One from the vaults
June and July bring southerlies and swell to the Illawarra coast and points south. Every south coast surfer has a list of favoured secret reefs, beaches or rock shelves filed away for those few special days when wind, tide and swell align. Revisiting those spots time after time ensures that with each mission, those who know increase both their wave quota and their local knowledge. Video rarely surfaces from any of these places, and what does is usually devoid of identifying features: participation is tolerated, publicity is not. Incursions by travellers and blow-ins from the big smoke are usually regulated by the power, intensity and degree of difficulty of the breaks themselves. Serious challenges await just around every corner: anyone who can get there, get out and get shacked, gets respect. Bring balls, humility and patience if you’re heading south. Attitude is best left at home. You won’t need it here.
Video courtesy of Simon Farrer.
Hide & Seek
Legendary lensman, slab pioneer, amazing surfer.
Photo: Richard ” Nat” Palmer
PHILLIP ISLAND KNEEBOARD PRO: 1985‐2014
30 years ago, 16 surfers gathered together to ride their kneeboards in the first ever Phillip Island Kneeboard Pro Event. With good intentions and good vibes, these good mates gathered to celebrate kneeboard riding. Little did they know that 30 years later most of them, along with a host of others, would still be doing the same thing at this exciting event held in a beautiful part of Australia.
From humble beginnings, the PI Kneeboard Pro has become the longest running event of its kind in the world, outlasting all others. It is for the surfers to come to, it is their event. “The One”.
Belief that it would last, enthusiasm, determination and organisation produced this outcome. Its longevity is because someone cared that it lasted. Custodians play an important role. Ian Pewtress, Neil Luke and Jim Brown have had that privilege. 30 years of sticking to the same recipe for success is a great tribute to all who have been a part of it. Each year improvements have been made for the surfer entering. An excellent judging system ensures that every surfer will be judged equally. It has produced the highest standard of kneeboard surfing the world has seen, as testified by the list of winners of this event. All state, national and world champions. Not everyone can win, but everyone can be a part of it. Belief in belonging to this alternative surf style has kept the atmosphere upbeat, buoyant and positive. And the Island has always provided waves. Enjoy the moment, the Island, and keep experiencing the joy that kneeboarding brings. The PI Kneeboard Pro provides you this opportunity. Long may it do so.
The Phillip Island Kneeboard Pro is on the 15th and 16th of March, 2014. For entries and further details follow this link.
So today my almost 5 year old son and I had a day out. We went down to North Kirra for the big rally and paddle out in opposition to plans for the construction of a cruise ship terminal at North Kirra / Bilinga. Unless you’ve been living under a stone you’ll know the general gist of what this is all about: a scheme cooked up by unscrupulous developers to perpetrate a massive grab of public land and construct a monstrous blot on our coastline at enormous cost, including the loss of around a kilometre of open beach and one of the world’s top ten waves. The real prize in the developers’ sights is one of a number of casino licences soon to be granted by the Queensland state government.
Despite it being the kind of Queensland summer’s day that can leave you feeling about as lively as a bucket of hot tar, there was a grass-roots buzz in the air that kept the mood happy. Local people - and I mean real long-termers like the redoubtable Kevin Barr, Wayne Dean and Darren Handley - were out in force to protect their own while Kirra did her thing in the background. Ordinay people of all types, ages, shapes and sizes breezed in to hear Andrew McKinnon, Bruce Lee, Mick Fanning and others who stood before the crowd to say their respective pieces. It was a blast to see so many different people from several generations coming together to support Kirra. A raggedy east swell pushed in as the tide dropped away. What with the sweep and other currents, the paddle out was canned in favour of a mass gathering on the beach. People stood on the hot sand to form the letters WSR (for World Surfing Reserve). Photos were taken, smiles exchanged and everyone left feeling they’d done something worthwhile
After the main business was over, my boy and I adjourned to the nearest establishment we could find that offered both ice-cream and some shade to sit in while we ate it. After that we climbed back in the van and pootled up the road to Currumbin. We parked backed up onto the creek, climbed out, slipped under the wire fence and over the rocks with the boy’s Coolite and were in the water in thirty seconds flat. The boy sat on his board like Buddha and rode the little foamy waves inside the point all the way to the sand. We had a bit of a swim and picked up a few shells. Later we went back to the van to sit on the back bumper eating cheese and crackers washed down with water. We had another swim and headed home.
