A last post from Timor

Harrison Roach styling his way to world #2 in Galicia. Photo WSL.

By Phil Jarratt

From my position in the cramped media mosh pit at the Tasitolu dustbowl stadium outside of Dili last Friday, I watched an elderly man, nondescript in slacks and a windcheater, despite the heat, in a sea of suits, traverse the VIP stand shooting video on his phone of the vast crowd swarming around the fences, straining for a view of the pageants being conducted on two stages.

When he settled on the media pit, the man in the windcheater put down his phone, smiled at me and waved in the royal manner. I waved back at Excelencia Jose Ramos-Horta, former president and prime minister of Timor-Leste and winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, smiled and held his gaze for long seconds. Then the moment was gone. Anthony Albanese grabbed him by the shoulder, wanting to take a selfie.

Ramos-Horta had aged a little since I last saw him two years ago, when, usually dapper in a freshly-pressed Nehru shirt and a three-day stubble, he was frequently seen around town in his Jeep convertible with a dazzling blonde in the passenger seat. At that time, in a long interview at his offices, he had berated me for asking questions about the Timor Sea Treaty, then being argued behind closed doors in Canberra and Dili.

“Why do you ask me this? he growled. “By the time you finish your documentary the issue will be long resolved and the treaty will be part of history.” Well, the treaty became a reality only weeks later – although its ramifications continue with the absurd prosecution of Witness K – and it took another two years for us to finish Generation 99, so my greatest political hero was right on both counts. But our film made its debut three days before PM Morrison finally ratified the treaty last week, so maybe we’re square.

The brief encounter with Ramos-Horta was the icing on the 20th anniversary cake for me, the end of an extraordinary week of celebration, tinged with sombre reflection on the Popular Consultation of 30 August 1999, which gave Timor-Leste its independence but unleashed a final horrific round of murder, rape and pillage. Our film was enthusiastically received by audiences of locals, peacekeepers and veteran activists from around the world, and, of course, there was music and dancing everywhere.

Now that this chapter is closing, I don’t know when I’ll get back to Timor-Leste, but I will. It’s become another place in the heart.

Noosa longboarders take on the world

Last week I wrote about how the Noosa Malibu Club was going gangbusters at the longboard and logger national titles, but at the time I wrote, the tally of national champions was far from complete, with the Mal Club eventually taking home an incredible seven Australian titles from the Tweed Coast, including rising stars Charlotte Lethbridge and Landen Smales in the junior logger, Peppie Simpson and Alby Curtis the over 50 women’s and over 65 men’s longboard – to give them a bit more clutter in the trophy room – and my personal favourite, Sue Altmann in the over 70s women.

Sue, a veteran dancer and dance teacher, came to surfing pretty late in life, but her athleticism has stood the test of time and her improvement in surfing has been spectacular, probably due to so many regular sessions with surf instructor daughter Kristy Quirk, herself a Queensland champion. Good on you, girls! And to top it off the Queensland team pipped NSW to take out the “Champion Team” honours for 2019.

Meanwhile, from the WSL Galicia Longboard Classic in northern Spain comes the news that Noosa duo Harrison Roach and national longboard and logger champion Emily Lethbridge (yep, Em again) progressed to the quarter finals at this, the second world tour event of the season, giving them enough points to take up second and fourth position in the rankings of their respective divisions.

With the final preliminary event starting in New York tomorrow (September 6), both local surfers have a lot of work to do to catch up to unbeaten ratings leaders Justin Quintal (Florida) and Chloe Calmon (Brazil), but the weighting of points for the final world championship event in Taiwan means that anything could happen.

Could we have two Noosa surfers bringing home a world title? Well, Em is on a tear right now – young, eager and an incredibly versatile surfer. And having followed Harry’s soul surfing/traditional stylist career since the beginning, I never thought that he’d be even surfing on a WSL tour, let alone a contender to win it. That he is says a lot about how the judging criteria has moved towards the traditional approach, and also about the faith that the surfers have in tour director Devon Howard, a great traditional surfer himself, to administer that criteria.

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