The masked World Games

Steph Gilmore in full flight at the World Games. Photo ISA.

By Phil Jarratt

Surfing’s Olympic qualifying event, that really should have been called off because of the health risks, somehow stumbled through last week in El Salvador, crowning new world champions and sending the final 12 of 40 surfers selected for the Olympic to Tokyo.

After seven surfers tested Covid-positive at the start of the Games, they seemed likely to be abandoned, but tenacious International Surfing Association president Fernando Aguerre adopted strict new protocols and just got on with it. An emotional man at the best of times, Fernando said after the crisis had been averted: “The Olympic spirit has been stronger than ever today. Emotions showed, tears flowed, and dreams were fulfilled. Finally we know all of the men and women who will raise their country’s flags in Tokyo.

“And to those young surfers who did not qualify, I have some words for you. In just three years you will get another chance to compete in the Paris 2024 Games in Teahupo’o, Tahiti. Focus and get back to work, because surfing is here to stay in the Olympic Games.”

Fernando added: “A total of 17 countries qualified among the 40 surfers. We have countries such as Indonesia, Germany, Morocco, and Argentina competing in the Games. That is a true testament to the growth and universality of our sport, part of a major goal of ours to spread the joy of surfing to all corners of the globe.”

The Games, held at El Salvador’s La Bocana breaks, renamed Surf City for the duration, crowned Australia’s Sally Fitzgibbons ISA women’s world champion for a third time, with France’s Joan Duru winning his debut world men’s crown and, alongside team-mate Jeremy Flores, pushing France into a teams world title.

This was a rather special result for me, because 20 years ago, while working for Quiksilver Europe’s marketing department, Gary “Kong” Elkerton and I carted these two little French boys and their mates from one end of Europe to the other, competing on the Pro Junior Tour. Now both of them, in the middle of stellar pro careers, have the opportunity to win Olympic gold for their country.

While many of the Olympic qualifiers had already been selected at prior events – including Australia’s full team of Fitzgibbons, Stephanie Gilmore, Owen Wright and Julian Wilson – the 2021 ISA World Surfing Games awarded the last slots to the highest ranking eligible five men and seven women. The seven women’s slots were claimed by Portugal’s Teresa Bonvalot and Yolanda Sequeira, Costa Rica’s Leilani McGonagle, Peru’s Daniella Rosas, Japan’s Mahina Maeda and Amuro Tsuzuki, and France’s Pauline Ado. The men’s slots were earned by Germany’s Leon Glatzer, Peru’s Lucca Mesinas and Miguel Tudela, Chile’s Manuel Selman and Japan’s Hiroto Ohhara.

More jab, less jabber

I’m so sick and tired of hearing the politicians and the health bureaucrats go on night after night about the importance of attaining herd immunity through the Covid vaccination of around 80 percent of our population, while the problem lies almost entirely in their own failure to deliver adequate systems to get the job done.

My wife and I finally got our first jab a couple of weeks ago, several months since becoming eligible. The reason for the delay is because our trusted medical centre of nearly 30 years refused to take vaccination appointments until they had enough doses to ensure delivery. Finally, on a visit to my GP, whom I regard as one of the best in the business, I was told to keep an eye on the centre’s website to find out when they were taking appointments again. When I did that I found that they had since removed themselves from the roster because “we found that COVID vaccination was placing an unreasonable and unsustainable burden on our practice”.

Whichever doctor wrote that should perhaps consider the sustainability of his or her own medical career. Merchant banking might be more suitable.

But buck passing in private practices is only part of the problem. Everywhere you look there are bureaucratic obstacles to a free and easy jab, at a time when we should all be following a clearly-marked route to the nearest vaccination centre to do our duty for the common good of all Australians, and to hasten the process of getting back to our favourite offshore surf destinations.

Me, I’m only good for a semi-soft old guy wave these days, but I’m just jonesing for a hit of Indo or Mexico real soon. Ain’t gonna happen until the world gets jabbed.

FOOTNOTE: In another part of last week’s edition of Noosa Today I wrote about old mates Andy Cowan and Barry Charles teaming up for a very special concert called Time to Reflect at Pomona’s Majestic Theatre next weekend. Andy phoned me just as the issue went to print, distraught that while reflecting on his long and storied musical career he’d neglected to mention frequent collaborator and legendary bluesman Doc Span. It was too late to do anything about it then, but since everyone who loves the blues loves Doc, and since 30 years ago he played the blues at my 40th birthday party, and since he’s had a pretty tough year, let’s raise our glasses (and harmonicas) to the one and only Doc Span. Tickets to Time To Reflect may still be available at