Kudos to surf festival

Brazil’s Chloe Calmon styling at Castaways. Photos: WSL

By Phil Jarratt

World tour longboarding returned to Noosa last week with a whimper rather than a bang, when the remnants of the three-week-long Oma swell finally disappeared just as the Noosa Longboard Open got underway.

That’s competition surfing, of course – you have to take the bad with the good – but it was interesting to see Sunday’s finals decided in pretty ordinary beach breaks at Castaways. The last time that happened was 20 years ago when Joel Tudor took out the Noosa Pro at the 1999 Breaka Festival of Surfing in onshore puffers, which goes to show that class will always win out. And that was certainly the case as the tide at Castaways held up just long enough for the men’s and women’s finals.

However, putting the locals hat on, I think we would have seen quite different results if finals day had been held at First Point. True masters of the point, Josh Constable and Harrison Roach bowed out in the quarters and semis respectively, despite putting in beautiful performances on their logs in fickle conditions that favoured performance boards. In Harry’s case, he would have won any heat in the event with his two excellent scores, except the one where Florida’s Justin Quintal defied gravity on his forehand on lefts that seemed to run for only him. Not since CJ Nelson have I seen a surfer who can only be described as a heavyweight in a field of flyweights work the nose so deftly and critically.

But while we’re still talking local, big ups to Nic Brewer for a top effort, and to Nic Jones and Emily Lethbridge for surfing beautifully through to their quarter-final finishes. Just a shame we ended up without a Noosa rep in either final. Oh, and if you caught any of the event webcast, also a brilliant effort from Sam and the crew at our local FreshAir broadcast unit, who managed the transitions to secondary locations almost seamlessly.

I thought Justin Quintal might have already peaked with his superhuman effort to beat Harrison Roach, but he pulled out all the stops to beat reigning world champion Steven Sawyer in what was essentially a battle between the far ends of the World Surf League judging criteria. South African Stevie Sawyer represents the performance end of the spectrum, a snappy style we don’t see that often in Noosa, whereas Quintal is the quintessential stylemaster. Stevie surfs fast and furious and is undoubtedly fun to watch, but me, I’ll take style any day of the week.

And it was style that won the day in the women’s final too, with Brazil’s Chloe Calmon really showing finesse on the longer-running lefts while Hawaii’s former world and Noosa champ Honolua Blomfield struggled to find her rhythm.

The debut WSL Noosa Longboard Open capped another great Noosa Festival, one that I enjoyed from a comfortable seat in the bar, rather than from the trenches. Well done, Noosa Mal Club and World Surfaris, and well done all of our 2019 division champions.

And finally, on that note, last week I made a caption booboo when I credited California’s Tommy Coleman with a nice reverse run. In fact the photo was of Noosa’s own under 15 maestro Landen Smales, who finished third in that division. Sorry Landen.

About 30 years ago when our family was young, we used to spend a bit of time at the old Orchid Beach Resort on Fraser Island, a crazy collection of bars and bungalows on their way to falling off an eroding sand cliff, which in time they did.

The resort also had a crazy collection of local characters who sat around thrashing their livers when they weren’t killing tailor, and always had a yarn to share. But even the Orchid Beach crazies were shaking their heads in disbelief one weekend when a mum from Brisbane set up a beatbox in a corner of the bar, cranked up Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” and unleashed a little boy who was the most remarkable moon-dancer anyone had ever seen.

This little grom had every one of Whacko Jacko’s moves down pat, and he had us all crying into our beers with laughter at his audacious confidence. The kid was a star in the making.

I’d pretty much forgotten all about that long-ago impromptu performance until I sat through most of the interminably long and frequently repetitive “Leaving Neverland” on TV last weekend, watching in disbelief as that dancing grom from Orchid Beach, Wade Robson, his mother who controlled the beatbox, and his two siblings, described the overwhelming tragedy of too much proximity to the late King of Pop.

I gave up being a fan of Jackson when he was about the same age as Wade was that weekend at Orchid Beach, the cutest of the Jackson Five. I’d paid fleeting attention to the string of child sexual abuse allegations that followed Jackson to the grave, but I’d never related that to the Jacko-obsessed boy and his mum who’d thrilled us that night in the bar.

Listening to Wade Robson’s story and watching the anguish on his face as he related it, I wondered just how many once-little fans around the world are still facing up to their demons because they flew too close to the sun. Wade has his own family now and seems to be healing, but there must be countless others whose lives have been ruined by their encounter with the evil gloved weirdo.

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