Surfers from all walks of life -- veterans, grommets, tradesmen, office workers, schoolteachers, school children, preachers, coaches, referees and current and former Championship Tour (CT) stars -- congregated on the cushiony sand of Newcastle Beach today, all in the name of representing their local boardriders clubs. Twenty-four clubs reveled in the choppy, four-foot waves Saturday as the opening day of the Nudie Australian Boardriders Battle Final kicked off with the women's, skins and teams division all taking place.
Reigning WSL women's Word Champion Tyler Wright was one of the star competitors that did her club proud, taking a women's division victory for the Culburra Boardriders. In what was a slow heat for waves, Wright had to dig deep to ensure the win as they move into the teams division, where she'll surf with younger brother Mikey.
"It's such a great feeling representing not only your team but your hometown," Wright said. "This is such a great event to compete at and has so much atmosphere with everyone cheering on the beach. It's a great way to ease back into competition for the 2018 season, but there is still a significant amount of pressure to perform."
Former world Junior Tour winner Ethan Ewing surfed his first heat for the year representing his hometown club Point Lookout. With a powerful and calculated attack, Ewing demonstrated why he spent 2017 on the elite CT. Although there are no ratings points on offer at the Boardriders event, Ewing rated the pressure of representing his club to that of competing at the highest level.
"I take this contest as seriously as any other one, " Ewing said. "It's nice to get back in the contest mode after a few months off, especially as I'm preparing for the Qualifying Series events that are approaching. It's a similar pressure surfing at this event as you are up against CT guys but it is more stressful as you want to succeed for your club and everyone that is here cheering us on.
"It's great to surf against the Championship Tour guys, but what I love is all of the underground guys that rip and you've never heard of, this event is great for that stuff."
Merewether Boardriders, the local club, was the standout team during the skins with their hero Ryan Callinan dominating to win three heats in a row. The former CT competitor was on fire, posting some of the highest scores to rocket Merewether to the top.
"I'm really fired up for this year and kicking off the season with this event is perfect," Callinan said. "There is so much pressure to perform for your club so it's no different to a big heat on the QS or in a CT. Having everyone here on the beach cheering makes it such a great atmosphere and definitely lifts you to perform."
Wildcard club North Shelly, meanwhile, had an ace up their sleeve in Macy Callaghan, who put some decent runs on the board in her Women's Heat. The former World Junior Champion was stoked to be representing a club that was co-founded by her father.
"This is definitely one of my favourite events of the year," Callaghan said "Representing your Boardriders club in front of these big crowds is a really exciting. Seeing the talent from around Australia is crazy, there definitely isn't an easy heat especially with some of the CT surfers."
Other notable performances Saturday included CT surfers Adrian Buchan and Wade Carmichael for reigning champion club Avoca Boardriders, Connor O'Leary for Elouera, Laura Enever for North Narabeen and Nicholas Squires for Scarborough Boardriders Club. Event trials winners Frenchmans Boardriders club lost competitor James McMorland due to a serious shoulder dislocation he suffered on a brutal wipeout.
Sunday will be the final battles, to determine this year's best boardriders club in Australia.