Aussies 2017, Gold Coast, 25 March – 2 April
Aussies 2016, Sunshine Coast, 18 – 24 April
Water Blog Day Five
The Wind at Summer’s End by Nick Carroll
“Let the wind blow!”
– Captain Ahab, on board the Pequod, Moby-Dick
Did it ever.
What do you know of Moby-Dick? One of the greatest books ever written, it’s about a man obsessed with defeating Nature, in the shape of a great white sperm whale that haunts his dreams. In the end, he and the crew of the Pequod face the same Fate of all who try to defeat Nature, and pretty much go down screaming.
The ironic point of the quote above is in its naked, dumb-arse human pride. We don’t get to say when the wind blows. It just does.
The wind changed last night. Blew up from a fair bit further south than it’s been all carnival. It brought drier cooler air with it. In the 6.30am chill, you could feel the season changing even here on the Sunny Coast. A long summer is ending, both in our surf racing lives and along our vast gorgeous coast, and the last day of the latest Aussies in many years dawned nippy in celebration.
Did the wind bring us something up from home? Some fortune of a kind? I dunno. At times it just felt bloody irritating. “I HATE this wind!” Georgia announced some time around midday, and I think she wasn’t the only one. The wind and the side-hacked little swell it brought played havoc with heaps of racers, including a few of ours.
Here’s who it didn’t touch: Hannah Minogue. Hurray for Anzac Day and all, but I feel April 24 should hereon be known as Hannah Minogue Day. After a great career without Aussie gold, she now has three of ‘em, and each was won in the best way possible. The double ski with Jaime Roberts was my personal favourite for two reasons: because it was the first medal race of the day, and because they utterly smashed it. Ripped in from the start, held a line through the outside closeout, and went to the can first and inside. The classic winning position. The beach commentators thought they were Alex Headlands, and I feel this case of mistaken identity must have spread to the judges, who tried to award Alex first place and Hannah and Jaime second, even though they were actually on the sand before any other ski had approached the line. It took a little chat to the judges and a video review before sanity was restored. Jaime almost couldn’t speak.
It could also be Isaac Smith Day, with his two individual silvers in board and ski. There was definitely a hint of Davey Euers Day, with his silver in the ski. Charlie Brooks might hold up his hand in protest at it being Charlie Brooks Day with his two individual bronzes, but he can just wait. He’s in the hall of fame now for other reasons. So is Trimmy, though I bet that ski god didn’t mind too much being Bronzed as well.
It sure could have been Georgia Rae Miller Day. I dig Georgia’s full name! It sounds like a country and western/pop crossover star from Nashville, Kentucky. Instead of a girl who started the open iron cleanly, then was bumped from behind by another ski in the break and tipped off. The very recognisable deck of her ski flashed behind the wave line with no G on board, and I thought, well, that’s kinda that. Then I thought, hang on, this is G, what’s she got? This whole day has been about tough survival racing. Maybe she’s still pissed off with the wind enough to rally. She got back on and paddled right back into it with a massive split in the back of the ski, and got on to the board in fourth. How much had that effort taken out of her? In that circumstance, the silver wasn’t a win, but it was a triumph.
A little bit of it was Tayla Tullett Day. I have immense respect for Ms Tayla Tullett and her wide smile and staggering work ethic. I don’t think anyone in the club has come as far as she has this year. She made an Australian iron final, gave it everything at the trickiest time of day, and swam the final leg like a wild thing. There was no medal at the end of it but that made it even better in a way. As Captain Ahab found out, winning isn’t everything.
Winning isn’t everything. The American football coach Vince Lombardi got hold of that line and added something. “Winning isn’t everything,” Lombardi said, “it’s the only thing.”
Well bugger you Vince Lombardi. What happened in the last two races of the carnival showed us there’s a lot more going on than that.
We missed the open women’s taplin gold last year by, what, nothing. It was still one of the best things about 2015. But this was never gonna happen the same way on Hannah Minogue Day. Hannah went to the right off the start and seemed to be a bit back, but when the girls to her left reached the sandbar, they were pounded and she wasn’t. She put Lara in first and Laz took the perfect line, probably the best board line of the whole messy windy day, and was skittled halfway out by an errant ski from some unknown unfortunate latecomer. But as we have said here before, if you were to pick a woman to defy the forces of darkness on behalf of Planet Earth, Laz would be your girl. She blew it off, got to the leader, rode in with her and tagged G second.
G was a body length back at the cans. It was a smart move. It gave her cover from the wind. It gave her time to set herself. She leaned in and got to the break with Noosa next to her. They rode one wave to the centre, swam to the inner bar, got a little bump, and Georgia Rae showed her class — streamlined, head down, dolphin dive to the sand. And that was that.
So the last race and what had felt to me all summer long like it was our very own great white whale. Brooksy and Trent and I had reminded each other of that race over and over, ad infinitum, and even though I hadn’t actually done the damn thing, I’d begun to feel a bit haunted by it. Win an open men’s taplin once and it might be considered good luck by some. Fail to win it again and you might begin to believe it.
Trimmy the Bronzed God took no prisoners first up and put Morry in first. Luke drew a most unusual Hannah Minogue type line directly out and slightly right, and it didn’t work quite as well as Hannah’s, but still he got Max in equal first with his wriggling nemesis Stu McLachlan. Max and Stuey, hammer and tongs, until Stuey got a funny bump from the north-east — maybe a crease across the wind, actually — and got a wave up on Max. Redhead and Newport, just like last year.
