Landen is one of a kind

Landen Smales. Photo Surfing Queensland.

The latest bulletin from proud mum Nat Smales, who reports that younger son Landen is having a hell of a season in the junior ranks.

Says Nat: “Landen just recently won the blue ribbon division (under 16 boys) at the Occy Grom Comp held on the Gold Coast. A massive achievement for him. He also finished a close third overall after two rounds of the Queensland State Surfing Titles.

“This secures him a position in the team to represent Queensland at the upcoming Australian Junior Shortboard Titles to be held at Stradbroke Island in November. He was also selected to be part of the Surfing Queensland Academy in the lead up to the Australian Titles.

“Landen is the only competitor who has been selected to represent Queensland in both the Australian Longboard Titles and Australian Shortboard titles in 2022. He will be defending his Australian Junior Logger title down at Port Macquarie in a couple of weeks. He’s definitely one of a kind, this kid.”

That he is, Nat, but let’s not forget older brother Kayden who is also a hell of a surfer on short and long. And he’s a goofy so that gives him extra points in my book.

Challenger Series heats up

Moving up a gear on the competitive front, we’re still a couple of weeks away from the all-important last WSL world tour event before the finals series at Lower Trestles, with only Filipe Toledo and Jack Robinson having secured finals berths. That means that the other three currently in the top five, Ethan Ewing, Italo Ferreira and Griffin Colapinto going hard to secure their spots in the challenging waves of Teahupoʻo. In the women’s Tatiana Weston-Webb, Steph Gilmore and Brisa Hennessy will be fighting for their final berths.

Meanwhile, the WSL Challenger Series is getting to the pointy end, with only four events to follow the Vans US Open, which starts this weekend at Huntington Beach. The top 10 men and five women from the Challenger qualify for next year’s World Championship Tour, and in the men you’d have to say that Bali’s Rio Waida has such a commanding lead he looks certain to qualify. Also above the cutline are Aussies Callum Robson, Dylan Moffat, Sheldon Simkus and Ryan Callinan. Last year’s hero Morgan Cibilic sits just below the line at 11, but Callum Robson will double qualify, giving Morgs a slightly better chance, if he can find some late form.

In the women’s our Molly Picklum is sitting at number two behind wunderkin Caitlin Simmers, with Nicky Van Dijk and Macy Callaghan also in the mix. Bronte Macaulay is just outside the cut and has work to do to requalify.

Huntington will also host the Vans Duct Tape longboard event in the coming days, the second of three events making up the WSL longboard tour this year. Noosa’s Harrison Roach goes into the event top seed after his victory at Manly earlier in the year.

Surfing the Eisbach

A couple of weeks back, while trolling the web for some obscure surfing information, I stumbled on an account of the 2022 Rapid Surf League Munich Pro, held at the start of July.

Now I’d never heard of the event or the sport of rapids surfing, but it interested me for a couple of reasons. One, a bit of research showed me that rapids surfing was a pretty close relative of standing waves, in fact the biggest standing wave company in the world, Flowrider, is now building rapids parks. I gave Flowrider a go in San Diego about 25 years ago, and didn’t exactly cover myself in glory. In fact I was lucky to escape with severe bruising but no breaks, and decided then and there that standing waves were not for me.

The second reason for my interest in the Munich Pro is that beautiful city has a special place in my heart, and was also the reason that I went back on my promise to stay away from standing waves. Although I’m not sure that the Eisbach river wave is technically a standing wave, but the results are the same, as you will see.

For the five wonderful years that I ran the marketing department of Quiksilver Europe, our team would fly up to Munich twice a year for the ISPO surf, snow and sports trade show, one of the biggest in the world. ISPO was also the biggest booze-up on the schedule, as you would expect in a town full of beirkellers. I particularly liked the summer ISPO, when we’d often make time to head into the old town and indulge in long, beery lunches in the bars fronting the beautiful Englischer Garten, which is what we were doing one day when Martin Potter, the 1989 world surfing champion, suggested that I might like to join him for a few waves on the Eisbach.

We knew all about it, of course, in fact I’d been towel boy for Jeremy Flores and a couple of our junior team when they’d obliterated it a couple of years earlier. I didn’t like the look of it then, and I didn’t like the thought of it now. I could still recall the Flowrider disaster and, not to put too fine a point on it, we were drunk. So Pottz dragged me through the garden, commandeered a couple of boards from fans (his not mine) and in he plunged.

He got a few good turns in, then turned to me and signaled that it was my turn. A quick prayer to Huey and I jumped off the bank and onto the wave. A miracle – I was still standing and sort of turning. Then I saw a rock ahead, panicked and jumped off. Not as bad as Flowrider, but not great. Grazed shins, knees and elbows and a twisted ankle.

I hobbled after Pottz all the way back to the bierkeller, very much in need of a drink.