The 2013 Australian Wavesailing Nationals recently took place in New South Wales, Jodi Stevenson & Jess Holder were on the scene to give us the entire low-down on who was ripping both on and off the water...
Images White Caps Photography | www.whitecapsphotography.com
Without a doubt the premier wave sailing region in the state, and probably the entire east coast of Australia is the Illawarra and Shoalhaven area on the South Coast of NSW.
The original village of Gerroa was once a retreat for various religious orders. Today it is a popular holiday town; the thermal cross offshore summer breezes provide welcome relief for those escaping the sweltering summer heat of Sydney and those searching for their own surfing/windsurfing religious experience.
Gerroa is a small charming coastal town set on a headland overlooking the estuary of the Crooked River, the grand sweep of golden sand Seven Mile Beach and on to Coolangatta Mountain.
This year's Wave Sailing Nationals was to have a roving format so that contest could take advantage of any wind direction. During the event’s 8 days, entrants could be contesting on both tacks from down the line heaven to Pozo style jumping. This variety would hopefully produce Australia’s best all-round wavesailor.
Low Down on the Locations
This place is a freak of meteorology. Seven Mile Beach is officially known as the windiest place on the entire east coast when a NE kicks in, it is as reliable sailing spot as any. If its windy elsewhere, its twice as windy here. If there’s no wind elsewhere, its still windy here! Tucked up in the northern corner of Seven Mile Beach and facing south-east, a NE breeze provides a prefect cross-off shore angle. The waves are smooth and every ride is a long one.
If Gerroa can only provide mast-base high surf, then head south to the other end of Seven Mile Beach to Shoalhaven Heads. As the day progresses, this place takes the “windiest place on the coast" title away from Gerroa. And where Gerroa fails to hang onto the swell, the Heads sucks it in and doubles it! Cross on-shore in a NE it provides epic port tack jumping and backside wave riding. As the wind will often swing further north late in the day, it becomes more cross-shore and can provide some great down the line sailing.
A beach on the northern side of Windang Island, a river mouth break a 20 minute drive north from Gerroa. Some regard it as, on its day, the best starboard tack sailing spot anywhere. The banks change from time to time, based on how often the lake entrance opens up. When the banks are good and the swell is up, you will get world class wave rides from next to the island, for several hundred metres down wind connecting all the way to the beach. This place can get very heavy and it has claimed countless masts, sails and boards.
At the registration tent the vibe was almost like a high school reunion. Many past champions, legends of the Aussie scene, rivals and friends alike had made the trip.
Even though we didnt get 'typical' Gerroa conditions (despite a stand out season) there was exceptional wave sailing and thrilling finales; victorious sailors winning by only half a point to progress through to the next stages.
On the social side - the traditional Mexican night looked to be quieter than usual but rest assured with the discovery of a water balloon stash, the party cranked up a notch. I can't confirm if some of the warm water balloons were “not water" but with groms forced to surrender their case of beer, alcohol stashes being raided (Tobes I think you still owe me), and some roof climbing, anything was possible.
The final saturday looked to be a great day for completion of double elims with huge storms moving south. Although not what Gerroa normally turns on, the slightly gusty 20kn onshore (ESE) conditions and head high sets was great for jumping action and solid wave riding. The Bommie out back, off the tip of the headland, was a decent size too. It's an awesome break that was taken advantage of the following day. According to radar observation the storm had characteristics of a tornado and wreaked havoc that night on nearby towns with 100km winds.
Event Wrap Up & Results
Brett Goodwin's rise from =8th spot to 3rd after 1st Elimination was spectacular. Aside from his usual great free sailing taking out the Expression Session, Brett also stood out in the heats.
In the 1st elimination he was just beaten by Shane Finnigan. 2 Judges to 1 with the one of the judges against him scoring ½ point difference on his score sheet. You don’t get it much closer than that. Shane went on to claim 3rd spot at the end of the 1st elimination.
In the 2nd Elimination Brett then sailed against and beat some very strong competition starting with Hawaiian Russ Faurot. Then Tim Knowles. Then Dan Berry (multiple Australian title holder and 2nd last year.)
Then he went up against Andrew Morris (4th here at Gerroa 2 years ago). Then Shane Finnigan and was finally beaten in his 6th straight heat (no breaks in between) by Mick Westra.
Yes local sailor Mick Westra also sailed very strongly against Brett and was able to secure a close win giving him the right to move on have another crack at Ben Severne.
In the final Mick Westra, a previous Australian Champ, hit some huge forwards and push loops against Ben Severne. Mick’s wave riding involved some very deep gouging and very powerful smacks at the lip which was rating very highly with the judges.
It was an aggressive battle, however, Ben was able to land back loops perfectly at will every time. But the most telling move of all was Ben’s wave riding. Over the whole event Ben left no doubt that he was able to run way out in front of the wave much further than anyone else and come in under the lip more vertically. All in onshore conditions, truly remarkable and definitely a world class effort.
1 Ben Severne
2 Mick Westra
3 Brett Goodwin
4 Shane Finnigan
5 Andrew Morris
6 Dan Berry
Dave Stafford’s comeback from =8th spot after 1st Elimination was also a great effort. Dave beat some very good sailors along the way but his last win against Richard Ellis who had just beaten his multiple title holding brother Lloyd Ellis made Dave’s win against Richard a very special occasion.
Warren Holder demonstrated just how locals do it best to clinch the winning position in Grand Masters after a re-run of the finals against Jason Cater (1st in Masters)
1. Jason Cater
2. Akim Halank
3. Martin Batstone
Grand Masters 45+
1. Warren Holder
2. Richard Ellis
3. Jason Juretic
1. Dave Stafford
2. Lloyd Ellis
The women's division proved tough in light conditions, Jessica Crisp was proven yet again a formidable competitor taking out 1st due to great wave selection. Local Jessica Holder also used her local knowledge to beat Cheryl for 3rd place.
1. Jessica Crisp
2. Kate Barker
3. Jessie Holder
4. Cheryl Cater
Double elimination was completed earlier in the week at Shoalhaven in cross onshore mid size wave conditions. With consistent riding in light winds by Kirk Koster and Jaimie Coehlo and some solid backside waveriding by James Broomhead, Luke Baille had his work cut out for him to take out 1st.
1. Luke Baille
2. James Broomhead
3. Jamie Coelho
4. Kirk Koster
Groms, Juniors and Youths
The Youth battles were spectacular with Wanda local Ollie Cox turning the table on local Forrest Ladkin's result 2 years ago.
Ollie’s forwards were very strong as well his improved wave riding was enough to secure his 1st Australian title. Eager to pit their skills against each other, who knows what battles these two will have in the future, not to say that 3rd place getter Kia Bates - the semi pro SUP’er - won’t be there as well.
In the junior heats, Zack Coleman made the most of marginal conditions to take 1st with some consistent wave selection and riding.
In the Grom's, another tough and competitive heat saw Tom Walker winning and his brother Nick tied for 2nd with 11 year old Alex Halank.
1. Oliver Cox
2. Forrest Ladkin
3. Kai Bates
1, Zack Coleman
2. Harry Walker
3. Ned Coleman
4. Jake Juretic
1. Tom Walker
=2. Alex Halank
=2. Nick Walker
Organisers would like to thank the sponsors for the great support and prizes (Severne Sails, Windsurfnsnow, the Windsurfing Shed, 1knt surfshop, Natural Necessity, Fanatic, Starboard, the Zu Boardsports, JP Australia, Neilpryde, Hot sails and White Caps Photography)