Medina the conqueror

Gabriel Medina on fire at Rottnest. Photo WSL.

By Phil Jarratt

Well, who would have thought little old Rottnest, home of the quokka and far too many atrocities to list here, would provide a surprisingly exciting climax to a surprisingly exciting Australian leg of the World Championship Tour.

Of course the theme of the tour, from Merewether to Narrabeen to Margies and finally Rotters, has been two solid turns and punt it or bust, but once you get used to the idea that this how you win in closeouts, it’s pretty good to watch.

I only caught the view from the beach (or VIP bar if you must) for a couple of hours on finals day at Narrabeen, but I’ve followed it pretty closely on Fox Sports, on the Mac and sometimes even on the iPhone, and I’m calling this unlikely Covid collection of second-rate locations one of the best Australian legs in years. Of course, it doesn’t seem quite right without Bells, and it would have been lovely to see how the rookies handled getting pitted behind the rock at Snapper or at The Box, but the city beach breaks has their great moments, and the West was pure magic.

For the rookies, it’s certainly been young Morgan Cibilic’s season, although why he didn’t try to score an eight plus on something over the final 15 minutes of the Rottnest final is beyond me. But what a talent he is! For mine, he has the power of a Simon Anderson and the sweet lines of a Terry Fitzgerald, but maybe that’s because the first time I saw him compete was a few weeks back at Narrabeen, where those greats of old dominated for so long.

In the women’s, Hawaii’s Carissa Moore has dominated throughout with some of the most beautiful surfing of her distinguished career, but at Rottnest I was stoked to see Sally Fitzgibbons have her day in the sun, and I’d love to see her power on to a world title this year, and maybe an Olympic gold. And a special mention for France’s Joanne DeFay, whose surfing has always been pretty to watch but has suddenly become a very canny competitor, and it’s making a huge difference to her results.

And finally, when it comes to the Brazilian Storm – and please overlook the fact that at the start of the season I declared them dead in the water – we’ve been making such a fuss about reigning world champ Italo Ferreira for the past year or two that we’ve forgotten about good old Gabby Medina, now partnered up and completely Charlie-free, relaxed and surfing up his own storm.

It’s going to be hard to stop him for a world title this year, because at last he’s surfing the wave. His carves are as good as his airs, and when he brings his full repertoire to the table, it is beautiful to watch, as it was this week at Rottnest.

Behind the scenes at Noosa fest

We’re used to the breakfast TV shows popping up to do the weather spots on location around Noosa’s big events, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like the media circus behind the scenes at last week’s surf festival.

For a start, the Panga Productions crew was running around wildly from one end of the beach to the other shooting scenes for Fuel TV’s several shows around the event, to be screened globally over the next 12 months.

Meanwhile, hidden away in a quiet corner of South Pacific Resort, Australia’s Surfing Life boss Ray Bisschop had set up a surfer’s den interview set in one of the spacious apartments, with a succession of surf luminaries trooping through the tropical gardens over a couple of days to present themselves for interview for the Surfing Life TV series, also to be seen on Fuel. Ray and his crew also used the collection of world champion’s surfboards at Noosa’s brand-new surf museum as a suitable backdrop for their interview with seven-times world champ Layne Beachley.

Even deeper behind the scenes, Keith Grisman’s large collection of boards at the museum was the subject of several meetings with a team of researchers from ABC TV and Fremantle’s major new surf-related drama series for 2022, Barons. Aiming at authenticity for this dramatization of the birth of the surf industry in the early 1970s, the production will use up to 40 of the 800 plus boards in the Grisman collection over the next few months of filming in Sydney and the NSW Central Coast, with surf film camera wizard Taylor Steele ensuring that the water action is for real.

It’s an exciting venture for the new museum, which aims to provide links between surfing and the broader community, and is working with local surfing clubs and the Noosa World Surfing Reserve to achieve that.