With Boardseeker HQ experiencing freezing cold westerly winds, frosty mornings and the first signs of snowfall - thoughts at this time of year always turn to warmer climates. And no sooner do we start to dream of Endless Summers and warm trade winds, then this report hits our inbox from Sandy Point Australia - home to one of the fastest speed strips in the World. It turns out though that Sandy Point has much more to offer, as SHQ Boardsports’ Alastair McLeod reports:
Words: Alastair McLeod
Photos: Phoenix McLeod & Georgia Pignolet
The SHQ Sandy Point Melbourne Cup weekend is always the most highly anticipated event of the year for windsurfers in Australia's Southern States. While most of the Nation stops to gamble away their savings on horses running around, we are celebrating 4 days of wind and waves in the pristine Sandy Point, two hours South East of Melbourne.
Sandy Point is well known as one of the world's finest natural speed sailing courses with huge South Westerly fronts blowing across Shallow Inlet. Speed sailors flock from around the country to blast down the glassy water running along the sand bank.
However there is plenty more to Sandy Point than just speed sailing, being situated on the large Waratah Bay. There are plenty of options for wavesailing or SUPing and surfing if the wind doesn't deliver. Otherwise Wilsons Promontory National Park (mainland Australia's most Southern Point) is only a 20-minute drive away for bush walking, hiking and wildlife spotting.
Every year over the long weekend SHQ Boardsports organises and runs a multitude of fun events ranging from SUP relay races, to slalom and speed sailing along with a round of the Victorian Wavesailing Series. No matter what the conditions are doing there is always something going on, topped off with a couple of parties and raffle prize giveaways over the event.
A week out from the event starting I was frenzied over the forecasts, analysing about seven different websites to see what we were going to be in for. Initially it was promising with warm, sunny weather and an Easterly wind pattern - the best combination for wavesailing at Sandy Point. Could it be that we would actually score a fixed wavesailing event with really good conditions? A few days out disaster struck, the best conditions were lining up for the two days before the event started. I decided to head down early to make the most of it.
Alastair McLeod: a few days before the event!
The decision paid off dividends for me and the 10 others who bailed on work to get a super fun session in 25 knots cross offshore and up to head high waves. The best spot to sail is on the ocean side of Shallow Inlet, so you have to park and rig there before sailing up the inlet and walking across 500m of sand dunes. At the end of a 5 hour session the walk back isn't the most enjoyable experience!
As Saturday - the first day of the event dawned, it was apparent that we wouldn't be getting any wind at all. The early morning cloud cleared and the sun came out, with light winds and 2ft waves everyone was ready to get out on the SUPs. By early afternoon it was decided to run the first event - the Battle of the Paddle! The race was simple - a running beach start, paddle out through the surf around two buoys set out the back of the breaking waves, then a sprint back into the beach through the flags.
James Toth dominated the first round on his race board, and the photo finish between Evan Hawkey and Phil Vaudrey in round two was a sight to behold. We still aren't sure who actually clinched it! When the third and final round was completed the winners were announced, James Toth took first with Simon Hansen and Spotty closely behind.
The SUP wave event followed in the playful beach break conditions. The standouts were again James and Simon, with Simon just taking the win by sticking a layback snap into the foam. The judges had a hard time distinguishing between the Donegan brothers but they both were riding well, settling with equal third. Later that night we had the traditional spit-roast barbeque and party where speeches are made, prizes are given out and everyone gets a little loose! Neil Pryde and SHQ had provided two sails to be given out as prizes over the event, a new Hellcat was up for grabs as a raffle prize, which through a weird twist of fate James Toth won seconds after offering to sell it off for $200 to a mate, in the unlikely chance that he won! A couple of Cabrinha SUP paddles were awarded out to a lucky few, then the party continued until the early hours of the morning.
Battle of the paddle
By Sunday afternoon a solid 20 knot South Westerly had arrived and the race events kicked off in the inlet. It was great to see a wide range of people getting into the competitive spirit. Quite a few also ended up grabbing one of SHQ's GPS's to take for a blast down the speed run, with Byron maxing out at 38.62 knots in the relatively light winds. The slalom racing proved to be an impressive sight with everyone charging hard to make it around the marks first. The stand outs were speed demon Spotty, Sandy Point local Andrew Daff and SHQ's Luke Meyers who despite missing the first race ended up making it into 3rd overall with a first and a second finish.
