More words for PLB on the Hyundai Longboard Tour 2010
Usually when I hear that a surf competition is being held at my local break the first thing that pops into my head is, 'bet it will be pumping and crowded', so where else can I go for a wave.
But this time I packed up the car with the wife, kids, camera gear, buckets and spades - the only thing missing was my longboard, which I promised the wife I would leave at home - and headed off to Sandy Bay for the third and final day of the Hyundai Pro Longboard Tour.
Sandy Bay is popular beach break lined with a few holiday homes and Pohutukawa trees on the East Coast of Northland NZ, 30 minutes north east of Whangarei City, Sandy arguably the most frequented surf spot in the area, where many locals have learnt to surf, myself included, usually at the southern end of the beach in the aptly named 'Kiddies Corner'.
On arrival at Sandys, 'The Bay' or 'Scungies' as it is well known for it's annual seaweed infestation, we find the carpark full to overflowing, sponsors flags flapping in the onshore breeze and a shoulder high swell marching onto the shoreline, after securing the all important child friendly carparking space, the next step is finding 'the spot'.
Luckily friends and fellow Bream Bay Sliders members - a family based group of mainly longboarders from the Waipu Cove area, an hour south of Sandy Bay - had that sorted for us, shaded with an elevated view of the action.....perfect.
In this quiver of surf enthusiasts was shaper, surfer and long time friend Roger Hall from Surfline Surfboards, Ruakaka. Roger, who had taken out the over-40s division at Sandy Bay in 2001 and came second overall after competing in only three legs of that tour, was there to support two of his teamriders, Dr. Michael Burling and Brendan Young, both from Hawkes Bay, an all day roadie away.
As you can imagine the five-leg tour which spreads over both, North and South Islands, starting at Tay Street Mt. Maunganui in early January, Sandy Bay, St. Clair Beach Dunedin, Whangamata, then wraps up at the end of March in Port Waikato, has the competitors racking up a lot of miles.
With a nod from the wife I head for the waters edge, camera in hand as Brendan in a rather fetching competition rashie paddles out for the final of the over-40s.
This coincides with an eruption from his pod of supporters, opting for the northern end of the beach amongst the free surfers, a tactical move. Brendan scores peeling left after left to take out the final, he has been competing over a decade and knows when to have his game face on.
The inclusion of Stand Up Paddle boarding in this years tour gave the spectators another excuse to hoot, gasp and cringe.
Between heats the 'rock stars of longboarding' - as described by the over enthusiastic commentator through the megaphonic speakers bellowed - paddled out for a between heat free surf. A figure appears from the white wash, it was friend and fellow member of the Bream Bay Sliders, John Sutcliffe with a timber wave craft in hand, his grin says it all, a self confessed backyard wooden board builder with his hands on Taylor Jensen's personal handmade Alaia, happy as a clam. Taylor was on a road trip around NZ with Al Ashworth from Slide Magazine and shared his equipment as if he was a 'Bay' local, a great thing to witness.
With the open final well under way the pressure was on, for me that is, to get some nice images of the action before the kids - who were getting very restless in the afternoon heat - impaled themselves on the remains of Kina shells that were in close proximately to our now well secured spot. As for the competitors, Josh Constable from Noosa, Californian Taylor Jensen, Dr. Michael Burling and Dylan Barnfield, they went about their business with a mixture of power and precision for a solid 20 minutes. In the dying moments of the heat, smiles and banter was exchanged between kiwi lads Burling and Barnfield while Constable floated gracefully across white caps and on to open wave faces flashing his fins at the onlookers, amongst them was renowned Sandy Bay surfer John Ayrton, Constable's fin maker from Glide Fins, who is now based in Victoria.
Jensen mixed cutting small waves into smaller pieces with 5 toed tip time, scoring 19.35 out of a possible 20 for the win. Constable clutched the next highest total followed by Burling and then Barnfield.
With the successful completion of this year's tour consisting of open, women's, under-18s men, over-40s, over-50s and SUP divisions, it was overall point scorer Dylan Barnfield who took the trophy home to Ohope.
With my usual family commitments, travelling to Port Waikato for the tour's final leg was unfortunately out of the question but at dawn the day after the Sandy Bay leg of the tour, I was back - this time equipped with my log - to enjoy smaller yet cleaner waves in 'Kiddies Corner' with a few friends, out of towners and some competition left overs. I shot a few rolls of film which gave me time to reflect on what had been another memorable day at my local, family, injury free kids, friends and shared equipment, classic. But as the truck loaded up with port-a-loos made it's way up the hill behind me, I felt like my local had some sense of order restored, at least until next time.
By MICHAEL CUNNINGHAM
15 hours ago