April 30, 2018

Noosa Heads: world-renowned as one of the finest longboarding destinations on the planet, its perfectly-groomed waves rolling gently across sand-bottomed point breaks are the stuff of a logger’s fantasies.

But one size does not fit all in the world of waveriding, and what is a dream-come-true for some is the definition of mediocrity for others. You see, an average day on Noosa’s First Point is a fun, one-foot trim when you have nine or more feet of foam to float you, but little more than a long swim if you’re sliding on your belly.

Luckily, after three challenging years, what welcomed visitors and competitors to the fourth annual Garage Handplanes Body Bash at the Noosa Festival of Surfing was far from an average day.

They came from across the country and around the world, Americans, Hawaiians, Australians, men and women. A stable of some of the finest bodysurfers on the planet were rallied and delivered by presenting sponsors, DaFiN, brand director Kenui Cochran hobbling along the beach with his crew thanks to a recent snowboarding mishap.

The diminutive bodysurfing community of Australia united on the shores of Noosa’s Main Beach, bringing with them a year’s worth of stories of perfect swells, epic barrels and unforgettable sessions from their corners of the country.

Joining all once more, as much the eternally-stoked grommet as honourable and respected maven of the bodysurfing community, the legendary Mark Cunningham was a continual presence, quick to converse, share waves and spread a thick and generous layer of aloha across proceedings.

Among the notable newcomers and welcome returnees gathered on the sand of the festival’s beach bar on the evening prior to competition, current world champion, David Ford, shook hands and was welcomed to the Body Bash fold for the first time, his freshly-clipped mustache belying the friendly smile beneath it and declaring nothing but business.

The first morning of competition is the same the world over, regardless of sport. Nervous glances, silenced mouths, bowed heads all signaling pure focus and single-minded determination for what lays ahead. So of course, the rag-tag bunch of oceanic misfits once more defied convention, joining together for an equipment-sharing, wave-sharing, talk-sharing sunrise stoke session. Competition be damned if it was going to stand in the way of the unspoken bond and camaraderie of the bodysurfing family.

While it wasn’t up to the standards of the unforgettable swell of 2014, First Point had nonetheless joined the party, and at 8 a.m. sharp competition got underway.

When even this humble amateur can score a long ride and a couple of tricks, it is testament to favourable conditions and, while your narrator may have bowed out a distant last in heat one of round one, it was a thrill to be in the water with two world champions and exceptionally talented bodysurfers.

Waves of power at First Point are as rare as mermaid kisses, but the point was nevertheless offering long lines for those fit enough to keep the power turned on.

Ford marked his position early, charging through the heat, but emerging with heals rabidly ravaged by an on-form Jae Marr. Nick Brbot proved that he isn’t just a big-wave sensation, making easy work of the second, but heat five saw the round’s stand-out. Zane Baxter, one of the division’s youngest entrants, is a quiet-spoken fellow. He’s said six words since last year’s event, and four of those were ‘waves’, but his performance spoke volumes. A big win over a solid field sent ripples throughout the rest of the event.

For the first time in 2018, Garage was thrilled to be hosting an all-women’s division, and the eight ladies, spanning two heats and over 30 years of age, were thrilled to have the opportunity to surf exclusively against their female peers.

As it had been in the men’s division before it, it was excellent to see such an even playing field, age holding little advantage, nor disadvantage, to any of the competitors. Renee Dawkings surfed to an excellent win in the first heat, with Lynda Franklin and Jamie Baxter also progressing to the final.

The only competitor from overseas, Californian Kate Maxfield, who had spent more time in the ocean than on dry land over the previous 24 hours, narrowly missed out to some brilliant surfing by Loz Williams, while young Amy Short, still in her early teens, wasn’t to be outclassed by her more senior adversaries, and progressed into the last remaining finals position.

