Matt Chojnacki in the Logger. All pics: @surfshotsnoosa
Tension in the Teams.
The inscrutable Tommy Wegener, birthday boy.
Eric Walker in the Over 65s, the Ghost Who Walks.
Two-time Pacific Longboarder Under 18s champ in 2017 and 2018, Kaniela Stewart. All pics: @surfshotsnoosa
6 March 19
As predicted for the past week, Tuesday saw a noticeable drop in swell, notwithstanding still providing an excellent array of waves throughout the day.
Even the morning’s quiet high tide was still offering plenty of contestable lines and enough for all competitors to have their share.
The White Horses Men’s 45 & Over kicked off day four, the division’s repechage dividing the pack In two; those who would surf again and those who would wear a contest jersey for the last time this year.
A two-man heat would be first out and, while Nick Demopoulos would be the clear victor, points were inconsequential with both surfers progressing regardless. Heat two was a different story, again with a pair of absentees, but one would fall. Less than two points separated first and last, and the heat was anyone’s to claim right down to the last. Wade Backman would take the top slot, but it would be Greg McCormick the one destined to hang up his legrope.
The Kennards Hire Men’s 55 & Over would be a different story. Alain Sauvage and John Hipocrates were the round’s untouchables, both simply outstanding, even when disregarding the number of their years. Steven Smith and Rod Lyons would qualify from the first heat, while Peter ‘The Chief’ Wallace came from fourth place inside the last 20 seconds to claim advancement into round three.
It was curious to see Norm Bateman in a repechage of the Noosa Longboards Men’s 65 & Over, Norm usually in the upper echelons of the seniors. But there he was, and he made short work in proving that it had simply been a first-round hiccup that had placed him there. Californian Otis Sistrunk, Ray Gardner and Noosa locals Phil Jarratt and Ian Borland would be among the handful to advance.
The Reef Hotel Men’s Logger Pro brought last year’s winners back, seeded directly into round two. Almost half, though, would have to leave their hopes for a finals berth for another year though, with fierce competition in all heats. Hawaiian, Kai Sallas, returning to Noosa for the first in many years, surfed sublimely, combining powerful, progressive surfing with the more traditional Hawaiian style for a superb heat one victory, with Hudson Ritchie coming from behind to claim second.
Harrison Roach his normal inimitable self was joined by Frenchman and World Surf League hopeful, Edouard Delpero to progress, while Javanese Noosa transplant, Husni Ridwan would be as surprise a winner as the frequently victorious Matt Chojnacki was a loser. Matt rode a collection of waves, but each one closing down, failing to allow a high-scoring potential for the man from the Northern Beaches of Sydney.
Noosa local, Matt Cuddihy’s style is so elegantly smooth and casual he almost appears utterly nonplussed on his waves, belying the passion he has for surfing and the immense amount of talent he possesses. A strong win, joined by the excellent noseriding of North Carolinian, Tony Silvagni and another on-from performance from Masaya Tsukamoto.
If Kaniela Stewart is ever nothing short of jaw-dropping, we are yet to see it, and the Waikiki 17-year-old again stood tall and solid, ten toes cleanly tangling from the bow of his board. Smooth transitions connected turns, holding him in the perfect position on each wave and the points rolled in. Troy Mothershead mimicked the Rolls Royce Silver Lady, arms by his side as he, too, spent much of his time on the front six inches of his board, and the pair would both hang ten their way into round three.
Despite all riding vintage surf craft dating back 50 or more years, the Thomas Surfboards Old Mal round two was a continuation of the world-class standard seen in the Logger Pro. Harrison Roach didn’t put a foot wrong, while Zye Norris would overcome his defeat in the Logger for a solid third place.
Heat two could have gone to any of the contestants, and places shuffled faster than a Las Vegas croupier. In the end, three familiar faces moved through, with Matt Cuddihy once more taking the first, Jared Mell and Craig Harvey an admirable second and third respectively.
Vonu Beer presented the dynamic Teams Challenge next and, as in many previous years and with so many surfers on the beach, it became somewhat of a party, highly apt as it also became a celebration for head festival compare Tom Wegener’s birthday. With four surfers to a team and 30-minute heats, the ever-exciting division showed the camaraderie, aloha, smiles and supreme waveriding for which the festival is renowned worldwide.
Team Surf Relik, saw a host of world champs, past and present, absolutely dominate. Taylor Jensen, current world champ Soleil Errico, Josh Constable and Kai Sallas were in a league of their own.
Meanwhile, the hosts, Thomas Surfboards, put two teams forward, both surfing strongly and both advancing.
Amongst the Thomas stable was the young surfer from Biarritz, Jules Lepechaux. Despite being the second-youngest of the team, Jules’ phenomenal skills and explosive finishes gained the greatest respect of the round. That is, except for the birthday boy.
Tom Wegener was adopted by the Ray White Noosa team lead by Jared Mel and surfed last. Unbeknown to Wegener, the team had made a secret pact, surfing as rapidly as they could to gain their best scores and leaving Tom with a full 20 minutes to enjoy a stunning First Point with only three other surfers. A birthday cake came from somewhere, Vonu beers form somewhere else, Tom paddled in beaming with glee and few greater gifts could he have asked for.
Hayden Swan, Owen Cavanagh and Damian Coulter were in a league of their own to wrap up their respective heats in round three of the White Horses Men’s 45 & Over, while in the Kennard’s Hire 55s, Scotto Ford surfed hard for a solid win, despite having been mostly land-bound for several months.
Wally Allan held patient in his heat, rising from sixth to first on his last wave, knocking Alain Sauvage into second, both still qualifying for the next round.
Bruce Channon – always a standout in the Noosa Longboards Men’s 65 & Over – redeemed himself and proved an absolute inspiration. Well into his 60s, Bruce showed that many of the spectators and competitors still had many years in which to surf, and surf exceptionally well.
The final heat of the day was the LadyLogger Pro. Despite being a repechage, it could have been a final. Two world champs, the current and 2017 in Soleil Errico and Honolua Blomfield respectively, were joined by Tully White, Mason Schremmer, Kirra Seale and Haley Otto. All bets were off as this talented sextet paddled out, each and every one both capable and worthy for a first place. Try as she might, Honolua couldn’t find the waves she needed. Otto surfed strongly, as did Kirra Seale, but it would be the calculated surfing of Schremmer, White’s deft footwork and the solid and confident style of Errico that would see the latter trio entering Wednesday’s final.
The evening’s entertainment was twofold. Returning for the second consecutive year, ‘She to Sea’ – an all-female exhibition of surf art and photography took place at Halse Lodge. As with the previous event, Halse Lodge was packed to the rafters. The talented ladies hosted a much-appreciative crowd in the surrounds of the iconic Halse Lodge, with plenty of drinks, nibbles and visual delights for all.
Meanwhile, Land & Sea Brewery hosted Tom Wegener’s birthday bash. Equally as well attended, it was a fitting end to Tom’s day of celebrations, with speeches complemented with food and locally-brewed ales aplenty.
All in all, Day Four was quintessential Noosa Festival – big smiles, happy times, great waves and much aloha.
- REPORT BY THOMAS ALEXANDER / NFOS