The format never fails, despite the conditions. The prestige grows.
Fuck, I love the ABB. I’ve written about it before. The Australian Boardriders Battle competition. An annual teams event pitting Aus’s best boardriders clubs in two days of feverish competition. Held in my hometown, at my home break. Newcastle Beach.
It’s one of the best weekends on the local calendar. You might remember my efforts last year. I had good reason to miss finals day. A category 10 hangover saw to it.
But this year I wasn’t in Newy, and was lucky enough to catch the webcast instead.
What a treat it was.
Byron Bay Boardriders, led by former ‘CT stalwart Danny Wills along with Soli Bailey, Dakoda Walters and a few others, took the title in a trademark nailbiter.
It was a classic final. BB came out swinging with eights and nines, leaving fellow finalists Merewether, Avoca, and Snapper Rocks reeling. But with father and daughter combo Josh and Sierra Kerr keeping Snapper on track, solid as a rock Ace Buchan ripping for Avoca and Morgan Ciblic taking control for Merewether it was always going to be tight.
Merewether were brilliant. Down and out two-thirds of the way through the hour long final, languishing in last place. Only for CT-adjacent Phillipa Anderson, sister of Craig, to drop an absolute smoker back into the rocks at Shark Alley. An 8.8 put them right back into first with only five or so minutes remaining.
Each club’s power surfer was required to paddle out, get a wave and make it back to shore and through the gate 50 metres up from the shoreline. Less than a couple of points between all four of them. A flurry of last-minute action action. Boards ditched on the rocks as competitors raced to beat the clock. BB coming out tops, just.
It’s heart pumping stuff. Always is.
Fuck, I love the ABB.
Do you know the format?
Each team has an open. A junior. A woman. An over-35.
One hour, five surfers (one goes twice for a nominated power wave).
Penalties if you don’t get through all of your surfers. Penalties if you don’t make it back up the beach in time. Bonuses if you’re first across the finish line. That’s 4 x 4 surfers per hour long heat. Very little down time. Lots of waves ridden. There’s tactics. Intrigue. Running races.
Every club in Australia worth its salt gets involved. And there’s more than a few. I know of at least five or six qualifying conferences that filter into the final comp. Must be 40 or more clubs in total.
You get father and son combos like the Kerrs. Former elite pros. Up and coming juniors. Core underground rippers. Legions of flag-waving support crews.They’re passionate. Committed. Ready to have fun.
It’s a festival atmosphere set to a backdrop of top tier surfing.
Then chuck in a professional webcast with the likes of Sean Doherty, Vaughan Blakey, Reggae Ellis, and a few women whose names I didn’t catch, doing the call (please let me know who I missed!).
Plus there’s Stace Galbraith doing vox pops with competitors on the beach. Stacy is great. Surely the most tuned in man to Australian surfing. Not afraid to stick a microphone in front of a surfer when they’ve just ran full pace back up the beach after nailing a score. Or lost a heat for their club. Yet they always answer. And it’s all in good spirit.
As a package the commentary is honest. Insightful. More often than not very fucking funny.
The format never fails, despite the conditions. It’s akin to the glory days of the Uncle Toby’s Iron Man broadcasts in the nineties.
Now in its tenth year at Newcastle beach, the prestige of the title continues to grow. As does the surfing level. As does the quality of the production. As does the entire package.
When it’s going to be elevated to the ISA?
Can you imagine teams USA, Brazil and Australia battling out for medals?
Who would you back?
And to the WSL.
The poor old WSL.
We’re only one month into the year and they’re already running behind Da Hui, da Aikaus and now da ABB and Surfing Australia in terms of overall product quality.
I wouldn’t even know where to start.
But how about this: fuck, I love the ABB.