Wave NationalsJourney to 'the edge of the world'
Journey to 'the edge of the world'
Words and pics - Jodi Stevenson, White Caps Photography
It's dark outside, pitch black dark. The kind of darkness you can only get in a remote part of the world, where big city lights are a long way away. The stars shine so bright that it feels you can reach out and touch the Milky Way. It really does feel like we're at the edge of the world.
I arrive late at night in Marrawah, dead dog tired after a long and slightly nauseating trip across Bass Strait. Marrawah is on the NW corner of Tasmania, and sits, quite literally, front-and-square to the Roaring 40's.
And for the second year running Marrawah is set to play host to the "Neil Pryde Wave Nationals".
Day 1 - 1st Rule of Fight Club
I awoke for a 10am briefing at Green's Beach which is a short drive down the hill. The view on the way is spectacular, if not majestic in the morning light. It is rugged and wild, a stark contrast to the smooth beauty of the island's eastern coast.
Over 30 competitors from all over Australia have come to compete. We had a huge welcome, with a dance expo by a local dance troupe and a didgeridoo demonstration by Leroy. Everyone's spirits are high despite Australia's largest wind farm looming at us from a distance, silent and motionless.
After the warm welcome and event registration it was time to explore the coastline. The event has a choice of five possible locations so there was plenty to see. I was particularly keen to see the lay of the land from a photographer's point of view - where all the vantage points are and how the light compares to shooting in my usual stomping ground, Victoria. We ended up somewhere near the back of the lighthouse and some of the gang went out for a Stand Up Paddle and surf. I'd like to point out I have never seen so many March flies in my life and they do bite hard, really hard (Note to self, stock up on Aerogard immediately!).
After a no-sailing day, we went to the pub for dinner and a couple of bevvies, and enjoyed the band arranged by the event organisers. I am actually looking forward to the rest of the week as apparently we have something organised for every night. Sweet! A few games of pool later and copious quantities of booze the party kicked on at our house until about 2am. Drinks and conversation flowed and so did the pent up energy. With no wind it was a restless start to the competition. Sitting at Mike's feet, Betul, Lisa and I were so engrossed in conversation we were totally unaware a fight had broken out a mere three metres away (yeh, riveting conversation!).
People - I'm not going to lie to you, there was blood. I'm sure you want to know who and why ? actually so did I. But 1st rule of fight club? don't talk about fight club. 2nd rule of fight club? don't talk about fight club. 3rd rule of fight club?..ok, you get the gist.
Rest assured by the end of the night peace had been made and everyone was mates again. Sigh, all is well in Marrawah, which is a good thing since I hear the Police don't visit the "edge of the world" too often.
Day 2 - Fun and games...
Feeling a bit the worse for wear we nonetheless made it to the 10am briefing on time. There is a slight NE breeze, but it's very offshore, and it was decided not to start the event. With a free day we went to Furries to check it out. The great thing about Marrawah is there are multiple locations along the coast to sail at. This, in theory, gives one more options and more chance of making the most of the conditions and getting on the water.
Although this part of Tassie is very beautiful, it is very remote and rugged, and the majority of the sailing locations are only accessible by 4wd (or a very long walk). My little Hyundai Excel did me proud navigating the long dusty and rocky tracks, but this was one of many occasions when I needed to hitch a ride.
The driftwood stacks at the entrance to the beach were huge, logs the size of full-grown trees not the usual flotsam and jetsam I'm using to seeing on the shoreline. In fact, one monster was blocking the entrance to one of the most beautiful long stretches of beach I've ever seen and had to be hog-tied and towed away to allow us access. Thanks to Mike, Terry, Joel, Rob and Ian for removing the culprit.
After a valiant effort on his 6m, Terry proved to us all that while there was nowhere enough wind for a sail there were some funs waves to be had, so some of the boys went surfing instead. The rest of us hung around watching for a while until someone put up the volleyball net and it was "game on".
While the Marrawah General Store is right next door to where I am staying, it really only stocks the basics (and excellent fish and chips!) so I took a drive over to Smithton to stock up on supplies - specifically the Aerogard.
