Cricks Noosa Festival of Surfing
First Point Noosa, Queensland
8 - 17 March 2014
Old men froth like grommets final day of event
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 16 March, 2014 - Finals day dawned immaculate. All week long, competitors and have been proclaiming, "it doesn't get any better", but as each day has dawned, they have been proven wrong, and never more so than today. The Adventure Sports Under 15 Boys were first to take advantage of the glassy, rolling, two-to-three foot waves, absolutely ideal Longboarding conditions for the final.
These youngsters surfed ten years beyond their years, their wave reading and technical skills belying their diminutive ages. Sportsman of the year went to Cale Coulter. Fellow Alexandra Headlands surfer, Kai Ennetts took off late on a set wave, getting clipped, his board washing towards the rocks. Disregarding his own scores and waves, Coulter rode a wave on his knees into the inside to retrieve his buddy's board.
"It was just because it was Kai," said the ever-humble Coulter. "He's a mate and he's from the same club." Ennetts came second, Coulter fifth - did his chivalry cost home the heat? Maybe, but he was the one who gained the respect and attention when they hit the sand.
The junior girls paddled out into the best waves of the week, no wind, four-foot sets and a higher tide allowing absolutely beautiful displays in delicacy, poise and grace. ISA World Junior Champion, Honolua Blomfield was untouchable, head and shoulders beyond her adversaries, who nonetheless surfed superb heats. Making up a USA one-two-three, Hawaiian Kirra Seale had a stunning heat, Karina Rozunko making up the medals.
The old boys got their turn in the all-time conditions, Barry 'Magoo' McGuigan the granddaddy of them all, and inspiration to fellow competitors alike, still charging at almost 85 years young.
Former US World Champion, Rusty Miller surfed like a grommet possessed, hardly indicative of the PJ Burns Men's Over 65 division in which he was surfing. A gentle onshore wind began to rise, folding the top of the waves and, combined with the dropping tide, creating grinding freight trains through the Noosa Lineup.
The Classic Malibu Teams Challenge was out of control. Despite holidaying way off in Fiji, Cyclone Lusi was breathing fresh energy into the swell, growing by the minute and proving demanding for the 24 competitors.
Zye Norris © Ian Borland
Joe Davies, surfing for the Foam Symmetry team fell foul of the inside bowl, the wave dragging the wave from under his feet to implode on top of him. Thomas Bexon and Malaki Mitchell surfed a strong leg for their team, the Thomas Surfboards / Captain Sip Sop's quartet, but it wasn't enough to overcome the four Deus-kateers, Matt Cuddihy, Harrison Roach, Husni Ridwan and Zye Norris.
Every wave ridden brought gasps and winces from the onlooking crowd, the pathway out to First Point standing room only, beach-bound spectators huddling in any available shade from the scorching midday sun. The Hive Swimwear Open Amateurs, as with so many of these final heats, was too close to call. Two surfers from USA, two from New South Wales, a Victorian and a local and all bets were off with the six girls all surfing superbly.
So too for the Wimmers Men's Open Ams, an international contingent having surfed an incredible week to reach this final. The broken fingered local, Patrick O'Leary, couldn't find his pace in the tricky waves, the warping double-ups on the outer bank reflecting a small Shipsterns Bluff. It was the French brothers Delpero, Edouard and Antoine, who dominated the heat, the pair trading long speed runs to the inside section and an open face with which to work. Both surfers did well, but it was Edouard who emerged victorious.
The Bank of Queensland Family Challenge was nothing short of dynamite. Dane Wilson performed textbook manoeuvres in the most critical sections, but a couple of stumbles denied him a solid score. Father Dave charged the point like he was at Waimea, tearing down the line on his red, 11-foot battleship. Matt Cuddihy led the father-son team, but his old man, Win, took up the challenge and put many of his younger peers on the beach to shame, fearlessly taking on Huey's offerings. Jack Norton was the stand-out, taking off on the biggest waves from furthest out, huge rides racking up impressive scores, while dad, John, held his own on the inside.
