This was my first time to see a surfing competition. I was eager and keen to see some awesome gnarly wave work. I have learnt a little bit of how to surf. My only experience so far was on a beginner’s board. A beginner’s board is big, soft, and very buoyant. Which means, for fairly flat waves I can still stand up and catch small “waves”. The more skilled you are, the shorter, less buoyant but more maneuverable board you need. These shorter boards need bigger waves; conversely, the smaller waves need beginner boards.
To attend this, I woke up at 4am in the morning, got onto the highway to Cape Woolamai Surf Beach at Phillip Island which is a one and a half hour drive from Melbourne. I thought I needed to be there early before the car park fills up for the 7.30am start. However, the car park was nearly empty when I arrived. I even doubted if I was in the right place. There were more beach fishermen and seagulls than anyone who looks like they surfed. My biggest concern was that the ocean was flat. As a beginner surfer myself, I believed I could get some good practice in without any risk to myself.
By 7.30am I introduced myself to some Surfing Victoria officials who were setting up. Met some people who had relatives competing. Saw the beach fishermen leave. And learnt why there was little enthusiasm to get to the car park and the comp on time. The day before the ocean was flat. The lady who runs the Cape Woolamai cafe said the ocean was flat like a lake. The flattest it has been in the last 20 years. Concerningly, a father of an entrant said the fairly flat waves were likely to weaken through the morning.
The announcer did his best to build enthusiasm for the first heat of the day. I focused on getting some big splashy maneuvers making the surfers look heroic. Over the next few heats, the time between surf-able waves got longer. Waves got flatter. The 20 minutes available for each heat seemed unfairly short. In desperation some competitors attempted to catch a wave that should be best left to the beginners on bigger more buoyant boards. I didn’t see any wipe-outs, but I did see a lot of competitors just sinking and falling off. I dare say, I should have rented a beginner’s board and tried my luck. Especially as some heats weren’t fully attended. It seemed unfair for competitors who really wanted to have a great competition. I’m still impressed by the surfing I could see. There were still spectators cheering on their favourites.
Despite my luck, I cannot wait to see the next surf competition. I still am eager to see professionals and the best, and see how they manage the big waves. Until then, I think I should get some more practice in, in case the day comes again for me to try my luck and steal the trophy from my more skilled peers. Until then, I’ll keep dreaming.