Charlie Brooks took off after our little buddy Issac Costello and nearly got him at the sandbar, where Cozzy was pinned for a moment. Not quite. They hit the beach still a wave apart. Kenj went in like a large, perhaps slightly angry tuna, vanished into the maelstrom, and swam us briefly into the lead, but Redhead got a wave that ran wide and first on to the sand. The gap remained, and Daniel Collins, who had been tormenting our under 19s all carnival, went in. And Dane Farrell went in on his heels.
Dane Farrell Day.
Dane’s been a total trouper this week. His whole carnival was a microcosm of Team Newport’s: up and down, up and down. The silver in the open iron behind the Good Lord Eckstein was great, and the swim in that race, powerful and direct and into a wave, may have set him up for what happened now.
I couldn’t see it. The wind was blowing too strong. Someone said to me, “Dane’s a half body length ahead on the cans.” I knew for sure that Daniel couldn’t get away from him. They came to the outer sandbar together, and rode a wave together halfway in. The wind blew and it brought a small slopey wave that both of them picked up, and it carried Dane Farrell out of the rip line where Daniel Collins was trapped, and on to the sandbar six or seven seconds ahead. And Dane ran away with it, and bedlam ensued.
Summer’s at an end at last, and I dunno where it leaves us. Seasons are predictable, events are not. I do feel that in some ways, this Aussies for us all was about the process of maturity. Not everything went our way. Ski rudders jammed, potholes magically appeared beneath feet, other clubs were on fire. The wind blew, whether we wanted it to or not. And as a team, we dealt with it. People leaned on each other. People had great moments. We won the three great team events of the carnival. We know now we can do it again.
And we will.
Boats Blog Day Four by Michael King
Now, where were we…attentive readers will remember most crews through to Saturday with the promise of some solid results.
It all started well, the Sea Cucumbers through in their round 6 race first up, to top that we had a breathless blow by blow of the the Lifesaver relay. Relayed from our on the ground reporter, my darling wife, Liz, to Jack Holland, then paraphrased for the expectant crowd in the tent. The same going on in Maroochydore’s tent next door. ‘there’s four of them on a wave, there all up and running, we’re first, no second, not sure’.
With it all undecided, the Makos are on the line, round 6, checked at the start, they pull themselves back into the race and with fifty metres to go are in front, but Hughie decided it wasn’t to be their day. Pipped on the line, thanks for coming. In quick time, the Sea cucumbers suffered the same fate.
It’s all up to the girls now. The Maddoggs, as expected, put in a great first row now for the Sharknado. These girls are in their first season rowing, all 17 or 18 and are going strong, beating many bigger and more experienced crews. After an excellent race, a little slew on the line sees them miss out. A top effort in their first Aussies.
The Maddoggs kick on to the semi, when they seemed to hit all the waves on the way out and get nothing on the way home, miss out by one place. Rightly disappointed, they were seen by all as probable finalists.
Happy faces returned when the result of the Lifesaver was announced, our first Aussie boat gold medal since 1982.
Water Blog Day Four “Super Saturday”
TWO GOLDS IN FIVE MINUTES by Nick Carroll
5.48am: I take a look at Version 19 of Super Saturday’s timetable — “please check frequently for any changes” — and experience my first real jolt of angst of the carnival. This time last year, we were all unknowingly on the edge of epicness. I look down the race list: lifesaver relay final, open taplin semifinals, open surf race finals, under 19 men’s taplin final, mixed double ski final, many more.
Can we see blue sky? Can we get a glimpse of something else?
A beautiful clear morning. Maybe the nicest morning of the carnival. Light southerly wind, 2-3 feet of pulsing easterly tradewind swell, high-ish tide. The mood in the boys’ tent is businesslike.
I decide to be businesslike, too — drop the elegant phrases and intelligent analysis, and go race by race, just like this brutal up-and-down day.
U-19 boys’ belt race. Ejay Schaffer, flanked by fathers Dave Rees and Mal Reid, who are fully sunglassed up and looking like Godfathers. Ejay goes, runs…and slips. Nick Green, big strong swimmer, runs away with it.
Lifesaver relay. A strange race; boat, ski, board, swim, run. The first leg happened two days ago in the boat area. The boat crews have given Trimmy a two-second handicap and Morry 10. Boom, Trimmy, Morry and Currumbin’s Hayden White come in together. Our under-17 board paddlers, Isaac Smith and Hughie the King McAlpine, get a tiny check on the way out, but refuse to go away; they’re on the lead wave with four others coming to the beach. The swimmers tag in together. Currumbin goes wide and right into the rip and gets some help going out. He swims back into the same rip coming in, unaware that Ollie Signorini has produced the swim of the carnival so far on his inside. It’s Ollie’s race. Ollie and Maroochydore ride a weeny wave in toward their runners. Ours is the slight but quick Kristie Edwards. The runners spend agonising seconds trying to tag off. Kristie is just ahead of the two big men. She goes around the flag a metre ahead, and as she does, Currumbin slips and falls. Maroochydore goes past and just pips Kristie at the line. It’d be a great silver, but wait: Currumbin reckons their man was pulled by Maroochydore and enter a protest. It’s quickly upheld. If it survives appeal, we get a gold.
Open men’s taplin semis. Within 10 minutes Trimmy and Morry are back on the line. We have three teams in this, two in one heat, one in the other. I watch the one with two. Trimmy on the first wave with four others. Morry goes fast and wide and pushes into second. Davey Euers, second ski in the C team, sends Fletcher Davies in seventh, and Fletcher improves it a bit. In the A team, Max sends Charlie in equal first, and Charlie goes in with a classic Newport Shorie Air Pop that leaves the field grasping at his disappearing heels.
I can hear the call from the other race. Newport B is hammering away midfield and on the edge of qualifying. Ejay has a blinder of a swim for C and puts Jackson Borg in sixth. Kenj and Dane Farrell swim away with it easily and Jacko gets in eighth, and Jonah swims the Bs into eighth too.
