thanks to Kaleb Smith[nggallery id=42]
Images from White Caps Photography
“The start of February saw sailors from across Australia converge on the pristine and wind ravaged waters of Tasmania’s North West Coast, primarily the world famous coastal areas surrounding Marrawah and further south to Arthurs River and its adjacent beaches that are buffeted by the Southern Ocean and it’s ‘Roaring Forties’, the name given to the extreme elements that traverse the Globe at 40 degrees latitude. The reason for this gathering of like minded wind and wave specialists was to test their wave sailing skills against the elements and each other. The last man standing from the double elimination man on man heat format would walk away with the 2009 Australian wave sailing Title.
Six days had been set aside for the event, unfortunately someone forgot to tell Huey and it took several days before the first expression session could be run. The Expression session format was used to cull the numbers in the open division down to a more realistic number of competitors. Sixteen places had to be filled in the Open division, three of these places had already been filled with Dan Berry, John Pott, and myself Kaleb Smith being seeded through from last years National placing. The conditions for the expression session were marginal Port tack, with 15-20 knots of wind and a small 1-2foot mushy swell. Many were claiming that it was the flattest they had ever seen Marrawah, but it wasn’t any surprise, it was the Nationals after all, that’s got to be enough to scare the wind and waves away.
All week saw Marrawah bathed in sun with little to no swell (shoulder to head high); however, spirits were still high as there was always plenty to do; surfing, diving, SUP boarding, four wheel driving, beach volleyball, ultimate frisbee, table tennis -the list goes on and on. Oh! Did I mention the pub! The sponsors and organisers had done a fantastic job, every night there was a social event to go to, be it the local bands, Nationals table tennis tournament, a huge spit roast and crayfish night or just a gathering of friends for a few quiet drinks.
Saturday 7th February saw the first day of man on man heats held at Greens Beach, to speed things up two heats would be run at the same time. The conditions were not ideal with a very gusty north easterly, starboard tack wind ranging from 5 to 20 knots. The swell was small with sets around shoulder high. The forecast was for a south west change during the afternoon and an increasing swell, this didn’t eventuate and the north easterly only eased as the day progressed leaving only the first few heats in all divisions with a result.
Sunday 8th February, the final day of the competition and Huey had answered our prayers, finally the swell had increased. It was only a marginal increase but it was due to build as the day progressed. Unfortunately the wind was cross on and around 18 knots, so it was going to be a battle. The first and second round of heats in the open, women’s and masters were fought out in challenging conditions. Around the middle of the day things hotted up, the wind swung cross shore, the swell cleaned up and increased to be over head high on the sets and best of all the competition stepped up a notch. I was knocked out during the second round of heats by my good friend and sailing buddy Simon Hanson. This relegated me to the double elimination standings and I had to fight hard to get back up the rankings.
By late afternoon the competition was into the final rounds, the Women’s was being hotly contested, local sailor Karen Robertson and Lisa Edlund-Tjernberg from Victoria were set for a showdown, until Karen hyper -extended her left elbow and had to settle on third with Marieke Machinnon moving into the final and taking second place. Lisa dominated the final with her aggressive wave riding, taking home the Crown of National Women’s Champion for 2009.
Terry North from West Australia took out the Masters crown with some huge forwards and impressive wave riding. Oliver Barta from Queensland proved that age had no boundaries as he ripped the waves apart to take home the Grand Masters trophy.
Unfortunately only one junior sailor, Alistair Mcleod was able to take time off school to attend, thanks to his Mum! Alistair also entered the Open, he sailed aggressively and proved to all that he is going to be a dedicated and serious contender in years to come.
Heading into the Open finals I had battled my way through the repechage heats to finally find myself pitted against Victorian pin up boy Joel Ryan. We were both on a high; the worst we could do was a third place. The conditions were looking good, clean waves, 18 knots cross shore. We were both using 85 litre twin fins and 5.2 sails. I had my Ezzy Panther rigged with very little down haul to try and maximise the amount of grunt I could receive. Dave Ezzy has nailed it with the Panther; the stable crisp feel of this sail delivers power when you need it without wanting to rip your arms off or compromising the performance needed to get you into, and out of the most critical section of a wave.
