carried her almost through to the sand and straight into first place and the victory.
Showing the skills that have gifted him a world title, David Ford was unstoppable. Zane Baxter again did brilliantly, but defending champ Tom Marr, despite a good opening wave, could not find a second to give him the points required. It would be time to relinquish his three-times crown of the event, but to succumb to the current world champion in Ford is hardly shameful, and all finalists surfed exceptionally.
Rain poured onto the day’s closing heat for the Underground Surf Old Mal division, but despite the soaking, contestants were on fire. Surfing boards that pre-date 1968, the first round competitors were gifted a slight rise in swell and more consistency in the First Point lineup. Defending champion, Jared Mell, did nothing short of annihilate heat one, surfing progressively despite the antiquity of his craft. Matt Cuddihy did likewise in heat two, while the walking – and surfing – encyclopaedia of surfing history, Matt Chojnacki, was a textbook exemplification of the old-style form.
Always strong in the division, Jack Norton made up the winners, but the semi-final was packed with the names of superb exponents, including last year’s surprise bronze medallist, Gus O’Malley, surprising only in that he is over a decade the junior of many of his fellow contestants.
Day two of competition done, the bar opened for the Garage Handplanes Body Bash presentations. Noosa’s youngest rockers the Myths, all aged between 10 and 12, were absolute dynamite on stage, festival co-founder and former director Phil Jarratt even coming to the fore to kick up the sand to many surf and rock classics, including Led Zepplin, Jimi Hendrix and the Beatles.
With Old Man Friday’s chilled, surfy vibes easing the night away, we ticked of day two with stoke and smiles.
Photos: Ian Borland