(Merewether, NSW, AUSTRALIA 18 February 2016)
A THREE metre southerly swell crashed into the Hunter coastline overnight, forcing organisers of the Wandiyali ATSI Indigenous Classic to move the richest Indigenous surfing contest in the nation to Nobbys Beach, approximately five kilometres to the north of Merewether beach.
Three divisions hit the water at Nobbys, where some crunching left-handers provided the men, women and juniors with plenty of opportunity to tuck into some dredging barrels.
North Shelley’s Russell Molony – who has won this contest a staggering nine times – racked up the day’s largest individual score with a nine (out of a possible ten) in his opening heat.
The 39-year-old said the move to Nobbys by organisers meant he had to fire up a rusty backhand.
“I haven’t surfed on my backhand in a comp for awhile and there was some pretty chunky waves out there today.
“Plenty of competitors would have liked to surf the bombs coming through at Merewether, but with some of the youngsters you have to be encouraging rather than deterring. But Merewether should still be pretty good tomorrow,” he said.
Molony reckons the biggest threats to him racking up his tenth title and taking home the richest prize ($6000) for an Indigenous surfing champion in the nation are Forster’s Joe Haddon and the 2014 National Indigenous champion and Coffs Coast boardrider Otis Carey.
And then there’s Robbie Page.
Page, who these days resides at Kempsey at the NSW mid-north coast, is the 1988 PipeMasters champion and has tussled with Molony twice in semi-finals at the National Indigenous Titles at Bells Beach, where Molony – the 2012 national champion – has edged the goofy-footer out on two occasions in semi-finals.
“Robbie goes when it’s big, so he’ll be in the mix tomorrow for sure. The forecast reckons it’s be around six feet so he’ll be dead keen for that,” Molony said.
But it’s not all about the money – although that sure helps.
“It’s really hard to get support for an Indigenous surfing comp. A lot of surfers do it just to catch up with friends and new mobs. It’s a great vibe, there’s no aggro and everyone is cheering each other on even in heats,” Molony said.
The women’s final is scheduled for just after 12.30pm on Friday, and will comprise the Sunshine Coast’s Phoebe King, Kincumber’s Leilani (Lily) Smith, 14-year-old Charli Law and Summer Simon.
The junior final will feature Noah Munro, Jed McDonagh, Finn Hill and Taj Simon.
Action is scheduled to get underway at 7.30am at Merewether beach.