Current women’s world longboard champ Soliel Errico. All pics: @surfshotsnoosa
Gus O’Malley out of the Central Coast (and PLB’s cover boy on the new issue, out this week).
Jared Mell jamming that old mal.
Charlotte Lethbridge in the Junior Womens.
Hayden Swan, big bloke, big moves in the Over 45s.
4 March 19
Blue skies and perfect waves, Day Two was all that we could ask, and the surfing lived up to the promises the climate asked for.
Day Two was the culmination of junior surfing, with the University of the Sunshine Coast Junior Women’s Under 18s paddling out first. Californian Avalon Gall has rapidly advanced from the nervous young competitor we saw last year, and definitively claimed the first heat of the day.
Puamohaluokamahna Akaka (more conveniently known simply as Mahina), surfed her first festival with maturity and strength for a solid win, while Summer Richley also surfed strongly to progress.
A very strong favourite for the Classic Malibu Men’s Under 18 division, Kaniela Stewart was simply sublime, textbook surfing once more for an undisputed victory in the first heat of the day, posting a blistering 17.73 out of a possible 20.
Kai Annetts rode a vintage 1967 Hayden board to success in his heat, while Gus O’Malley narrowly defeated James Culhane to move directly into the finals.
The Women’s Open, presented by Diverse Lending Solutions, was a showcase of some of the finest longboarding, regardless of gender, that the festival has witnessed thus far. Former Australian National champ, Emily Lethbridge, was simply outstanding, as was Hawaiian Mason Schremmer, but surprise defeats were also seen in former world champion Honolua Blomfield and the usually outstanding Lola Mignot.
The White Horses Men’s 45 & Over was incredibly interesting to watch, as a spectator, commentator or judge. Highlighting a changing of the guard, the older participants were more predominantly surfing high performance boards, unlike the more traditionally-inspired singlefins favoured by many juniors. That said, trim and style were skilfully combined with power and speed by many of those progressing to the next round. Hayden Swan, last year’s Men’s 40 & Over defending champion, rode a three-fin, but his style was all about this culmination of longboarding genres, as too was the successful performance of Damian Coulter.
Repechage round for the Under 18s decided finalists prior to the Thomas Surfboards Old Mal Round One.
With waves at First Point’s finest, contestants spanning four decades themselves paddled out on boards dating back to pre-1968.
Little surprise came from a strong victory from the supremely talented Harrison Roach, Jared Mell also an almost predictable victor of the early round’s heat.
Presenting sponsor and a firm favourite, Thomas Bexon, was challenged throughout the third and final heat of the division, but he would have to fall content in third, 2018 Logger Pro winner Zye Norris taking first, and Kai Ellice-Flint claiming second in the dying minutes of the heat.
And then the day went to the dogs.
VetShopAustralia returned once more for the Dog Surfing Championships and once more proved to be the hottest drawcard of the entire festival. Spectators by the thousands packed the beach and lined the point to witness the collection of enthusiastic hydro hounds take to the waves. With Zinc FM’s dynamic duo of Nugget and Al commentating, the dogs (and the humans who happened to be sharing their boards) put on a heart-warming and utterly adorable display for a highly appreciative audience.
A fun, friendly and exhibitional division, a winner nonetheless had to be crowned, and it was a highly excitable Banjo and his fellow human who received the golden bone.
And so to the day’s finals. All junior events concluded today, and it began in stunning style with the Surf Yogis Girls’ Under 15. At 14 years old at younger (at January 1 this year), these talented ladies simply blew minds. The maturity and competence of their surfing truly proved that longboarding has a bright and talented future.
All six finalists were astounding, locals Coco Cairns and Luca Groh flew the Noosa flag, but the final was dominated by the Americans. Luluhia Kane and Sophia Culhane were brilliant, but the sure-footed skills of Kelis Kaleopaa were unrivalled and victory would be hers.
Young Californian Tommy Coleman was simply unstoppable in the Pacific Longboarder Magazine Boys Under 15. Despite some truly excellent surfing from his fellow competitors, especially Sam Ticknor and local favourite Landen Smales, Tommy’s combination of superb talent and exceptionally mature contest surfing proved a winning combination.
The Over 18s concluded the day, and the young ladies of the University of the Sunshine Coast Women’s division were undeniably brilliant. While all surfers unleashed highly commendable performances, Mahina Akaka, Bianca Dootson and Avalon Gall were the ones to beat from the outset. Locals Charlotte Lethbridge and Jade Gower did well. But Californian Avalon Gall emerged the indisputable victor.
The final heat of day two was with the gents, and Kaniela Stewart proved yet again that his talents reign supreme. Hanging heels over the nose in the shorebreak, holding staggeringly-long noserides and riding each and every wave to textbook perfection, the surfer from Waikiki was in a class of his own.
James Culhane, Kai Annetts, Cale Coulter and Gus O’Malley all surfed admirably, tussling for the podium positions, but few could deny that the final heat belonged to Kaniela.
The Gala Tropicana Board Meeting charity dinner raised vital funds for the admirable work of the Board Meeting well on into the night, and with waves from start to finish, stunning weather, aside from a few minor showers, much camaraderie and several thousand wide smiles, Day Two concluded a major success.
- REPORT BY THOMAS ALEXANDER