I started the heat with a ripper set that gave a long clean wall with several sections to charge and smack through. This sent me down the beach several hundred yards; I milked all I could out of the wave until finally I turned to head back out. My heart was pounding, my arms ached and for the life of me I couldn’t seem to get enough air into my lungs. The full day of sailing through the repechage heats to get to this point was starting to take its toll on the body, but I didn’t care, this was a Nationals semi final and I had to dig deep.
During the semi the wind dropped to around 10 to 15 knots and even back to no wind at all in the break zone. The wave riding was still great with enough wind on the face to do what was needed and get the wave count up, however, there would be no jumps to be had and it took all our stamina to continue to battle out through the white water.
At the end of the heat there was not enough wind to try and sail back to the car park, Joel and I had to settle on carrying our gear 500meters back up the beach, this was going to be hard as we were both collapsed on the beach near exhaustion and feeling very ill. Luckily for us a couple of mates ran down to carry our gear and inform us of the result, I had made it to the final.
As I stumbled off the beach, I was informed that I had 5 minutes before the final would begin; I ran for a drink and headed back to the beach to great my final opponent, Dan Berry and exchange pleasantries. As we headed into the water it was apparent that the wind was not improving, if I thought the semi was tough this was going to be tougher. Dan started the heat with a good sized wave and tore it up in usual Dan style, heaps of speed and impeccable timing. I wasn’t careful enough with my wave selection. I wanted to start the final with a good set wave, as I had done in the previous heats but I just couldn’t find one quick enough, so I settled on what I thought was a moderate sized wave that would wall up nicely on the inside. This didn’t happen and I ended up riding a fat mush ball with no wall and no wind. Then as I dogged back out the sets appeared with Dan charging back in, that’s when fatigue left me and with a scream of frustration grabbed the last set wave and finally had a great wave all the way to the beach and passed Dan as we hooted at each other.
Dan and I both managed to get our wave count for the final but I knew Dan had the superior rides, the conditions certainly suited the lighter riders and Dan only rubbed this into me further by floating past me on a 76 litre board while I’m up to my thighs on an 84 litre. He just smiled and said ‘not much wind’. Dan also rubbed salt into my wounds by getting the only jump of the final, a nice loop out the back. Regardless of who the conditions suited it really didn’t matter, Dan Berry’s sailing is flawless wether it’s 10 knots or 40 knots, waist high or mast high, he proves time and time again the he is on of the best competition and free sailors around.
Back at the Marrawah Pub that night for the presentations I was knocked for six when competition organiser John Pott announced that I had won Wave of the Competition as well as coming runner up, what a great bit of icing on an all ready fantastic couple of days.
To have events like this come to fruition you need to have special people behind the scenes, working hard, sometimes with no thanks and reaping little reward other than the personal satisfaction of being an asset to the community they selflessly represent.
To that note I would like to thank John Pott for doing the ground work in Tassie. If John didn’t step up as a representative of Tasmania the event would never have gone ahead.
Event sponsors Neil Pryde and JP. Represented by Hudson and David Godfrey-Smith the dynamic father/son combination that has given so much to the sport over the years once again put in all their effort to ensure the event was the success it was and always ran on time, with all the information past onto competitors.
Head judges Matt Tobin and Stuart Martin ensured that the consistency in their judging was impeccable. As extremely talented watermen with both judges having spent many years as highly competitive wave sailors, their contribution to the competition and development of competitors was boundless, freely giving advice when approached.
Big personal thanks goes to Damien Wallace from Jay Sails in Tasmania and Ezzy Sails for supplying me with the fantastic gear that I use. Ezzy Sails have for years been my only choice, they have never let me down regardless of the punishment they receive. The sail I start the season with is the sail that’s there at the end of the season. That is no fact to take lightly. With Ezzy’s latest developments in materials and sail shapes, the sails have entered a new level of excellence with a crisp controlled feel that delivers power progressively as you ask for it.
And well done to all those that took the time to come to Tassie, see you next year!
1st – Dan Berry (Neil Pryde/JP)
2nd – Kaleb Smith (Ezzy Sails)
3rd – Joel Ryan (Hustler, RPS the Board Store Calvin Kien,)
4th – Simon Hansen
1st – Lisa Edlund-tjernberg (SHQ)
2nd – Marieke Machinnon
3rd – Karen Robertson
1st – Terry North
2nd – Matt Cudmore
1st – Oliver Barta
1st – Alistair Mcleod (SHQ)
Best wave: Kaleb Smith (Ezzy Sails)
Best Jump: Oliver Barta”