THE STOKE NEVER STOPS
First Point, Noosa, is the home of the Laguna Real Estate Noosa Festival of Surfing, the perfect point waves synonymous with the event and what brings surfer back year after year.
So it was disappointing for all to have to spend the duration of finals day at the alternate beach break location. The day started promisingly, and many good waves flowed through, wind a gentle offshore and a solid two feet of swell gracing the first heats.
With the semis of the Laguna Real Estate completed bright and early, it was time for the finals to commence, first to take to the waves the Under 15 junior divisions. A Queensland-strong heat saw Summer Gauld do well to get third, Liliana Bowrey – the most diminutive of the little ladies – hold her own for fourth, but our friends from over the Pacific dominating, Sasha Kauhane taking second, the win going to Hawaiian Kelis Keleopa’a in exceptional form.
On the other side of the gender coin, the boys once more showed maturity and skill beyond their years, many onlookers simply amazed at the talents of these young men. In his first of two finals today, Gus O’Malley did well to take second, but few could deny that Josh Armistead was the deserved winner, despite some significant challengers.
It was then the turn of the Under 18s and there was no denying that these youngsters are every bit as good as their more senior contemporaries, several of the finalists also competing in open and pro divisions.
Tully White was the lone Australian in the Salt Magazine Women’s Under 18 and did well against a strong US-Hawaiian contingent to take fourth. A very unfortunate and uncharacteristic interference call saw defending champion Honolua Blomfield relegated to fifth, with Mason Schremmer surfing brilliantly to take the undisputed win.
With the shifting tides, surfers in the morning’s heats split themselves across two banks, one to the left, the other to the right, giving the judges a hard time but competitors the opportunity to surf on their strongest side.
Big hair, big smile, big stoke – it was a big performance that secured a win for Kaniela Stewart. Up against some strong local talent in Kai Annetts, Nic Brewer, Cale Coulter and Tom Morat, Stewart did well to stave off the challenges, the best of which was from young Japanese surfer, Tsukamoto Masaya, who took a well-earned second place.
It was then the turn of the other end of the spectrum, the most senior division paddling out for the Magoo Memorial 70 & Over Open, before ticking down through the age ranks.
Sue Altmann showed grit and grace, but the lads were surfing hard. Defending champ, Glenn Martin would have to be satisfied with a third, while surfing legend, Rusty Miller illuminated, starting late but gaining an undisputed lead, which he held for the win.
Likewise, Bruce Channon had a fall from grace, the perennial victor relinquishing the World Surfaris Men’s 65 & Over crown to Earle Page, who took the win despite a blistering heat from Dave Wilson.
It was a long time coming for Albie Curtis, a continual finalist but very stoked victor in the Old Guys Rule Men’s 60 & Over, the always-strong Eric Walker making do with a third.
It was a four-way tussle in the Bear Surf Over 55s, Wayne Dive, Scotto Ford, Charlie O-Sullivan and Gilles Fesselet all in contention and all surfing well, but when the 20th minute had ticked by, O’Sullivan’s name was the one at the top of the list.
Glen Gower was unlucky to find a score on the right-hand bank, Hayden Swan surfing will on the opposing break, the eventual winner threatened at numerous times through the heat by lone Brazilian surfer, Marcello Ferro, who claimed second in the Kennards Hire 50 & Over.
Former Australian indigenous champion Robbie Page couldn’t find a wave of note, succumbing and an early lead to Dan Croskery and an on-form Damian Coulter, 2017 victor of the 2017 GJ Gardner Men’s 40 & Over.
The last of the age divisions, the In Noosa Women’s 35 & Over was noticeably missing perennial title-holder, Peppie Simpson, the Noosa local unable to attend this year’s event. A Queensland-strong division was superseded by the brilliant performances of Japan’s Chiaki Ikeda and winner Keiko Kodaka, Marnie Morat flying the local flag in third.
The Women’s Pro semi-final was noticeably absent of defending champ, Honolua Blomfield, who had suffered and injury freesurfing, and Sierra Lerback, Soleil Errico, Kirra Seale and Hiroka Yoshikawa progressed to the tinal later in the day.