Competition was the catalyst that drew us, but it was far from the sole, or even primary purpose for our gathering. Saturday evening was enjoyed at the numerous eateries and drinking holes of Noosa, talking about the day’s explorations of Noosa’s outlying breaks, experiences of equipment and waves around the world, as well as establishing friendships that would go far beyond contest points or global division. We were one family, and our love of the ocean and riding waves was the uniting force.

That said, there was a competition on, and there could only be one winner! Sunday dawned likewise – a little less swell, but the sunrise session going ahead regardless. DaFiN’s Kenui was on the beach early, offering all sizes of fin to test out for competitors and the general public alike, and Garage Handplanes’ Dave Archer was joined by Mark Cunningham, Keali’i Punley and the Sydney contingent, Russel Pollard, Dan Carr, Nick Brbot and more. Diffusing any tension the contest might have conjured, all once more enjoyed the chance to simply catch some waves – no agenda, no clock running, no points – simply for the stoke of it.

With a diminished swell, it was the swimmers who had the upper hand, as was evident the exit of both Cunningham and Keali’i in the semi-final, the Hawaiians used to waves of significantly more consequence. Liam Short, who had been an outside finalist in 2017, was again the quiet achiever, surfing strongly into the final. Dave Ford was demonstrating precisely why he is the current world champion. Belying his larger build, Dave was achieving staggering lengths of rides, connecting with the wave’s energy to surf above and below the water’s surface for over 50 metres.

The final was a changing of the guard. Three-times defending champion, Tom Marr, was unlucky to not collect a wave of consequence, long lulls between a brief set challenging all competitors, not only would he have to relinquish his crown, he would also be bettered by younger brother Jacob.

Dylan Kelly was the only other finalist opting for a ‘hands-free’ approach. A technically-superb surfer, Dylan used his lack of handplane to his advantage, surfing submerged, performing multiple spinners in both directions and making the glide look effortless.

Zane Baxter stamped his mark on the event, displaying without a doubt that he possesses almost as much potential as he does talent – a very strong second place, despite only being in his mid-teens, but the king of the world would be king in Noosa too. Dave Ford was untouchable, plain and simple. From the cold waters of Ventura, California, Dave was so stoked to be competing without layers of neoprene. Foregoing the advantage of a handplane, Dave’s win was even more impressive and the Garage Handplanes Body Bash would have a new, and well-deserved champion.

In the six-lady final of the women’s division, while all of the girls were surfing far beyond the potential of the gently rolling waves, it was a two-way race for the title, with Loz Williams and Kate Maxfield going blow for blow. Like surfing of the stand-up variety, it is interesting to see the finesse of female bodysurfers, drifting seemingly effortlessly in front of the white water, manoeuvres performed with a calm grace, unlike the frenetic urgency of their male counterparts.

All finalists surfed superbly, but Kate Maxfield would emerge the inaugural Body Bash ladies’ champion, and deservedly so.

It might be the laid back surroundings, perhaps it’s the aloha spirit of stoke and kinship embodied by the Noosa Festival of Surfing, but the 2018 Garage Handplanes Body Bash, as with those before it, created great times, good stories and happy memories almost none of which had anything to do with point scores and placings.

The coming together of the tribe will always outweigh the results.

Huge congratulations to Dave Ford and Kate Maxfield, and a huge thank you to all who attended – competitors, spectators and fellow bodysurfers – for making this the best Body Bash weekend ever.

 

RESULTS:

Garage Handplanes
Men’s Body Bash

 

Garage Handplanes
Women’s Body Bash

1.

David Ford

USA

 

1.

Kate Maxfield

USA

2.

Zane Baxter

QLD

 

2.

Loz Williams

WA

3.

Dylan Kelly

NSW

 

3.

Lynda Franklin

QLD

4.

Jacob Marr

QLD

 

4.

Renee Hawkings

QLD

5.

Tom Marr

QLD

 

5.

Amy Short

QLD

6.

Liam Short

QLD

 

6.

Jamie Baxter

QLD

 

 All images by, and purchasable from: @surfshotsnoosa


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