Jim Beam Surftag
Lennox Head, NSW, Australia
11 January, 2014
Le-Ba Boardriders take out Jim Beam regional Surftag
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 13 January, 2014 - It was a day for the record books on Saturday when perfect surf, blue skies and radical surfing combined into what many were calling the best conditions for a Jim Beam Surftag event in its 13 year history. It was the ideal way to debut the Far North Coast Regional event with groomed, 3 to 4 waves grinding into North Wall Ballina, providing massive scoring potential for five hours of competitive surfing.
And as monster personal and combined totals dropped during every heat, it was the local Le-Ba Boardriders – consisting of James Woods, Stu Kennedy, Marcus Aboody, Steven Walsh and Jo Hudson – who peaked to perfection and walked away with the regional title and plenty of confidence for the Australian Championships in March.
Mr. Consistent, James Woods, was the standout competitor for Le-Ba and has over the years proved he is one of the strongest surfers in the tag-team format. The North Coast club man handled the final with a 129.37 heat total, nearly 30 points clear of second position, Byron Bay.
“Man, what a day, it was so good, there was some epic surf,” said Woods. “It was a tight final. The lead went back and forth between us and Byron.”
“It was wave for wave for most of the final. We all managed to get in quickly and it gave our last surfer Joey Hudson plenty of time and that was where we won it and jumped right out.”
Garrett Parkes © Wes Lonergan
“We all averaged 20-plus scores so that was what did it for us, no one fell and everyone’s best wave was their Powerwave. But we had a pretty slow start to the day. A few of us hadn’t been surfing for a whole and we were getting used to the format again and luckily got it together at the right time. The other boys slowly got their eye in and by the final they were all ripping.”
Woods’ performance earned him the Tee Ink Man of the Match, meaning the stylish natural-footer will compete in the Tee Ink Tee Off at the Australian Championships. This speciality event will see the Man of the Match from the six Jim Beam Surftag Qualifiers compete in a 15-minute heat with each surfer only to catch one wave.
“If you haven’t surfed in a tag event for a year or so it can take a while to get used to it again – that’s what some of us had to do,” he said. “You can’t put too much pressure on yourself because that’s when you’ll fall.”
“It was good to get a win at home, everyone was down there and I think having the Far North Coast Qualifier for the first time, we’ll see some big teams over the next few years. We needed this event because there’s a heap of other clubs that could have really good teams like Sawtell, Angourie, Yamba, there’s so many good waves up here.”
While they dominated proceedings in the closing stages of the day, Le-Ba was in constant battle with Byron Bay Boardriders as the two form teams of the day. Byron Bay finished on 101.57, a score that would have won countless events in the past. Among the surfboards, a second place and an Aus. Champs berth, Garrett Parkes also packed a BOSCH Rock Box into the car boot at the end of the day after netting the highest score – a silky 9.67 – on his BOSCH Powerwave.
While the two standouts were vying for the top prize, a hearty battle was taking place at the other end of the final. With only three teams going through to the Nationals at Duranbah Beach (March 27-29), the difference between third and fourth was costly. Kingscliff (89.30) secured the final spot for the national event but Cabarita (79.4) were left licking their wounds in fourth position and will have to wait till next season for another crack at the most prestigious title in club surfing.
Shaun Cansdell © Wes Lonergan
Parkes said it was the best conditions they’d had on the North Coast in months. “The surf was really good, you couldn’t have asked for much more. 3 foot North Wall, right up against the rock, it was like D-Bah.”
“A win would have been nice but the boys are stoked to get through to the finals. It was between us and Le-Ba all day but their team was just deadly. It was always going to be hard to beat them, they were flawless. Woody particularly was tearing the bag out of it and Steven Walsh was surfing really good too.”
Along with Parkes, Danny Wills, Soli Bailey, Luke Stickley and Karl Woolcot represented the Byron club and proved they will be a difficult team to trump at the Nationals. Soli Bailey emerged as one of Australia’s hottest future talents at the event and carried his recent winning form at the Bells Beach Pro Junior to turn heads all day long with a vicious rail game. Danny Wills showed that while his competitive days may be behind him he’s still got the nous to mix it with the best, scoring the highest heat total of the day, 32.93.
“I reckon we’ve got the team that could win up there,” Parkes said. “We’re going to need to do a bit of training for the event. It’s $15,000 and 7-day boat trip on the line so we’ll definitely be taking it serious.”
“Every team at the Nationals can win the title,” said Woods. “The qualifiers are hard enough. It doesn’t even matter how strong your team is if a few of the boys slip up on a powerwave it’s all over.”
Full credit must also be given to Jim Beam Surftag debutants, Coffs Harbour, with former World Tour Pro, Shaun Cansdell blitzing a 10-point ride on his first ever wave in Jim Beam Surftag. The newest addition to the Jim Beam Surftag field fell short in the semi-final but showed they’ve got the talent and depth to be a strong contender in the future.
The Jim Beam Surftag is the biggest tag team surfing series in the country with a combined prize pool of over $130,000 in cash and prizes with the overall winners receiving $15,000 and a Boat Trip to the Maldives courtesy of Perfect Wave Travel.