Boardriders clubs are the lifeblood of Australian surfing. At these clubs surfers get together regularly -- usually once a month -- and host an array of surfing competitions in different age groups and disciplines. They cultivate a tight-knit community that has introduced generations of surfers to their first tastes of competition.
This weekend will be a large gathering of the tribes in Australian surfing, for the Nudie Australian Boardriders Battle Final (And no, don't get your hopes up. Nudie is an Australian juice brand.) The event is the culmination of a series of surf club qualifying contests that have run across the country, and results in 23 clubs gathering to surf for the ultimate team prize. By the end of the final battles, one club in Australia will reign supreme, taking home the bragging rights that go along with the prestigious win -- and money for the club to invest in surfing development and club infrastructure.
Much of Australia's competitive success on the world stage can be attributed to the boardrider club phenomenon. The country's coastline is full of clubs that host grassroots competitions for surfers across age groups and disciplines, one weekend per month. At world-class waves like Snapper, Margaret River and Torquay, to name a few, these extremely competitive events have contributed to the lifetime training of numerous Aussie surfing champions.
These clubs have a long and rich history of competing against each other, across a variety of different formats, including individual, skins, and tag-team. In the tag-team-style event, each club has a team of five surfers, including one junior (male or female), three open-age men, one open age-woman and one surfer over 35 (male or female). This team has one hour to compete against other teams with only one surfer in the water at a time. After this surfer scores their wave, he or she runs up the beach and into the gates to tag the next teammate, who then goes out to get her wave. At the end of the hour each team tallies their scores to determine the winner.
Because the WSL sanctions the finale event, Championship Tour stars who also have club affiliations are able to get in the mix. In some cases, clubs have surfers as young as 11 who get the chance to compete against the world's best.
It also means that surfers who don't normally compete in WSL events may be paddling out to fight for their club. Last year, for example, freesurfer Craig Anderson (Merewether) made a rare competitive appearance. Watch the Nudie Australian Boardriders Battle Final live on the WSL this weekend, from February 17 -18 (local time).