Now we have three teams in the Open Men’s Taplin final tomorrow. I NEVER say this in a blog before a race day, but I will. Here I go: GET INTO IT, GANG! Get into it! Do you like racing? This is the race.
Way down the beach, Georgia is in an iron semi, well placed on the board leg. She reaches the sandbar at the same time as a four foot wave, and it nearly nosedives her. She pulls it up just right and goes through and away.
Under-19 mens iron semis. Davey Euers cruises in third on the board; Ejay is 11th. In the swim leg Davey pulls up and runs home for fifth. He looks like he did it easily, but he comes over and says: “That was the hardest race I’ve ever done.” In the second semi, Charlie and Ollie come through easily enough.
In case you’re wondering, it’s 9.18am.
Open board quarters. Jayke Rees gets a good start, pulls wide on the way in, but the guys who stay tight are advantaged. Jayke is OK with this in a que sera sera sort of way. Dane wins his quarter and begins to feel that he’s connecting with this awkward racing area. “Got a massive run off the cans,” he says, quietly stoked. Max tangles with Redhead’s Stu McLachlan, “The Wriggler”, a three time Aussie winner and notorious spoiler, who throws his leg over Max’s board around the cans not once, but twice. Max removes the offending object both times, and somehow they both qualify.
I run down to watch the girls for a while, listening to the announcers as I do, and hearing them describe G and Laz knocking the opposition away in a board rescue semi. The feeling in the girls’ tent is much lighter and freer than the boys’, as it’s been all carnival; when a couple of the under-17s catch a wave in their board rescue event, all the girls in the tent squeal and race down the beach to support them. “You want some notes?” Trent says, seeing my notebook. “We’ve got a good crew. A good crew. They’ll build on this.”
Under 17 girls board quarters. Katie Manning is squeezed out in one, Liv Heaton cruises through in another. Amber Moran gets into the water awkwardly, but gets around a little foamie and plugs into the lead group and fights back for a wave at the end. So does Sophia Tonoli in the last one.
Open board semi. Maddie Spencer is in two minds running across the bank, second-guesses whether to run, hop or paddle. She’s forced to roll a wave on the edge of the bank. G, out wider, makes it happen, and Maddie and Laz paddle back with great pace but are edged out in 9th and 10th. It’s not quite 11am. What were you doing on Saturday at 11am?
Under 17 board semis. Last events in the girls’ area. Semi one features Liv, Amber and Janice Quinn with a ridiculous scorching field, Lizzie Welborn, Lily Costello, a couple of other hot shots. Liv starts well, with Janice and Amber a bit back. Eight will make the final. Four are on the first wave back; Liv and Janice are on wave two with seven others. Janice is up easily, Liv wrestles a bit and jumps and runs to the north flag, a Maroochydore girl stuck behind her and to the right. Maroochydore hits the flag. I see her mouth a rude word at Liv. Then she says some more stuff. Lizzie Welborn comes over and puts her hand on Liv’s shoulder, perhaps just being friendly, perhaps being a bit protective. Liv doesn’t even look at the Maroochydore girl. Both end up qualifying.
Word comes through on Pete Tullett’s radio that Currumbin’s appeal in the lifesaver relay has stayed, which means we get the gold. It’s midday. The girls’ area is wrapped. The carnival turns another corner.
I jog back to the men’s area, carrying Maddie’s board — my minuscule contribution to the task of moving every single frigging thing out of the girls’ area so the officials can close it down.
The double skis are grinding away. Morry and Chad, in a quarterfinal, are moved back and forth to three different starting lines before being given the green light. They roll in easily in fifth.
Under 17 boys’ board rescue. Smith powers out in the swim, Hughie gets caught up a bit on the bank on the board. They’re late but they come home like rockets; not near the gold, but engaging in a stumbling run for bronze but just miss out.
Double ski. Trimmy and Jonesy are on the second wave. They are on a new ski, sponsored by KFC, which has already been nicknamed “The Colonel”. “I get hungry every time I see it,” reckons Tom Atkinson. The Colonel gets stuck in a kind of weird watery crevice and sorta stops dead. Trimmy is shattered.
Open men’s surf race semis. In one, Max and Dane are easily in on the first wave with two others, Jonah Beard three further back. All three look unflustered. Lachie Reid comes in a bit later, and makes everyone laugh describing how he face-planted on the run out. Kenj is nowhere, in a race he doesn’t like at all. Ollie gets through semi two with ease. I realise: this is the most complex sandbank on the whole beach, and its odd sideways structure is gonna be central to every medal won hereafter.
Open women’s surf race final. They should have a trigger warning on this race, for coaches at least. Georgia, Lara, Maddie. Georgia, defending champ, stands back a bit, surveying the scene, surveying her competition. The course is weird, off-set — a run out then a left turn to the cans, then back in slightly to the right to avoid a little rip line, and a 60-metre run back to the flag. G runs out fast, almost stumbles, but doesn’t. Drives out a little straight, then pulls across to the can a fraction ahead. A Currumbin girl is on her shoulder for 20 seconds or so, then she kicks a tiny bit clear going around the four black-and-white cans. She comes to the final can and just unloads on the field, just goes. Sixty power strokes, just destroys them. By the time she’s up and running to the finish there’s 30 metres between her and the next. Surf Race Gold Number Three.
I see the Currumbin girl walking away, drawing hard on an asthma inhaler.
No time between that and the under 17 boys’ ski relay, way north of the main site. Brooksy and I begin to run down that way. Smith has got them going, then we see Hughie run a blinding transition to send Keelan Smith in first. Keelan faces down two set waves. Punches one, avoids the next. It gives him 30 metres on the field. He holds it, extends it a bit, loses a bit. Gets his own wave.