I came back to find a couple of crew had rigged up and gone out at Green's. Took a few shots of Lisa and Peter trying out some freestyle moves but there really wasn't much wind or swell. I headed home to do some work before dinner. Even though there has not been much windsurfing I still capture the week as it is, so that means I already have 100's of photos to sort.
On my return home, some of my new flatmates had been abalone diving and I had my first taste of this delicacy, yummmy! Sliced thin and fried with garlic, my mouth is still watering at the thought. Then it was off to the Redpa footy club for the Table Tennis Tournament and a few drinks. Matt Tobin, one of the event judges, won the event, against some tough competition. I just focussed on actually hitting the ball. Thanks to Rob for taking it easy on me.
No wind as yet, but this is turning out to be a great ("working") holiday.
Day 3 - Xpress yourself
Today was prophesied to be "the day" but alas upon waking up it seemed dubious. After two days settling in, I am getting a little impatient and I'm not the only one. I have a brief moment of sympathy for event organiser, "Marrawah Man" John Pott, it is rare indeed for this place not to turn it on.
At the morning briefing it was decided to head to Bluff's, which reportedly had a small swell (1-2ft) with a S\SW (cross-on) of around 15-18 knots. With 13 of the 16 places up for grabs in the Open Division, it was time to start the Expression Sessions. The other three spots have already been filled from last year's placings by Dan Berry, John Pott and Kaleb Smith. In the "Expression Session" the judges picked the top three and then elimination was based on comparing them to everyone else.
Given the sloppy and mushy swell it was tough for everyone and the judges - Matt Tobin and Stewart Martin - had their work cut out for them. Nonetheless, a couple of wave sailers really stood out. Terry North (WA) in particular set the benchmark with his forwards, I was quite impressed with how he was pulling off so many jumps and aerials in such poor conditions (Note to self: keep an eye out for this strong contender). Joel Ryan (VIC) landed a nice backloop also.
We didn't get back home until around 7pm. Those who were keen and had the energy went to local legend Tappo's house, for more table tennis.
Day 4 - SUP, surf and spit roast
Down to Netley's today for a Stand Up Paddle and surf with the locals (who were really friendly and genuine people). I grabbed Mike's macro lens and went exploring the coastline. The colours of the rocks are amazing, rich and vivid oranges and reds which contrast the blue, blue sky above beautifully. I decided to focus on the rocks and went in for a closer look. It is a very tricky lens as it has a very narrow depth of field and the slightest movement changes the focus dramatically, so I was quite pleased with the results.
By far the highlight of the day was the night's entertainment which started with a spit roast and bonfire party back at Redpa. Tappo and his lovely wife Hazel topping off the already superb menu with an ample supply of (massive) crays, which were not only the biggest I've ever seen but also the tastiest!
Nick then made a very passionate speech (about who knows what) and it was universally agreed that he should be on the next series of "Farmer wants a Wife". The local band was totally rockin' and a good night was had by all.
Only two days of competition left.
Day 5 - Pressure is on
The day began at Green's with a gusty 10-20 knot NE (cross-off) wind. While the swell was only small (2ft) the occasional shoulder high set was rolling in. The forecast was for a SW change in the afternoon so in the meantime we were put through the paces of a whale/dolphin rescue by Brooke from Parks Tasmania. There were lots of laughs and it was also very informative. For example, did you know that a beached dolphin should be placed tail end towards the water? No? Well, the reason why is they can then feel the wave coming and shut their blowhole in time so they don't drown. Very clever!
It became apparent the change wasn't going to come through so it was decided to start the man-on-man heats two at a time. The divisions for the event are Junior, Women, Open, Masters and Grand Masters. Judges were looking for the following...
Manoeuvres in the critical section of the wave
Speed, Power and Style
The NE only got lighter as the day progressed so only the first few heats across all divisions were contested.
It was then back to the pub to check out what Saturday night had to offer. The plan was to only have a couple since there is only one day of competition left. Had a few games of pool with Betul and Lisa, and couple more drinks, followed by a couple more drinks. Before I knew it Mike and I were the last to leave. Oh - did I mention the pub is like only a couple of hundred meters away from our house, if that? Very handy for the stumble home.
The cold front finally came through at dusk and we are hopeful for tomorrow, the last day of competition.