The final of the inaugural Deus Body Womp Comp had bodysurf legend Mark Cunningham lost for words. The opening two rides, from Phil Gabel and Rene Nippard, were ridiculously long, over a hundred metres in perfect, body-sliding trim. As was seen through the week and in the Jeep Waterman Challenge, HArrison Roach's bodysurfing skills are sublime. Taking off late, Harrison somehow managed to project himself past the white water, into the open face, in and out of barrels and far, far down the line. Rewarded accordingly by the judges, this spectacular display gained not only the reverence of Cunningham, but also the win.
Jacob Stuth has been absent from his local Noosa lineup for several years of traveling, but a successful return saw him surf astoundingly in the final of the Foam Symmetry Old Mal. Throwing his board around, he even managed a huge re-entry on the close-out end section to finish his wave. But it was local larrikin Harrison Biden, closely followed by Thomas Bexon of Thomas Surfboards, who would claim the trophy, not to take anything away from the incredibly skillful surfing of all finalists under very challenging conditions.
BIden was in the water again, fancy-dressed and clowning around for the MIss Moneypenny Tandem event. He and his 'partner' performed all manner of weird and wonderful tandem tricks - stupid, yes, tomfoolery, without a doubt. But, with the waves a pumping, grinding four-foot, all joking aside it was an incredible exhibition of the duo's surfing talents. So to was the breathtakingly graceful and gymnastic show by Fred a Lily Branger. Lifts, balances and amazing manoeuvres that most would find hard on land were executed in critical sections of powerful waves to the great appreciation of the crowd.
After Hawaiian Kirra Seale pulled a fantastically poised Super Girl pull-out in the Little Humid Costume Party, the Seaglass Project Finless Challenge commenced. Waves thick with sand dredged from the shallow banks tested the finless sliders to their limits, but none backed down. All surfers were on form, but the final was really a two-man show. Jordie Brown and Braden Weir traded the lead back and forth but, by the halfway mark, it was clear that the man who had clocked two perfect tens in the previous heat, Braden Weir, had the upper hand. Jordie retaliated and perhaps, with another five minutes up his sleeve, may have gone into the lead. But when the hooter belched its fractious wail, it was Weir with the points that mattered.
The Golden Breed Noserider was a deja vu, at least in the sense that, while waves were delectable for some, for the tip-timers it was far from ideal. Bowie Pollard, such a stand-out of previous days, could not find his form in the larger conditions. A single solid score in the 30-minute final maintained his credibility as a superb noserider, but it was not enough to bridge the gap. Taylor Jensen used his large frame and multiple world championship-winning experience to tackle the bigger waves, managing to make sections that defied logic. Not the high-scoring Noserider event we have seen in the past, but equally if not more as impressive due to the sizeable and swift conditions, too fast and critical to open up for significant nose riding potential.
Kathryn Hughes and Mele Saili returned to the point as the wind strengthened onshore. Waves still held form, but the northerly was certainly starting to tell. Jen Smith misread the schedule of events, tearing down the road on her skateboard ten minutes after the heat had begun. The delay cost her dearly, landing her in fourth place overall, but afterwards she was stoked simply to have surfed. But the final of the Sunshine Coast Airport Women's Pro was a one-girl show. Honolua Blomfield was simply above and beyond. With unwavering calm, she took wave after wave, big scores, acute positioning and profound wave sense, she was the undisputed champion.
The grand finale was left for the Vans Logger Pro, and what a heat. Harrison Roach took his distinctive, laid back style to a whole new level, entirely unphased, or so it seemed, by anything the ocean threw at him. Taylor Jensen was powerful, Bowie Pollard was stylish, Mitch Surman was dynamic, but Harrison stepped up, dropped ten pinkies over, headed for cover in numerous barrels and seemed to do so without so much as a flinch. None could deny it would be he who would raise the trophy.
And so it came to an end. Eight days, 13 countries represented, 28 divisions, 600 competitors, a thousand waves and a million smiles. Fun, music, prizes and the odd beer or twenty, the presentations and closing party was filled with camaraderie, family, warmth and community spirit, everyone bound by their love of the ocean.
Until next year, aloha.