Two golds in five minutes. And now all the male ski relays are in the bank. Thank you supercoach Luke Morrison.
Another five minutes and the men’s open surf race final. Dane, Ollie, Jonah. A ferocious field. Shannon Eckstein is on the left and puts himself in front, Nathan Smith runs around behind him and is in it too. Dane in the mix with Daniel Collins and Ben Carberry. These five come to the last can and it opens up. Shannon, with the lead break, swims away and no wave comes. Dane is third behind Nathan. A wave comes for the third group, including Ollie, but they’re really nowhere near it. Ollie throws his hands up in frustration.
17 boys’ taplin. Keelan tags Hughie in sixth. Hughie drops it a bit early, falls back, drafts around, goes, and misses his catch-up wave. Smith’s a fast swimmer but he’s not that fast.
19 boys’ board rescue semis. Charlie and Guy are stuck down the wrong end of a very uneven starting line, with the shallows in the centre. Charlie runs that way but it means he’s got a longer swim. He gets there in seventh, and Guy is freed by his board to draw a straight line through the mess. He rips in and makes it in fifth. They paddle home and it turns into a good line on the way. Easy through.
Toby Boyce and Calum Hargreaves are on the same can but can’t quite convert it the same way.
Open men’s board rescue semis. Kenj and Fletcher, Jayke and Lachie. They’re both on the better side and make good time to the cans. Little waves nudge the field around a bit on the way out. Manly are clear on the way home but all the others are in a tangle. Jayke and Lachie make the best of it.
It’s 2.25pm. The wind bends south-east and rises a couple of knots, then a couple more knots. This is the wind predicted by the Bureau forecast. This is a preview of the same wind that’ll blow tomorrow and perhaps reconfigure the big final day of Aussies. Dane and Max, second semi. Dane runs, trips, recovers it, and Max gets to him fine. The middle two come in clean. Our brave duo get the second wave, nearly bog it, recover, then really bog it.
Who loves this race? Nobody could love it. I have an Aussie gold from it and I don’t love it. Brooksy, Trent and I agree it is a bastard of a race. Open women’s board rescue final. G makes it first to the cans. Laz rips in but has to roll a wave. We can’t see this from the beach, it’s too windy, but their board gets caught under the line between the cans. They still make it in on the second wave in line for a silver, when a little side-wave from the nearby rip-wash nudges their nose around sideways for fourth. The infamous Leather Medal.
Under 19 boys’ board rescue. Charlie goes OK and Guy is away in fourth. They’re on the silver wave too. Guy jumps off, Charlie slips. Bronze medal. Guy is a bit thrown by whether or not Charlie’s hand was even up on the start. We all agree that board rescue sucks.
Ope men’s board rescue final, Lachie and Jayke. Jayke swims a blinder and Lachie does a great job too. They come home and get into third. And yet somehow Manly get a last minute run around the other side of the area and take the third away. More damn leather.
Last race of the day: under 19 boys’ taplin final. We have three teams. Davey/Charlie/Ollie, Darcy/Toby/Ejay, Callum/Guy/Jackson. All sorts of re-setting of the finish means everything takes a while.
Davey, ski paddler, rips in. An ugly whitewater splats on to the field. Davey punches it and keeps his paddle in. “I’ve always told him the paddle’s your best friend,” declares Trent.
Charlie goes in on his board and gaps the field, but a solo wave avoids him. He has to sit and wait and ride one in with two others, Currumbin and Redhead. He still tags Ollie first. Guy has a crazy paddle and puts Jacko in at fourth.
The swimmers are almost invisible in the chop. “He’s there isn’t he?” says Brooksy. Ollie has swum a slightly straighter line going out and Cooper Krenkels of Manly has thus got a sniff. Ollie is there, but he, the arch bodysurfer, gets the worst out of a little wave, and Cooper gets the best. I suddenly realise we are not even getting a medal here. Fourth and fifth.
Ollie can’t be consoled. Won the first race of the day, out the back on the last.
It’s 3.30pm. Super Saturday is done. Unbelievably, the team will get up tomorrow and do it all again.
Beach News from Day Four
When it came down to the last two in the Aussie men’s open beach flags at Mooloolaba under light tonight (Saturday), Newport’s Jake Lynch was matched against a man who had already won 10 flags championships – Kurrawa’s Simon Harris.
‘’You can never take Simon to the last two because he’s just so hard to beat. If you are going to get him it has to be beforehand,’’ Jake said.
Well, it was no 11 for Harris and a terrific effort from Lynch.
“I am still stoked to come away with silver and gold would have been awesome,” Jake said. “There was probably a bit of contact but probably not much to take to a protest, so I settle for silver. “I felt in the heats and quarters yesterday a bit rusty but then woke up pretty well this morning. I felt awesome in the semis and then carried it into the final and felt great all the way through so I couldn’t really ask for much more.’”
Water Blog Day Three
The Grind by Nick Carroll
“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same”
– Rudyard Kipling, “If”*
Friday at Aussies, in the water zone anyway, you can feel a change move across the face of this vastly populated sporting event. A sense of intermission, almost. The excitement of those big early medal races has worn off; of the massive ones to come, many early rounds are done, many more are still being worked through. Kids whose races are over for the year are already hauling gear back to the trailer compound, looking sunburned and expressionless — probably thinking about school next week.