Day 6 - Finals
My head is a little cloudy for the 8.30am briefing and am totally stoked I had bought my espresso coffee machine with me (no point travelling by car if you can't load it up with a few of life's little luxuries). Brothers, Richard and Lloyd Ellis (the nicest people I have ever had the pleasure to meet) were also appreciative of my stash.
Two lattes later, the swell had increased and was predicted to build. However, the 1st and 2nd rounds in the Open, Women's and Masters were tough going in the relatively light (18kts max) conditions.
Things cranked up around midday as the wind swung cross-shore and the swell started to kick in. Finally Marrawah was giving us a glimpse of the conditions it is renowned for, with the Judges scoring the sailors on their best three waves and best two jumps in the 12 minute heats.
The women's heats proved to be an action-packed affair with local Karen Robertson and Lisa Edlund-Tjernberg (VIC) battling it out until Karen hyper-extended her left elbow. Marieke Machinnon then moved into the Final and took 2nd place. Lisa with her aggressive wave riding and aerials took out the Women's title.
Although Victoria's Alistair McLeod was the only contender for the Junior title, he still went out hard and sailed really well showing strong commitment. He also entered the Open division and all agreed he's got enormous potential.
Brothers Ian (WA) and John Pott (TAS) battled it out, both showing power and agility. I am still in awe at John's commitment - did I mention he had broken a couple of ribs only days before the event started?
Simon Hansen (TAS) was the dark horse, knocking Kaleb Smith out in the second round with his well landed forward loop and solid wave riding. Kaleb is going to have to sail hard in the double elimination.
In the semi-finals, Kaleb found himself sailing against Joel "sails with his ovaries on the outside" Ryan (VIC) for 3rd place. Joel forgot to turn (perhaps he was preoccupied thinking about a forward loop) and snapped his fin on the reef half way through the heat. He quickly came in and swapped his gear for Phil Chalkos. The wind died and both had a long walk back up the beach.
Five minutes later, Kaleb then wearily headed into battle with top seed Dan Berry. Since, the first round, Dan had to be beaten twice to lose his 1st place ranking and he spent all day waiting for someone to challenge him. With little wind, this was going to be even tougher in the semi's.
Dan got off to a flyer catching the first decent wave, allowing his to showcase his skill and timing. Meanwhile Kaleb was dogging out searching for a decent set. Dan was on a 76 litre board, Kaleb on an 84. The conditions appeared to suit Dan better, and whilst both got their wave count, Dan's loop out the back was the only jump in the final. He comfortably took out the Open Men's title. Kaleb not only took out 2nd in the Open Div, but thanks to a long clean wave, controlled manoeuvring and five strong turns, he took out the trophy for "Best Wave".
Keen to re-claim the Grand Masters crown Queensland's Oli Barta (aka 'The Terminator') sailed like a man on a mission. Fuelled up on a diet that seemed to consist mainly of sugar (the man is an addict!) Oli's jumping was a real highlight of the day's action and he won both the Grand Master's trophy and the award for "Best Jump" (courtesy of a massive forward).
The battle for honours in the Masters Divisions went right down to the wire with Terry North (remember the note I made on Day 3?) just edging out Mat Cudmore to take the title.
That night, tired and satisfied, we headed to the pub for the presentation. Here are the official results:
|Grand Masters Champion:|
|1st||Alastair Mcleod - Uncontested|
The following day, conditions are slightly better and some head out for a sail. There is a group of us heading back tonight on the "Spirit of Tasmania" so after a while I head off up the coast to check out the sights of Stanley. It certainly is a pretty little town and I got some stunning shots of the coastline for my portfolio. We have dinner in the "SoT's" restaurant and before too long nausea kicks in again (damn seasickness), though thankfully this time I manage to sleep through the night.
All in all, while the conditions weren't all-time, Marrawah was a marvellous "host", and the event organisation was first-rate. I met some awesome people during my trip to "the edge of the world" and look forward to catching up with them at the 2010 Wave Nationals.
Note: As a Victorian I must say a few words about coming home to the fires. I hadn't realised how bad it was having been in such a remote location as Marrawah. And I would like to take this opportunity to say how impressed I am at how Australia rallied in support of the victims and how touched I am by some of the stories of survival and of loss.