Swell and tide dropping, wind elevating from the north, conditions were rapidly deteriorating as the Teams Challenge paddled out. With team members having to tag each other on the beach and a penalty imposed upon those not back in their team zone within the allotted 30 minutes, the Teams Challenge is always energised, and the 2017 final was no different. Leading for the entire heat, the Golden Breed team looked to be a shoe-in, but the internationalists of the Ray White Noosa team were charging, making it back to the sand with five seconds to spare. Silenced in anticipation, they waited for the final score, erupting in cheers as it was announced that they had won by the narrowest of margins, just 0.05, over the Golden Breeders.
It was a thing of frustration to hold the inaugural Gordon & Smith ‘Switch’ Invitational in rapidly diminishing conditions, but with no other option, the show had to go on. Josh Constable surfed brilliantly, leading at one stage, with excellent waves ridden on both the long and shortboards required to be used in this unique event. But division host and Gordon & Smith team rider Dane Wilson had a reputation to hold and greater incentive and poured everything he had into a fine win.
The Open Amateurs were amateur only in name, both men and women surfing brilliantly.
It was wonderful to see Hiroka Yoshikawa come out on top, one of our first ever Japanese division winners, but her journey to the top wasn’t made easy by a dynamic Kirra Seale and a strong performance from Sunshine Coaster, Kathryn Hughes.
Kaimana Takayama has been surfing incredibly all week and his efforts didn’t abate in the Laguna Real Estate Men’s Open, taking the crown from defending champ Nic Jones, who took second, with Hawaiian Keoki Saguibo in third.
The Wilsons, Dave and Dane, and Jack and John Norton have had a running battle in recent years in the Noosa Civic Family Challenge division. Defending champs, The Nortons, humbly passed the mantle this year, but it is sure not to be the last time the pair of father-son teams go head-to-head.
Donning bright, hibiscus-printed Okanui board shorts for their heat, the finalists of the Okanui Old Mal really struggled in the now dire conditions, but it didn’t dampen their spirits. Gus O’Malley gave away over a decade in age and experience to his more senior finalists and truly held his own. Jack Norton did brilliantly, just falling short of a win to Californian, Jared Mell.
Meanwhile, Harrison Roach and Thomas Bexon were just having fun. It was testament to their humility and skill that they preferred to entertain the onlookers than fight it out, performing headstands, board transfers and reflecting the aloha spirit of surfing.
How anyone could noseride to any worth in the crumbling, onshore waves was astounding, testament to the talents of the finalists. Harley Ingleby did well, but it was local lad, Clinton Guest who mustered 11 seconds of tip time to take the victory.
A double-win for Japan’s Hiroka Yoshikawa, the heat an almost carbon copy of the Open Ams. Kirra Seale again took second, with Californian Soleil Errico third and Sierra Lerback finishing the field.
The grande finale was left to the Logger Pro. With barely a scrap of a wave to be caught, it was far from what was wished for for the premiere event. Former world champion, Harley Ingleby surfer hard, coming close to the trophy, but in the last five minutes, Bowie Pollard found a ripple to post the score that would take him into the lead and give him the win.
Presentations were full of smiles, cheers, hoots and applause, winners, losers and non-competitors all showing the camaraderie, aloha and stoke for which the festival has become so universally renowned.
One of the most anticipated parts of the festival’s presentation evening is the competitor prize draw, and 2017 was no different. A 10-foot noserider SUP was up for grabs from event sponsor, Blue Planet, with sensational one-week trip for two in the Maldives kindly contributed by World Surfaris director, John Finlay. Finaly was on hand to draw the winning name and, after three failed attempts, found a winner in attendance in John Norton. Far more than a commiseratory prize for his dethroning in the Teams Challenge, the question on everyone’s lips was who would be his guest; his wife or his son and team mate, Jack!
Pat Capocci shook the sand on the Zinc Stage followed by local blues rockers Los LAws, the entire crowd, old and young, celebrating the end of what has been a jam-packed, exhausting, thrilling, wonderful ‘8 Days of Pure Stoke.’