NSW Wavesailing – Heat 2

Woolgoolga is a 6 ½ journey from Sydney and well worth the drive. It’s a quiet coastal town just north of Coffs Harbour and offers some of the best Indian food in Australia. I had loaded up the car early Friday with all the toys; 2 waveboards, a full quiver of sails, 6”10 surfboard, 9”6’ Naish SUP and the golf clubs to cover all possible recreational choices. I snuck out from work at 3:00pm on the pretence of attending a ‘board meeting’ and hit the holiday traffic all the way up to Hornsby. Once on the F3 with some driving music pumping, the north coast of NSW beckoned.

Event 2 – Woopi Classic – Woolgoolga – Flat top

Date: October 3rd – 5th 2009

NSW WA Event 2 Woopi Carbon Art, Ask Huey

The NSW WA events are always a great excuse to get away and the chance to catch up with friends from the last competition was even better. I got to Woopi, as the locals call it, about 8pm and was offered the remains of the BBQ and a beer by the boys who had already had a day sailing. Friday’s NE was sailable with 1 metre waves at Hearns Lake Beach but there was a big southerly predicted for the weekend so I wasn’t going to miss out.

“Flat Top” as it’s known, offers both port and starboard tack DTL conditions making it a great venue for a wavesailing comp. One of the Pro division competitors described Woopi as “a great Southerly venue with a NE option but southerly usually brings the best waves”. The last year had provided NE with small waves so with a southerly forecast for both Saturday and Sunday it was obvious that competitors were hoping for more challenging conditions this year.

I arrived at Registration and spotted the Ask Huey tent, who was one of the event sponsors along with a NZ board brand, Carbon Art. A couple of the NSW WA organizers were casually completing score sheets, cooking bacon and egg rolls and handing out free t-shirts . As things didn’t seem to be in a hurry I nominated myself for the Amateurs, grabbed my SUP and hit the glassy 3-4’ peeling beach break waves right out front.

By the close of registration conversation had turned from mountain biking and new babies to the forecasted southerly. The event site was quickly moved to “northside” as the southerly could come at any minute. A quick trip through Woopi, down High St, past the water treatment works and down a sandy track got me to the site. It was obviously that the judges wanted to take advantage of any wind quickly so after a contest briefing everyone seemed to scurry and started rigging.

It was hard to know what size sail to put up, the last event at Gerroa has been really light so picking the right sail size was an important part of competition strategy. Fortunately I have enough components to have two complete rigs ready to go on the beach. I choose a 5.0 if it was gusty and a 4.7 to handle anything above 20kts. With the wind was filling in fast it looked like the comp would start by earlier than the 2pm prediction. I checked with the judges the heat order and what colour rashie to wear and got my gear ready on the beach. It looked like the event would start with the juniors, then Pros followed by Masters and Amateurs.

The Juniors were pretty brave heading out in head high waves and light winds but they looked to know what they are doing. I can’t wait to see how they sail by the end of the season. The Pros were sent out shortly after for a 15 minute expression session but the wind looked to be backing off a bit. I stood up on the hill near the judging tent where the best view was to be had. The guys were struggling a little and then as the wind dropped only a few managed some wave rides. Ultimately the competition was put on hold until the wind increased but the Masters were told to get ready.

It was only 10 minutes and the comp was back on as the wind and waves picked up. It was blowing 25-28knts on the wind metre with waves at least head high on the sets. The Masters hit the beach and showed that age is no barrier to surf sailing. Everyone was getting waves and planning easily around the break. A couple of local guys were even putting a scare into the established hierarchy with their smooth waveriding. After two Expression session heats the top 4 were decided for a final. Following the Masters, the Pros had a rerun of their heat in conditions that really did their skills justice. It was great to see their huge aerials, forwards and risking-it-all waveriding. Only the pictures can really show their abilities. The Pros just seemed to have a more speed and control in their waves and jumps and a much greater variety of maneuvers. I hadn’t seen a cheese roll since 1990’s or an end-over-end forward loop since 2008.

My heat in the Amateurs was full power. The yellow flag only gave us a minute to get ready so I set my watch and waited in the shallows until the green flag shot up signally the start of the heat. In a 30 knot gust I screamed off the beach straight into a head high set. The only option was to go for rocket air and hang on. Everyone was getting waves and jumps but if they were like me I bet they wish that they had rigged a 4.5 or smaller. Upwind the waves had softened a little on the falling tide but had increased in size. Upwind there were the logo high waves peeling perfectly for DTL rides, if you picked the right one (I did not) and even mast high sets rolling in downwind (which I avoided). I kept to my competition strategy of getting in as many jumps and rides as possible and staying upwind until the last few minutes. By watching the previous heats it was obvious the judges liked genuine waveriding and a go-for-it attitude. Hopefully I would get through to the next round. At the red flag I was totally spent even though I had done some training over winter. Competition sailing requires a much higher level of fitness than free-sailing but you only have to hang on for 15 minutes.

After my heat I judged a couple of other heats. There was a spotter on the beach calling out the sailors names which made scoring so much easier. Each huge move or crash was rewarded with a load cheer from the “hill”. I’m sure the sailors could hear the crowd urging them on to hit the biggest sections. A couple of sailors got absolutely smashed and there were some huge bail-outs but there was no gear broken all day.

What an event! There is a great video around and lots of photos on Seabreeze and the NSW WSA website. I can’t remember a contest in recent times when epic wind, waves and a competition had all combined on the same day.

The event concluded with a presentation BBQ at the local Seaview Tavern. A brand new Neil Pryde Boom was raffled off courtesy of Wind Surf n Snow and everyone got some Ask Huey Sunscreen and a prize from the table. The Organizers obviously like to keep things moving quickly as the official part of the presentation finished in time to watch the NRL Grand Final.

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