It's been just over two years since Australian Bede Durbidge shattered his pelvis at Pipeline. At the time, he was a 32-year-old WSL Championship Tour (CT) veteran finishing up his 13th season on the elite tour. With three CT wins to his name (including a prestigious Pipe Masters in 2007), and three Top 5 finishes on the rankings, he entered Round One at the 2015 Billabong Pipe Masters with a shot at cracking the Top 10. Instead, he was being carried off the beach with his professional future in serious doubt.
The pelvis is a crucial weight-bearing bone. Even with aggressive physical therapy, the healing process takes at least a year. But Durbidge quickly learned the old adage about doors closing and opening. During the early days of his recovery, John John Florence approached him to see if he would coach him during the 2016 season. The Hawaiian was growing tired of losing, and the wisdom Durbidge had to offer was just the ingredient he needed to make a run at a World Title.
While it was obviously a transformational move for Florence (he captured his first World Title that year) it was just as meaningful for Durbidge. "I learned I really loved coaching," he said. "I had never really worked with anyone before, but John was such a pleasure to work with it made me want to continue working in that space."
His success caught the eyes of Surfing Australia, an organization dedicated fostering talent Down Under. During Durbidge's incredible comeback to competition in 2017, which was punctuated with a terrific fifth-place finish in Fiji, the organization approached him with an offer he couldn't refuse: to be an Elite Program Manager for the Australians as they prepare for the upcoming 2020 Olympics.
February 23, on his 35th birthday, Durbidge is busy doing exactly that. "The main goal is to help support our Australian athletes to become both the world's best surfers and people," he explained. "I work with an amazing team of people at Surfing Australia and we want to offer a flexible and tailored approach to all the athletes and their coaches."
Not surprisingly, he's doing a great job getting all of his old tour mates involved. "We're doing everything we can to make sure we're the most prepared," Durbidge said. But the goal is to enhance all avenues for Australian surfers. Indeed, one of the most overlooked aspects of Durbidge's success on Tour was his adaptability to all conditions, both in the water and out.
But of course, there's no better way to coach than by example. And while Durbidge says he's retired from the Tour, it's worth noting that his 24th place finish in 2017 puts him in pole position for an injury replacement spot, should the opportunity arise. "We will have to wait and see," he laughed. "I would love to surf one encore event in Australia. But if it doesn't happen, I'm very content on just watching the show from the sidelines."
Happy Birthday, Bede!