The girls are still buzzing over yesterday, and over the medals they sense are still out there for them to win — that blue-sky vibe I mentioned last newsletter. If everything they touch doesn’t turn to gold, it sure feels like it. This arvo, for instance, Hannah Baldwin and Katie Manning had their first ever crack at the highly technical belt race, made the under-17s final, and got fourth and sixth respectively. #YTNG! They’re on a roll.
The boys, well, it feels like they’re in the grind. Heat after heat after heat of ski, board, iron, all running in difficult water, creased and creviced by weird sandbars along a beach line vaguely distorted by its location — closer to the rivermouth, and thus more fractured, than that inhabited by the girls. A hard dour place where a lot of effort is being expended, without much to show for it yet, at least by their standards. Hell, this is the team that won the open male taplin last year. They’ve been here before, and have high expectations, and they’re bumping up against those expectations a bit.
Sometimes it’s felt plain unfair. Jackson Borg is the hardest trainer in the squad. He’s currently the fifth highest ranked individual competitor at this carnival, with 20 points to his name alone. But did that help him on Thursday, when his ski rudder jammed on the line in his first iron heat? No it did not.
Sometimes it’s a bit more complex. Dane Farrell has had one of the great seasons in surf racing this year, rallying to rip his way into the top echelon of the Nutri-Grain Ironman Series with double third places in the final two events. Up here? He’s been banging his head against a wall. Frustrated. Sliding off the lead and trying to figure out the sandbar. “I don’t know,” he’d said to me late yesterday, “you train all year and then get up here and start doing that stuff, what’s with that?”
I’m not totally sure about this, but I think maybe there’s something about the pace of iron races that can switch you off a bit for the single loop races: the board race, the ski race, the surf race. In an iron, even in hot irons like today’s open men’s quarterfinals, the pace varies — you can be in eighth early, and pull up places just by building your effort and making no errors. In a single loop, there’s no time — every move, every decision has to be on the money.
Unless you’re Charlie Brooks of course. Charlie went off the beach in an under-19 board quarterfinal today, and on the other side of the shorebreak was in a bad 14th. Because he is Charlie, he worked it back — dug into mid-field, let them drag him to the cans, went to the inside, and came in comfortably. But even he was shaking his head, knowing how close a call it was.
There’s a couple of things an athlete can do when battling away in the grind, the way our boys are doing right now. The first and best thing to do is just keep going. Dane did that today, through irons and board rounds and the restricted surf race, and with each race he grew visibly more fluid and clean, working out the flow of things, coming back to the superb athlete he is. “Hoping,” he told me. “Just want to be ready for that taplin.”
And if that doesn’t help, there’s always the Team. To me this is the great thing about Newport right now: someone’s always there. When Jacko walked back from that dud ski start, he had the support of a tentful of people who knew just how he was feeling. And if you have a look on Facebook, you’ll see a photo of big Isaac Smith, under-17 Australian belt race champion, flanked by two fathers and sons: Mal and Lachie Reid and Dave and Guy Rees. The pic was taken late this afternoon, just after the Reids and Reeses had pitched in to help Isaac win today’s one tension-relieving gold.
Tomorrow is Super Saturday. The scene will explode back into full force and life. And we’ll see how much the grind has paid off.
*If you want to read the full text of this poem, go to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/If—
It’s a bit British-Empire pompous but there’s some epic lines in it, especially the bit about keeping your head when everyone else is wigging out.
Boats Blog Day Three Aussies by Michael King
Only one crew on the water today, our Open men’s crew, the Makos. We left the Makos yesterday holding up their end for the A team in the first leg of the Lifesaver relay. Well, dear reader, what a day they’ve had today. Some ups and downs, but a generally positive day, five rows and qualified through to Saturday’s elimination races.
Like all elite surf life saving competition, with everyone going pretty much the same speed, it’s the little things that go your way and the ability to take full advantage that can make the difference. In surfboats, all four rowers and sweep need to be attuned to pick up those little things and get that lift when needed – in time. The Makos are making those inches this weekend, looking good for tomorrow.
Saturday sees our two under 23 girls crews, the maddoggs and Sharknado racing, the Maddoggs aiming to go at least one up on their state final result.
The Sea Cucumbers are giving reserve grade a red hot go.
To be continued…
Beach Blog Day Three Aussies by Ben Ambrose
In the first day of getting down and sandy in flags, we had some great results so far. First up, Jett in the U19’s outperformed his sprint performance, landing himself into the semi finals. A very valiant effort from a freakishly tall individual.
Beth performed very well in the heats and made it well into the quarters and only on the very last get up did she just get edged out. Still a fantastic effort though!
Ben, Jake and Dan all gave it a crack at the opens. Ben just isn’t built for flags and a very small Japanese man cut him off on the first getup, resulting in a quick flourish and exit on the first heat.
Dan faired a lot better, getting though into the last rounds of the heats, with it coming right down to a run off between him and another Japanese competitor. In pushes (a lot of pushes) and shoves Dan just missed out.
Jake eased through the heats and quarters, missing any incidents or hiccups. He managed to stay ahead of pack, and will give it his best in the semis and finals tomorrow.
Watch this space!
Boats Blog Day Two Aussies by Michael King
The second day of competition in the surfboat area saw most of our crews on the water. The format for all divisions is every crew races in three rounds of a round robin. Points are awarded and tallied, then a cut made and the remaining crews racing in elimination races to a final of six.
Two of our men’s crews raced in the Lifesaver relay final this afternoon, the Makos finishing second, two seconds behind Alex Headlands, but in front of both Currumbin teams. The Sea Cucumbers were racing in the B team and were well in it until their bowman made a spectacular head over heels over the flag. Good luck to the rest of the team (board, ski, swimmer and sprinter) on Friday morning.