Days like this are right at the core of coastal life in Australia. We have always allowed ordinary people free access to whatever lies below the high water mark. This is not a nation noted for making its foreshores private property. Almost every Australian has at some point in life enjoyed free and unimpeded access to a shoreline somewhere, whether to fish, sail or row a boat, swim, play cricket or football, surf, dive, walk, run, fly a kite, build sandcastles, pick up shells or simply sit in peace and watch the sun rise or set. The effort to save Kirra is a very small part of a war that’s being waged all over our coastline against people who would deny us and our children and their children yet to come the simplest and most basic of enjoyments: the opportunity to be immersed in something wild and unspoilt, even in the midst of ever-expanding suburbia. What’s at stake isn’t just the beach itself, but rather what it gives those of us who use it, become familiar with it, who are shaped and changed by it. What’s at stake depends on whom you ask. It may be sustenance, reflection, challenge or solace, but in the end what’s really at stake is our relationship with the world we live in and ourselves.
The best relationships grow over many years, involve giving and receiving and are most richly rewarding in a spiritual sense. That a person can look at a wave and see something of beauty worth preserving says something beautiful about that person. We are creating today the legacy we’ll leave our children and successive generations. A cruise ship terminal at Kirra? At The Spit? I think not. Far far better that we say to them “this is something we found so perfect that all we felt compelled to do was preserve it.”
A Drop in the Ocean
We’ve said before that at Legless.tv we do things in our own time, and that’s our excuse for not posting a Christmas message last month. The back end of our year usually starts off busy, goes from hectic to frantic and finally dissolves in a blur of unreasonable work demands, unmakeable deadlines and last-minute Christmas shopping. Such is the madness of 21st century urban life on Earth. To absolve ourselves somewhat of the sin of dereliction we thought we’d fling together a New Year’s message: a bit of a thank you to all of you, wherever and whoever you may be, whatever you may be doing in this 14th year of the third millennium. As you can see, it took us a while to get around to posting it, but we thought it was worth it anyway, so here goes.
One of the biggest legends to grace the sport of kneeriding and a world renowned shaper of high performance kneeboards and surfboards, from the North Shore of Hawaii.
Home Sweet Home.
When we heard that Spain’s North Atlantic coast’s been getting some solid swell lately we thought of Spanish Legless barrel-fiend Chus Fiochi. Knowing how hard he charges, and also knowing that he has a little GoPro habit, we thought we might hit him up for a little video. By coincidence, Chus was raving about a couple of good-as-it-gets sessions he’d just had: 10’-12’ barrels at a favourite point break. This is a guy who takes his fun pretty seriously, and that involves taking his boards to the edge of their performance parameters. Read on…
OK Chus, we heard one of your favourite spots has been pumping lately. Can you tell us a little bit about it, without giving away any secrets, of course … ?
It’s not a secret spot at all, as a matter of fact I think it’s the most famous spot in this area. It’s a right hand pointbreak with a rocky bottom that breaks in front of Santamarina Island, about 1km from the coast. It doesn’t break very often because it needs a solid swell and high-pressure winds, and that combo doesn’t happen very often. It’s usually a very crowded spot on smaller days but luckily not so much when it’s big.
What makes this wave so special for you?
It has a very small takeoff area with lots of boulders and thus can be very tricky to drop into. Sometimes you can get a barrel right off the bat, but a typical wave there would be to do a turn and then wait for the bowl section at the end and see if you can get a barrel there. It’s a two hit pointbreak. It usually has morning sickness and the take-offs can be a nightmare and show who is committed and who isn’t, but when the NE winds pick up, the face cleans up and barrels start to happen in the bowl section. It’s difficult to figure how much speed you need to lose to get in and come out.