Late in the evening all of the wavesailors headed down to Waratah bay for an onshore jumping session as the wind stepped up a notch, with about twenty guys all out throwing themselves into a variety of loops it was awesome to watch.
Monday was perfect for beginners to get out and learn to windsurf on the inlet. We were lucky enough to have the Neil Pryde and JP 'Learn to Windsurf series' trailer on hand providing plenty of kit for everyone to get out and have a crack. It was impressive to see Sandy Beach Headquarters' Josh Flipp - windsurfing coach extraordinaire, getting kids as young as 3 out on the water and sailing around in no time!
Never too young to learn, with Josh Flipp
The light winds also provided a perfect opportunity to run some fun novelty relay races using the RS Ones and the demo SUPs. With the SUP relay starting off a bit too serious, the combined efforts of Darren Ross and Tom Rosoman quickly had all the spectators laughing by tandem paddling their nearly submerged board across the inlet. The questionable tactics to cut the relay legs down from three to two nearly paid off until an attempted act of sabotage on the other racers distracted them from taking the win. Nonetheless they were rewarded for their (entertaining) efforts with their team winning the Naish SUP paddle covers.
As Melbourne Cup Day dawned the wavesailing crew were rigging up their kit and getting pumped for Round 3 of the Victorian Wavesailing Series. After the early morning briefing it was apparent that we were in for a day of challenging conditions, the wind was very gusty, picking up through rain squalls and often changing direction from cross to cross onshore. There were plenty of decent ramps, although blasting out and hitting them full speed was not straightforward - in the shifty wind a lot of it was going to come down to luck. The Intermediate Division were first out, quickly followed by the first Open heats as the wind started picking up. Tom White was making the most of the fickle conditions on his 5.7 and floaty 90+L waveboard, quickly bagging a backloop and a few forwards whilst many of the other competitors were struggling when the wind lulled. Still there were some solid rides and jumps going down - the level of sailing has really gone up over the past year.
In a break from the heats it was announced that SHQ would be giving away a new Neil Pryde Fly 5.4 to whoever went for the best forward loop attempt with the conditions of course being that you have never done one before! With about twenty sailors frothing over the chance to conquer their fears and walk away with a new sail there was going to be some carnage.
Sic action at Sandy Point
Despite some valiant attempts by Nick Taylor and Tom Rosoman, young Josh Flipp stepped it up with multiple forward attempts every run, waterstarting out of a few and taking the prize. To top it off his new found looping skills managed to put him into first place in the Intermediate division.
The opens finals kicked off with one of the bigger sets of the day breaking and catching everyone inside in the fluky winds. Struggling on my tiny 68L JP Quad I ended up way downwind making it difficult to hunt down the needed jumps. Tom White was sailing well in the tough conditions, using his massive equipment to get around the line up, catching plenty of waves and locking in the required jumps. Evan Hawkey and Andy Ackland both were clocking up decent rides, with Evan's forwards allowing him to take second behind Tom in first. With the wave competition completed, Sandy Point had delivered us the conditions to run every discipline over the 4 day weekend. I think it is fair to say that everyone had an awesome time, making the most of everything that was thrown at us.
A big thankyou to everyone who helped organise the event, the event sponsors - SHQ Boardsports, Neil Pryde, JP Australia and Cabrinha, and also to Sandy Point for delivering great conditions yet again.
See you there next year!
SUP - Battle of the Paddle
1st. James Toth 2nd. Simon Hansen
3rd. Craig Spottiswood
SUP - Waves
1st. Simon Hansen
2nd. James Toth
=3rd. Andy Donegan
=3rd. Ben Donegan
GPS - Highest 5 x 10 sec average.
1st. Byron 37.88 knots
2nd. Craig Spottiswood 36.43
3rd. Andrew Daff 34.24
1st. Craig Spottiswood
2nd. Andrew Daff
3rd. Luke Meyers
1st. Tom White
2nd. Evan Hawkey
3rd. Andy Ackland