We had two crews in the Under 23 women, both qualifying through the rounds to the quarters on Saturday. The ‘maddoggs’, Piret and Cele May, Cellia Peppit and Monique Hegarty, swept by Rob Emerson, finished just ahead in the points score of the ‘Sharknado’, Tara Doyle, Abby Ballesty, Cassie Grice, Zoe King, swept by Michael King.
The Sharknado are rowing in their first Aussies and are fortunate to have the experienced Maddoggs to race with and against.
The Sea Cucumbers were the best performed of our Reserve Grade crews today, making it through four rounds to compete on Saturday. The other Ressie crew,the Jollytails were racing strongly, with a 1st, 2nd and 3rd in their three rounds. Unfortunately in their fourth (elimination) race, their hapless sweep (me) missed the buoy. By the time we returned, it was all over. That makes it my shout!
The under 23 boys crew the Manta Rays just missed out on making it through to Saturday. The 23 boys division has surprisingly the least number of crews- and there are no duds. A very hard division to crack.
Open men are racing Friday.
Makos: James Brook, Lachlan Brook, Alex Brown, Ellis James, Michael King (sweep) Sea Cucumbers: Tom Howse, Tom Holland, Scot Quin, Tim Gunns, Rob Emerson (sweep) Jollytails: Lachy King, Connor Milham, Jake Reneman, Jay Borthwick, Michael King (sweep) Manta Rays: Nathan Doyle, Jordan Jones, James Quin, Max Critenden, Jay Borthwick (sweep)
Water Blog Day Two Aussies
#YTNG by Nick Carroll
Not so long ago, a coach of my acquaintance presented me with a reason why, despite many thousands of dollars’ worth of gear and lengthy experience in the field, none of his teams had ever managed to win an open medal at the Australian surf championships. “It’s hard,” the coach told me. “Nobody knows how hard it is.”
I bent my face into a sympathetic look. Inside, I was thinking words I had best not repeat here. Like: OF COURSE IT’S HARD! What the freakin’ Dickens did you ever imagine it would be? That’s not a reason. That’s an excuse.
Fact is, winning Aussies gold is almost impossible. It takes most or all of what you’ve got, and then a tiny bit more of what you haven’t: water movement, a wind that brings a wave, a sandbar under your foot, nothing in your way.
Rain had passed across the coast overnight, leaving damp streets and little caches of water trapped in the rims of tents, causing squeals up and down the beach as kids tipped the contents on each other. Out to sea a deep convection cloud, almost equatorial in appearance, hung off Maroochydore, pouring down water on water, bending the sunlight onto the horizon line in a silver glitter.
It didn’t feel like a day for a huge race, but this is Aussies, there’s a huge race every day. By mid-morning the cloud was gone into the distance, and the open women’s board relay final was already stepping to the line.
Well, no they weren’t. They were gathered in little clumps around each other’s boards, curled up under jackets and towels, talking, not talking. The ten minutes before a race like this. I watched them, our three, Georgia, Lara and Maddie: G the born racer letting it run through her, Lara the courageous thinking about it too much, and Maddie. Madison Spencer. What was she about to do here?
I recalled a morning not unlike this at last year’s Aussies: supercoach Trent and I at the water’s edge at Kirra, warming up some of the crew, and Maddie — then with another club — walking down with her characteristic wary grace, board under arm, to do some starts.
Aware she was considering joining Newport, we looked at each other, exchanging thoughts as coaches do: let’s watch this, let’s see what we’re in for here.
Maddie set herself, then bounded awkwardly into the shorebreak, rearing back a bit as she did so, such that the board’s nose went up in the air. The whole thing looked for all the world like some sort of wounded seabird.
Trent and I exchanged another look: Oh man! She’s got a lot of work to do!
And you know what, she did. The work that is. A trained pool swimmer, Maddie is a relative newcomer to surf sports, but she’s a great learner. What’s more, she knew her weaknesses. One of the first things she said to Brooksy when she joined us was: “I can’t run.” Brooksy made a promise to her that we’d fix that. Now, a Summer of Surf series, 500 board starts through the Newport shorebreak, and countless 400-metre run sets around Newport Oval later, she moves into surf like the sleek elite athlete she’s becoming, clean, fast, no rubbish.
But what was she about to do here? Against the best woman board racers in the world?
Georgia went first. A classic leader. Here’s one reason why we won this race: G is not afraid of leading. She is a bold and confident athlete who makes her own calls and trusts ‘em. She ran across a sandbar that most of the other starters were just a little bit uncertain of, and left even Jordy Mercer in her wake. Floored ‘em.
I reckon the board course here is 700 metres: 300 and a bit to the first can, 100 less a bit around the back. Coming into the break, G got a tiny bit unlucky in positioning, and Jordy and one other paddler got a wave off her. She ran around and tagged Lara.
Word was out. Everyone had come down to watch. Trimmy and Jonesy, two of Wednesday’s heroes, were posted up, watching intently as Laz exploded through a series of rolling foams with her epic knees-to-prone popping style. There are quicker flashier paddlers in the world, but if I had to pick someone to paddle in defence of the planet Earth against some alien monster race, I would pick Lara, because their alien monster race crap would bounce off her unflinching courage and gain no ground. They would shrivel in the face of her sheer Laz-ness. She came in on the second wave, Jordy’s Noosa team still holding a full wave’s lead, ran around and tagged Maddie.
What was she about to do?
Maddie knows she’s improved a lot this year. She felt confidence in her abilities before this race, but she’s not a flag-waver. I don’t know if she even knew what she was about to do. Which was go in with the world’s greatest women board paddlers in the final leg of a gold medal race, and literally frighten them out of the race. She hit the water at full flight and did the opposite of G — instead of running the bank, like the rest of them had suddenly decided to do, she ripped straight into paddling. At some crazy rate. 100 a minute, maybe? She dropped Maddy Dunn, who I’ve seen win Molokai, like Maddy was a stone.
