With the third annual Garage Handplanes Body Bash almost locked away for 2018, we thought it was about time we reflect back on this year’s superb event and share some of the images and memories from what was the best Body Bash yet.
Each year at the Noosa Festival of Surfing, we have enjoyed welcoming an international consortium of whompers, surfers, bashers and sliders to Noosa’s famed waves and spectacular beaches. Yes, it’s true that waves have left us a little wanting for the competition in recent times, but extracurricular jaunts out to the further points or quick hops over the headland to the more exposed Sunshine Beach have kept the wave-hungry happy and, to be honest, the Garage Body Bash is about far more than points, heats and contest skullcaps.
Nick Brbot, Russel Pollard, Tim Burnham, Belinda Baggs, Tom Marr, Kane Wilcox, Daniel Carr
2017’s festivities of stoke began before the thought of heat times had even entered our heads, Garage’s Dave Archer catching up with the Noosa Fest’s media manager, Thomas Alexander, who was playing host to director of the bodysurfing documentary, Dirty Old Wedge, Tim Burnham, making the trip across the Pacific to present his film and compete.
Finding a peak to themselves, they talked over the week ahead and their few degrees of separation in the tight-knit community of bodysurfing. Beers on the beach, toes in the sand and Tim’s epic movie playing on the big screen drew together the frothing masses.
The DaFin Hawaii crew were in full force, director Kenui Cochran bringing his team of Kaneali’i Wilcox, Mark Cunningham and others from the islands, California had its contingent, our special guest, Belinda Baggs had come up from the cold waters of Torquay and the Sydney family had made the road trip – this is what it was about and all we had been hoping for.
Tim’s movie had had us all dreaming of a firing First Point, Noosa, five-foot point waves reeling through the bay and gracing us with all we could possibly wish for, but the contrast at dawn could not have been more stark; glassy, warm, clear-blue skies…and a mill pond ocean. We’d thrown the word into the social media grape vine of a sunrise session for the international gathering, and we met to the north, finding a beach break worthy of getting wet for. It was a meet-and-greet, welcoming everyone to the event and making new friends, but more than that, the sunrise session was a sharing of ideas, techniques and equipment.
We at Garage love to hear everyone’s take on bodysurfing. Sure, we stand by what we create, but we are always keen to hear others’ perspectives, test out their gear and encourage the act of bodysurfing plain and simple, plane or no plane, whatever you ride or however you slide, and we were stoked at the camaraderie of all present, the perfect icebreaker for a weekend of waves.
When the hour ticked in for competition to start, it felt as much like a freesurf of mates than a serious contest of rivals. Waves might have left a little to be desired, but what lacked in size was made up for in smiles and, truth be told, it is the more challenging conditions that bring out the finest skills.
John Watson, playing the wave waiting game at First Point
The Marr family, Tom a Garage team member and Jake and Jae – brother and dad respectively – showed that bodysurfing is as much about swimming as it is about sliding, using their swimming skills and fitness to maximise the potential of the smaller, weaker waves. Kane Wilcox, too, was in excellent form, his ability to utilise every scrap of oceanic energy making him a firm favourite for the finals. Australian bodysurfing stalwarts, Don McCredie and Phil Gabel – complete with his signature bright pink handplane and matching zinc – were as solid contenders as always, but some of the newer faces were making an outstanding first impression. Liam Short tripped up from Brisbane; well known in the local community of body bashers, his first-time appearance was outstanding. Likewise for the comp’s youngest competitor, Zane Baxter, who showed the superb potential of the next generation.
Tim Burnham regaled us over evening beers with tales of a perfect, three-foot inside bank a few points round at Tea Tree Bay. Dodging the influx of world class longboarders, Tim had scored some great, long rides at the pristine break and we all wished for a relocation of competition for the following morning. But daybreak on Sunday was a carbon copy of the day before: small, perfect waves with excellent shape, but barely making a foot. Another morning freesurf brought us all together again, competition placings and pressures well forgotten in the morning waves. Surfing used to have a global kinship, strangers welcomed with open arms to home breaks, and while an underlying connection remains, and the international surfing family remains intertwined, it has become somewhat localist and segregated, between genres, but also in cliques – a ‘them and us’ vibe tainting an otherwise communal vibe. Bodysurfing, on the other hand – perhaps because of its still very niche market and the sense that bodysurfers are the last in the line up’s pecking order – embodies that camaraderie, welcoming strangers, revealing secret spots, intermingling of brand devotees and team riders – none of it matters; we’re all just heads bobbing in the water.
When the six caps were collected for the finals, they were into the hands of Tom and Jacob Marr, Tim Burnham, Don McCredie, Kaneali’i Wilcox and by a superb performance from Liam Short, the outsider amongst familiar names.
It was a struggle, surfers kicking as much as trimming, but enough sets came through for all to have a fair shot at a very narrowly contested win. Kane Wilcox was unlucky in his search for a wave of significance, his skills and potential never finding the opportunity to shine. Don McCredie defied the decade or two he was giving away to fellow finalists and for a while, it looked as if the younger Marr brother might topple his brother’s winning streak, doubly impressive on the back of a couple of months out of the water due to injury. A late charge from Tim Burnham couldn’t be backed up, awarding him an admirable second, but it would be Tom Marr who would retain the crown as Garage Body Bash champion for the third year running.
It’s funny; the Noosa Festival of Surfing is why we had all come together, as it had been for the last three years and why we will return to the shores of Laguna Bay next March, it is the competition that sets the date and sets the occasion. But we can’t help feeling that the comp itself is just a side show - great fun, a darned good reason and we are stoked to host it each and every year. It’s the comp that dictates the event, but it is the connection that inspires us all; inspires us to host, inspires others to travel across the world, and inspires everyone to come together, in comp or freesurf, share laughs, tales, gear and stoke in the clear blue, warm waters of Noosa Heads.
The Garage Handplanes Body Bash will take place next March. While dates are yet to be officially set for the Body Bash, the Noosa Festival of Surfing will be taking place 10 – 17 March, with the Body Bash likely to take place over the first few days. Official dates will be announced as soon as we know them.
All Photos: SurfShots Noosa