What are you riding at the moment?
Contrary to what most people like, I hate to buy new boards, and I only do so when they’re thrashed. I love to learn how they work in depth, so as you can imagine, I am still riding JC’s boards.
Didn’t you recently get an EPS / Epoxy 6’5” gun? How do you find that compared to the JCs?
I’m a funny guy with boards. I can’t ride most kneeboards as they are way too loose. I’m used to putting a lot of force into my bottom turns. If the board isn’t hard I just lose the tail and fall or spin sideways and lose all my speed. That’s a small problem I have with the Native. Even though Al made it harder than usual its not as hard as I would like it. Don’t get me wrong, I love that board! It’s super-fast and manoeuvrable but when I’m dropping in late and the wave has a lot of wall and there are a few bumps, I struggle to bottom turn. Because it’s a board for waves of consequence, when I fall she makes me pay, but she’s so much fun to ride on the upper part of the wave. On the A+ day in the afternoon I rode my JC board for big waves, which is completely the opposite: she gives me a ton of confidence on bottom turns but then loses a lot of speed when I do a standard mid-face carve. I should have ridden the Native that afternoon, but I had a horrible wipe-out in the morning and wasn’t in the mood! If the island wasn’t so far away and I wasn’t so tired I would have changed boards mid-session. My perfect big wave board would be one that paddles like the Native, bottom turns like the JC and then does all the rest like the Native.
I reckon the gem in my quiver is the JC board for barrels, I know her so well and she always delivers: cranking bottom turns, decelerate then accelerate in the barrel, I have it wired and since I only ride it when the waves are hollow and fast I love it! She doesn’t get wet very often but when she does it’s a really good sign.
You’re off travelling again at the end of this month, aren’t you?
I’m going to a small island in the Canaries. The first time I went there was in 1995. I love it! You have to walk everywhere, there are good waves and not so many people. You can often catch waves with just your mates when its big. For me, going there is like a 2 week long session of yoga: I always come back feeling great! My short clip (on Youtube) “Holidays In Then Sun” was filmed entirely there. They call the Canary Islands the Fortunate Islands for a reason you know!
Lovin’ it: Chayne and Macca’s
The way things work at Legless.tv is pretty loose. A lot of things happen when we get around to them, mainly because we all have other important stuff going on: work, family, work, surf, work and for a very lucky few, an occasional Boat Trip. This week, just after Chayne joined Fire & Rescue NSW as a fully-fledged firefighter, we finally managed to pin him down long enough to ask a couple of questions about his Mentawais trip earlier this year.
So, Chayne - the Boat Trip. Which boat and how was it?
We were on the D’Bora. Really cool boat! We had a Captain, 3 crew, a chef and an Aussie surf guide (Ben from Gerringong). There were 9 of us paying guests, all good mates that I surf with every day at home. The food was amazing. Ben the surf guide knew his stuff and kept us ahead of other crews by a day or so, therefore getting us reasonably uncrowded surf. I’d highly recommend the D’Bora.
And the surf? from the videos it looks like you didn’t get a lot of big stuff…
I was in Nias for a week before the Boat Trip and surfed one solid 6 ft plus day at Laugundri Bay (the first clip). The biggest day of our boat trip was day 1 where we awoke to 8-10 ft glassy, super heavy perfection. I got possibly the biggest, roundest and most perfect barrel I’ve ever had in this session. No footage though as being the first day everyone was surfing their brains out. The second day we surfed Scarecrows and it had the odd 8 ft set that kept us on our toes. Other than that we had 3-5 ft waves for the rest of the trip.
Macca’s was my favourite wave of the trip. It has to be the funnest wave in the world!!! There is a limit of 2 boats at a time so this kept the crowd down. Plus there were only 7 people in the land camp.
The Surgeon’s Table at HT’s makes that wave pretty intimidating. I copped my biggest beating at Macca’s. I took off straight into a 4 ft screamer of a barrel and it fully sucked me back like a vacuum and slam-dunked me on my back onto almost dry reef. Cut my back and feet to shreds! But Bank Vaults was the most sketchy wave for sure! It has a super shallow heavy barrel section where the wave bends so far that you can’t see out of the tube. One of our guys nearly ended his trip on day one by head butting the reef on this section.