Trimmy said, “Is she fit?” Meaning: can she hold this rate? I thought, maybe. Then I thought, yeah, she can.
Nobody else could. Noosa couldn’t. Maddie took 25 metres off her in the paddle home and rode down a wave with her and jumped a half second ahead. And then she ran away with it. Ran the transition like it was the top end of one of those Newport Oval 400s, except with 700 metres of board race lactic acid burning her up.
I haven’t seen every race here by any means, but I reckon that was the single best effort of the carnival so far, and it’s gonna take something absolutely nuts to beat it.
What’s even more nuts is that within 20 minutes, Olivia Heaton was doing the exact same thing.
What is it with the Newport girls right now? I think they can just see blue sky. They have G to look up to and they have each other to lean on, and they just rip in. All three girls in our under-19 board relay gold medal team — Janice Quinn, Sam Wilcox, and Liv — are actually under 17. What IS that? Janice is tall and strong and a bit Irish-freckled, and put us into the first wave, boom. Sam is a joker, among other things. (She was in last year’s under-19 board relay team with G, when they got bronze; after this race, she grinned at G and said, “That was for last year.” G cracked up: “Don’t even start with me!”) Sam is super fast off the start, and looks for waves at the finish. She sent Liv in with the second wave.
Olivia Heaton. I’ve been coaching her since her first long board days. Ever since the first time I saw her get on a board I’ve been waiting for her to win an Aussie gold. And now here it came: Liv chasing down the two paddlers in second, taking that one-wave lead off them, grinding and ripping water toward the single lead paddler who seemed to be in a winning position until the waves relaxed. Then riding down a bomb with one other and coming to the leader and jumping first again, like Maddie, and running down toward the finish line with the most amazing intense expression on her face — the red-mist winner’s face. And becoming aware just then that she’d passed the finish line.
It was hard for both these girls to do what they did. It was hard for their whole teams. It was almost impossible. But the fact that it’s hard is the whole point.
If it wasn’t hard, anyone could do it.
The hard is what makes it great.
Beach Blog Day One Aussies by Ben Ambrose
It’s that time of year, that I write to you here with an aura of cheer.
The next three days might become a haze but in the competition our athletes were not fazed.
We will with start with the girls.
First we had Beth up on the track, and for a couple of races she was ahead of the pack. Along came the quarters, along came the race but she just couldn’t keep up with the pace.
But hurrah, a cheer, it’s a great effort to get here!
Claudia came along, and her running was strong and Coach whispered, “Her career will be long…”
And last but not least, Kristie ran like a beast. Quick across the sand, it was in her hand. She four races down, faster than the speed of sound. Good luck tomorrow, we’ll cheer and we’ll clap, and you know that we’ve got your back.
And then we had the boys;
All through to the quarters, Ben, Jake, Jett and Dan, but only Lynch junior was quick enough over the sand. It was a tough field this year, and everyone really had to step it up a gear.
At close of Day One, and everyone gave it their best run, we have two through to the semi finals and a lot more relays to come!
Beach Blog Day Two Aussies by Ben Ambrose
I find Doctor Seuss writing quite tiring so for this blog entry, so I am going to let the sheer talent and spirit of the squad ring true in my words. For the semi-finals, both Jake and Kristie made it though, Kristie flying through on a top lane for her semi, clearing it with ease, and Jake trudging through the quicksand like bottom lanes. Despite this, he still qualified for an incredibly tough final.
I would like to mention here that the quality of athletes right across the beach has increased tenfold in the last year, so every performance by almost all of our team is a really good effort.
The finals were run smoothly (no I’m really not joking) and soon enough, it came time for Kristie and Jake to run. Firstly, in a very hot heat, Kristie pulled out all the stops. The race was an insanely close finish but the girl from Cronulla just pipped her on the line, which landed her a (still) phenomenal Silver medal.
In the event watched by so many eyes, it was one of the closest finals I’ve seen in almost 10 years. In an incredibly hot heat, Jake did all he could and in a photo finish, walked away with 5th place, and when considering the sheer standard of the competition should be something he should be very proud of.
With the nerves of the sprints out of the way relay time was up. We had teams across the board, including the U17 women’s, U19 women’s and the Opens men’s team.
All Newport teams made it though some seriously tough heats into the finals, which is the first this has happened in ten years. We will start with the U17’s girls (Kristie, Beth, Tully and Claudia) who pulled an absolutely cracking run out of the hat, and held on to an early lead ending with Bronze medals around the girls necks. These girls also competed in the U19 and mixed with an older crowd still finished in 6th place. A big congratulations to them, they should be insanely proud.
Much to the chagrin of the boys, we ended up finishing 5th in the final. It was a great run with some average changes but I’m really proud of the guys in this race. We really were up against some tough competition from the plethora of Currumbin teams, Helensburgh-Stanwell Park and Collaroy, and to finish only a metre behind the medalling teams is no mean feat. This result is something that isn’t going to pull us down, it’s only going to push us into the medalling teams. Bring on 2017!
That concludes a terrific Day 2, bring on the flags!
Water Blog Day One Aussies
Keeping Up With The Joneses by Nick Carroll
Here is why I come to Aussies: to learn. I find out new things all the time. For instance, I now know that Jenny Miller, Georgia’s Mum, knows ALL THE WORDS to Advance Australia Fair.
She belted out the little known second verse this morning, in accompaniment to the anthem’s ritual carnival-starting broadcast on the PA, with the gusto of a Joan Sutherland. The girls’ tent was a bit collectively stunned, but Jenny didn’t even blink.
