SOME SURF CRIMES NEVER GO UN­PUN­ISHED : BY LUKE KENNEDY

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Seven young Aus­tralian surfers are poised on a thresh­old. No longer can they rest on their reps as ju­nior over-achiev­ers. They must now be­come WQS war­riors and world-class free surfers. If Kalani Ball, Monty Tait, Cody Robin­son, Jared Hickel, Quinn Bruce, Shaun Man­ners and Reef Hea­zle­wood want to keep the pro surf­ing dream alive this is the chal­lenge they face. sends them on their maiden trip to the Mentawai Is­lands to get an in­sight into the crew who are striv­ing to carry a torch that has been passed through sev­eral gen­er­a­tions of Aus­tralian surf­ing. From the likes of Peter Tow­nend and Rab­bit Bartholomew to Mark Richards and Cheyne Ho­ran to Tom Car­roll, Occy and Damian Hard­man to Mick Fan­ning, Taj Bur­row, Dean Mor­ri­son and Joel Parkin­son and fi­nally Owen Wright and Ju­lian Wil­son. Will this crew of grom­mets be part of that lin­eage which has made Aus­tralia the most dom­i­nant surf­ing na­tion?

On the trip, the favourite af­ter-din­ner pas­time for the young pros is to check the clips and shots from the day's surf­ing. It's the kind of in­stant grat­i­fi­ca­tion a dig­i­tal world can de­liver. The young crew soon learn that there's noth­ing like a lit­tle im­me­di­ate feed­back on your per­for­mance. It’s fun to see your­self on film, but it’s also con­fronting when much of your ca­reer hinges on whether or not the cam­era likes you. For an as­pir­ing young pro re­view­ing the footage and check­ing the shots means invit­ing the self-critic to start scream­ing in your ear, ‘That turn didn’t look as good on film as it felt?’ ‘I thought I was way deeper in the bar­rel.’ ‘I re­ally need to do some­thing dif­fer­ent with my hands when I do a fore­hand fin­ner.’ Then there are the au­to­matic com­par­isons be­tween what you’ve cre­ated on a wave to the dizzy­ing achieve­ments of the Danes, the Noa Deanes, the Matt Me­o­las. If the footage does make it to the small screen you know there’s an army of key­board-surfers who feel more than en­ti­tled to pass judge­ment on your skills and a spon­sor keep­ing an ex­cel spread-sheet on how many views you get. All this equates to pres­sure.

Watch­ing your waves with six of your peers gath­ered around the screen also has its pit­falls be­cause you can bet they'll be scru­ti­n­is­ing ev­ery­thing you do. And amongst this group of young Aus­tralian surfers it seems there is still one surf-crime that never goes un-pun­ished – claim­ing. Ev­ery head-flick and hand jive is ruth­lessly an­a­lysed for the pres­ence of ex­ces­sive show­man­ship by this bunch.

When filmer Dom Sul­li­van flips open his lap­top and lets the ac­tion roll Cody Robin­son is pinned for a sus­pect case of hands through the hair af­ter a bar­rel exit at Green­bush. "I swear I was just wip­ing the wa­ter from my face," bel­lows the ac­cused Robin­son. How­ever, when Dom re­plays the mo­ment in slow-mo, like a judge on a football tri­bunal, the ev­i­dence is ir­refutable and the boys erupt in laugh­ter. Guilty as charged. Shaun Man­ners, who is a bun­dle of sar­donic wit be­neath a mop of curls, rubs salt into the wounds with a dra­matic recre­ation of the claim that takes the mock­ing laugh­ter to new lev­els.

No one is safe from the claims depart­ment. Ev­ery­one is anx­ious to see Jared's wave of the day from Green­bush, so Dom obliges the re­quest and lets Hickel re­live the glory of the ride. How­ever, de­spite the fact it's in­dis­putably a gold-star cav­ern, the footage shows Jared cel­e­brat­ing with a dou­ble fin­ger salute. Again the crew are in stitches, mak­ing the Cronulla goofy footer aware that even though he scored a stel­lar tube there was no way any­one was go­ing to let him get cocky about it. Even Reef Hea­zle­wood's del­i­cate roof tickle of a Green­bush drainer has the jury de­bat­ing whether or not a vi­o­la­tion has oc­curred. The mes­sage is clear, claim all you like but any­thing you do is fair game for the peanut gallery.

Some might sug­gest that all this is a ster­ling ex­am­ple of the Aus­tralian Tall Poppy syn­drome sti­fling am­bi­tion and breed­ing neg­a­tiv­ity. How­ever, maybe it’s just that these tal­ented kids on the cusp of adult­hood fully com­pre­hend the chal­lenge that lies ahead. By keep­ing each other hon­est and laugh­ing along the way at their own earnest striv­ings it takes a lit­tle heat off and makes it eas­ier to re­turn to the task at hand. For Aus­tralia to per­pet­u­ate its supremacy in pro­fes­sional surf­ing is go­ing to be tough. That Brazil­ian storm is fast be­com­ing a trop­i­cal cy­clone and an 18-year-old Ja­panese surfer, Hiroto Oh­hara, just won the US Open. There are threats com­ing from ev­ery cor­ner of the earth. To read more about seven young surfers try­ing to fly the Aus­tralian flag on the world stage turn to our fea­ture Now and To­mor­row on page 56.

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