Ha! Got waves every day for 3 weeks - other than travel days. Some days we surfed for 10 hours!
I guess that’s a yes …
Magical moments do happen for all of us kneelos from time to time. Those sessions where everything just clicks into place can encompass and also fuel the everlasting dream of surfing that we’re all guilty of. Those moments burn themselves into your own personal hard drive of perfect surf memories. One such moment happened for me recently. Yes the surf forecast had hinted that the spot may switch on and yes I had been keeping an eye on the ever-shifting sand bars that can frustrate even the most dedicated Cape Town wave riders, but this session had something more.
Growing up in the Durban area, I learnt early on how to chase and nail epic sessions. In the midst of the apartheid era, I was a frothing 15 year old kneelo blessed to be taken under the wings of Lawrence Atkinson and Red Ceglowski. They shared with me their liberal outlooks and hard-won knowledge of how to read the signs and chase surf. Through my teenage years the two of them mentored me out of the closing walls that surrounded us as South Africa’s political system failed. The political isolation was about on par with surf forecasting at the time. You had to guess a lot and rely on word of mouth and a few signs from smokestacks and swaying palm leaves. All I knew about Nelson Mandela and the ANC is what was told to me by older white folk. All I knew about surf forecasting was onshore and offshore. But my mentors, Lawrence and Red, were forward thinking, eccentric individuals who would forever form my outlook and influence my path with their kneeboard designs, musical tastes and free-thinking perspectives, and also the ruthless competitiveness delivered blow by blow, heat by heat by these adults to this insecure teenage chin. As time passes, so knowledge increases - not just for frothing teenage kneelos, but for countries and governments too.
1990 saw Nelson Mandela walk free from a Cape Town prison after 27 years, most of them spent in isolation on the Atlantic-swept Robben Island. His freedom paved the way for our country’s readmittance to the rest of the world and also allowed me finally to puff my chest out and be exposed to the competitive kneelo world that lay beyond our horizon. The new freedom and liberty my country was experiencing returned to me personally in the form of the first of four ISA world kneeboard titles. Viva Nelson.
What made this evening west coast moment so special wasn’t just the fickle conditions. Nor was it the years of sniffing out special sessions, nor the wave size, nor the ice-cold water, nor even the fact that it was a late evening session that us east coasters never really get to experience. No, the beauty of this session was that it took place on the beaches on the African continent that are closest to Robben Island and that it took place in the same week that Nelson Mandela passed away.
As I watched the sunset over the island on the horizon I realized how much we all owe Nelson, and I gave thanks for the freedom that riding waves has given me, and for the freedom Nelson has given my country, and me in return. This evening surf I will always call the freedom session.
Gigs Celliers - Legless.tv
South African citizen
Wave rider 18/12/2013
Mandela Image: Unknown
Surf Images : Jason Oettle
HT’s: Class in Session
As legless followers already know 2013 was a big year for Chayne. Apart from placing 3rd in the world championships in Tahiti, he got married, bought a new car and made a dream surf trip to Indonesia. Here’s some more video from the latter, just in case you weren’t envious enough already. You might remember the last one of Chayne’s Indo vids we posted here closed with a plane ride. This one opens on a boat parked just off HT’s, with Chayne about to give a class in how to deal with sucky faces, almond-shaped barrels that pinch at the end, and fat cutback sections. This was shot over a couple of different sessions, with HT’s for the most part hiding its heavy reputation as a powerful, complex wave under a deceptively benign and simple mask. Anyone who’s made the trip across the Surgeon’s Table knows the truth. Chayne avoided any pesky reef rash - despite some upside-down antics approaching the infamous end-section – and got back to the boat smiling. Of course he did!
Kenny Honingford from the US trimming a beautiful line, check Kenny eyeballing the paddler who I am sure wishes he could trade places.