Noosa longboarders go hard at the Nats

Our home in Dili, Timor-Leste, for this week of celebrations. Casa do Sandalo within the Mexican consulate. Simple but lovely.

By Phil Jarratt

What a week it was for the Noosa Malibu Club, and especially Noosa’s Emily Lethbridge at the national titles on the Tweed Coast.

Enjoying playful runners at Duranbah and battling frequently difficult conditions at Kingscliff, the NMC’s reps proved versatile as well as talented, and produced the goods right across the divisions, but none more so that 19-year-old Em Lethbridge from Noosaville, who took out the women’s open title in both longboard and logger divisions. In the open longboard she never lost a heat and posted a string of scores in the excellent range, earning her the overall SAE Power Performer award, as well as trophies and cash prizes.

Em is a smooth goofy-foot stylist who can switch from a classic nose-ride to a lip bash at the bat of an eyelid, a surfer who can change to fit the criteria required in the manner of her mentor and shaper, former world champion Josh Constable. Having watched her surf in all kinds of conditions in recent months, from her backhand carving up of Noosa’s run of winter swell to her graceful forehand footwork on the long walls of La Saladita at the Mexy Logfest, I’m convinced that her run on the podium is only just beginning, that we’ll see her with a world title very soon.

But Emily’s dream run on the Tweed was only one of many triumphs for the Mal Club, which in recent years has put a lot of time and energy into junior development and is now reaping the rewards, with junior competitors Charlotte Lethbridge, Jade Gower and Landen Smales all putting up strong performances, with Charlotte reaching the girls’ final and Landen the boys. And the old soldiers turned it on too, with Peppie Simpson and Kristy Quirk into the women’s over 40 final, Hayden Swan into the men’s over 45 final, and the fastest-improving surfer in Noosa, Marnie Morat, into the women’s over 50 final. At the time of writing, you’ll probably know the results, but I don’t, so go the mighty NMC!

Not wanting to be overly Noosa-centric, I should also tip the hat to Harley Ingleby from Coffs Harbour, adding another national longboard title to his trophy cabinet, and Burleigh’s Clinton Guest taking out a second title in the open logger.

A bitter-sweet celebration in Timor-Leste

As I write this week’s column I’m flying down the Indonesian archipelago on a beautifully clear morning, occasionally pausing to gaze out the window at the myriad uninhabited islands, some with bays and reef passes offering surf potential, some offering protected bays and anchorages within reef shoals. Most of them stunningly beautiful from the air.

I’m on my way back to Timor-Leste, which this week celebrates the 20th anniversary of the Popular Consultation (referendum) that gave them independence but ignited an orgy of violence from departing military. So it’s a bitter-sweet celebration, and I’m sure emotions will run high as the many UN peacekeepers from around the world are reunited with the families they helped save, and dignitaries gather from around the world.

As part of the anniversary week, Shaun Cairns from Tewantin’s Panga Productions and I will be screening our documentary Generation 99, following a crazy month of frenetic work – him in Tewantin, me in Bali – to get it finished in time.

We did it! We like it, and despite the fact that I’ve watched it on my laptop about 100 times as it has taken shape, it still makes me both laugh and cry every time.

It’s a couple of hours now since we landed in Dili, and although I was last here only a month ago, what a transformation has occurred in this sleepy little city! The streets from the airport into what passes for the CBD are festooned with national flags of all sizes, the main thoroughfares are sparkling clean in the harsh light of the dry season, and there’s a palpable sense of excitement wherever people are gathered.

It’s going to be an amazing week.

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