It caused me to briefly reflect on mothers and their deep contribution to this ridiculous mission — often nurturing, sometimes funny, occasionally lethal. Fran Davies’s invitation to our opening night soiree at Maroochy RSL is a case in point. It listed all the dress restrictions, then appended a short line to the effect that we had been given “special leave” to wear the cut-off T-shirt included in this year’s team attire.
I imagined the conversation that led to this, between Fran and some hapless employee of the RSL.
Fran: Now — our team has been given sleeveless Ts as part of their uniform — it really would be great if they could wear the Ts.
Hapless Employee: Oh no, we couldn’t possibly allow that.
Fran: Are you sure?
HE: Errr, umm…
Fran: Don’t make me use my Super Powers, young man.
In the end only Ollie, Jacko and Ryan Pearson had the sartorial flair to go cut-off on the night…but it’s the thought that counts.
Here is something else I have learned: Luke Jones’s Dad has a broken coccyx. But more on that in a moment. First, Maroochydore. A beautiful long sand beach tailing down in a curve from Point Cartwright eight kilometres to the south, and ending in the fragmented sandbars at the mouth of the Maroochy River a kilometre to the north. A sandy coastal relic of the post-Ice Age melt many thousands of years ago, when sea levels rose, and increased south-easterly tradewinds began transporting sand from as far south as the Clarence River, resulting in eastern Australia’s big sand islands — Stradbroke, Moreton and Fraser — and these fine-grained stretched-out places, flat yet hardly featureless.
At this time of year, a constant stream of tradewind swell rolls in and strikes the beach from a slight southerly angle, causing occasional breaks in the sand line — little sandbars and minor rip lines, which for all the world look and feel like a kind of tame Kurrawa.
I dead set have no idea why there hasn’t been an Aussies up here for so long. Fear of cyclones? Not enough pubs? It seems utterly ideal to me: kicked back old school Queensland vibe, warm yet not overbearing, and water perfectly suited to the skills and disciplines of surf racing.
In this setting, under blue skies and moderate winds, Newport’s water team played out a day that was in turns funny, weird, and grandly victorious.
Funny? The girls’ teams ripping in. You might see this bouncing around the Facebook pages over the coming days: #ytng. This means Yeah The Newport Girls, and no crew in our by now rapidly expanding team matches them for sheer light-hearted enthusiasm. G kinda leads them by example but they’re pretty much all bursting to make it happen; every race feels like a totally new experience in which anything is possible. They won our first medal today, a bronze in the under 19 ski relay, and that — #ytng getting the first medal of an Aussies — is a first.
Then came the news that our first aid girls, who a year ago wouldn’t have dreamed of being at an Aussies, had won a smashing gold down at Alex Headlands. I love these signs that we are branching out as a club and finding blue sky in unexpected places.
Weird? Brooksy said at our soiree last night that there would be ups and downs. The open men’s board relay semifinal number two was a down moment. We had three teams in this event, a 50/50 qualifying ratio, and none qualified for the final. It was a kick in the teeth because there were no coherent or obvious reasons for the losses; they just didn’t fire when it was needed. This was a team used to winning; only two years ago, several of them were in teams that went one-two in under-19s at this carnival. I felt my own weaknesses as a coach ripped open for me to look at under the suddenly rather hard light of a Sunny Coast afternoon. Like I said, learning.
And then Luke Jones and Trimmy and Luke Morrison turned the day around.
Jonesy, I would say, is perhaps our most beloved team member. This is only partly because he comes up to Sydney from South Australia on regular occasions to train and race — the kind of commitment you can’t help but admire. It’s mostly because he’s just a classic person. “Salt of the earth” is the phrase that springs to mind.
I knew about Jonesy’s Dad’s coccyx because Jonesy’s Dad races in Masters. He regaled me with the tale of his injury on a number of occasions, the descriptions liberally sprinkled with colourful language. Dads are as big a part of this scene as Mums, something I — a sort of surfing orphan — really enjoy watching play out. Like, if you put Jonesy and Jonesy’s Dad in a lineup, you’d struggle to pick them apart.
Anyway Jonesy lined up with Trimmy and Morry in our open A ski relay team, for a final held in surf gone a bit odd, with little gullies and rip angles everywhere. They held this final on the line for what seemed like 15 minutes. From where I was — cheering on the magnificent under-19 men’s board relay team who defended last year’s gold with a really great silver — I could see Kendrick, our B lead paddler, getting washed around in the start area; I could feel his frustration.
Boom, off they went. Trimmy tangled in the centre of the field. Northcliffe beat us all in, Kenj fifth to the beach, Trimmy eighth. Tagged Jonesy. Jonesy ground it out, forced the issue, didn’t give anything away, made ground.
Northcliffe tagged Shannon Eckstein as third paddler, in clear first place. Morry went in after him.
The last 100 metres of this race was like watching anything that seems nearly impossible yet inevitable at the same time. Shannon was a wave up coming into the broken wave zone. Nothing came to him. Something came to Morry. Shannon dug in and tried to paddle to the beach. Morry rode him down. Slowly, inevitably, the nose of his ski drew up to Shannon’s, then just as inevitably, pulled out in front and to the sand.
People call this stuff “wave luck”. I call it hard work turned to gold. Be the best, enjoy it the most; Jonesy’s been the reason they enjoy it, but Luke Morrison is why they’re the best. He has been a godsend to the open ski program. His unflinching work ethic has pushed up this season against his squad’s desire to step up and get all the medals that tricked their ways out of their hands last year. This — and the under-19 ski relay gold that followed — was just the start.
You can’t keep up the with Joneses. That’s kind of the point.