Grayson Hin­richs’ vic­tory in the ISA World Ju­nior Cham­pi­onships turns back the clock on Bondi.

Tracks - - Regulars - By Jed Smith.

When Grayson Hin­richs an­swers the call from Tracks he’s ly­ing in bed try­ing to gather him­self for an­other ex­cru­ci­at­ingly mun­dane day at school. His last-minute vic­tory in the fi­nal of the ISA World Ju­nior Cham­pi­onships held in Huntington Beach, Cal­i­for­nia, re­cently couldn’t seem fur­ther away.

“We were pad­dling out for the fi­nals and the heat be­fore was the U/16 Girls fi­nal. When the chick won she just threw her arms in the air and was scream­ing, about to cry. I got all these hairs stand­ing up all over me. I was like, ‘Imag­ine that, that would be the best thing ever!” he re­calls.

In con­di­tions that bore an un­canny re­sem­blance to the home­town rip bowls of his na­tive Bondi, Grayson pulled off one of the most dra­matic wins in re­cent mem­ory at the event.

“For my first heat, I wanted to make a cou­ple of rounds and get the ex­pe­ri­ence for the com­pe­ti­tion and I ended up win­ning the first round and go­ing through the rounds. It was a long process but I kept push­ing through the rounds and then I got to the semis and I was stand­ing there and I was like: Awww, I could do this, I could re­ally do this,” he says.

After open­ing the fi­nal with a 7.5 for a back­side belt-to-spin and an­other belt, he backed it up with 6.8 and claimed a stran­gle­hold on the heat, all within the first four min­utes. He’d also man­aged to hold onto pri­or­ity, though it would prove a curse, as it so of­ten does, caus­ing him to sit back as the rest of the com­peti­tors built their tal­lies.

As the min­utes counted down, Kade Mat­son, from the USA, took the lead on ac­count of a back­side air re­verse 8.5 and a 7.5 for a pair of big snaps. Need­ing an 8.1 for the win, Grayson chased a set wave up the beach but missed it, only to turn and see an­other com­ing where he just was. After sprint­ing back he used his pri­or­ity to block Mat­son, glu­ing two big turns to the out­side sec­tion be­fore scor­ing a bonus in­side sec­tion and goug­ing two more for an 8.6 and the lead. When the Ja­panese com­peti­tor failed to stick a hail-mary punt on the buzzer, the crown was Grayson’s. He’s been the talk of the town ever since.

“Ev­ery­one in school knew. There were three things said in assem­bly. Peo­ple I’ve never seen be­fore were com­ing up to me and say­ing, ‘good job, good job.’ Even around Bondi peo­ple I’ve never seen be­fore were com­ing and tak­ing pho­tos of me, I was like who are you?” he laughs.

The win also marked a re­turn to form for Bondi, which has been con­sid­ered the joke of Aus­tralian surf­ing for the past two decades.

“All the com­men­ta­tors in pretty much all the comps I do are writ­ing off Bondi say­ing how bad it is and when I start pump­ing to the in­side it’s the ‘Bondi bounce’ or some­thing like that,” says Grayson, adding, “I don’t care. It isn’t the best wave but I live here, so you gotta do what you gotta do. I still love the place. It just gets frus­trat­ing in sum­mer.”

It def­i­nitely didn’t use to be a joke. From the 1960s to the nineties Bondi was a pow­er­house in Aus­tralian surf­ing, boast­ing the likes of four-time world ti­tle run­ner-up, Cheyne Ho­ran, World Tour pow­er­houses, Richard Cram and Bill Power, and high­lyrated pros such as the Corrigan broth­ers, Web­ber broth­ers, and Matt Elks, among oth­ers.

In re­cent years, gen­tri­fi­ca­tion forced much of the work­ing class and lower in­come res­i­dents out of the area, cre­at­ing a vac­uum of world class sport­ing tal­ent in the process. But the tide has changed in the last few years, be­gin­ning with Bondi’s third place fin­ish (be­hind Avoca Board­rid­ers, Snap­per and in front of

Narrabeen) in the na­tion­wide Bat­tle of the Board­rid­ers con­test. An event where team cap­tain, Perth Stan­dlick, beat the likes of Joel Parkin­son, Steph Gil­more, Matt Wilkin­son, Davey Cathels and Mikey and Tyler Wright to claim the Most Valu­able Player (MVP) award. Grayson at­tributes much of his suc­cess to Perth’s in­flu­ence.

“He takes me places and helps me ex­pe­ri­ence new waves around home and re­ally pushes me. Fun, lit­tle ri­valry in (board rid­ers) heats too,” he says .

When the waves turn marginal in the sum­mer and the beach de­scends into chaos, Grayson dis­ap­pears un­der wa­ter. Hav­ing grown up next-door to Aus­tralian Spearfish­ing Cham­pion, Ian Puck­eridge, Grayson is among the best spearfish­er­men in the coun­try and the cur­rent NSW U/16 State Spearfish­ing Cham­pion. You might also re­call hav­ing seen splashed across hun­dreds of web­sites and news­pa­pers around the world when he be­came a vi­ral in­ter­net sen­sa­tion for drag­ging home a King­fish he’d speared, on the back of his skate­board.

“I had my skate­board and got my float­line and strapped it to the skate­board then used the float­line as a leash and just dragged it back like a pet dog,” he laughs.

“I would have got­ten home so much quicker but ev­ery sin­gle per­son I walked past was like, ‘Can I have a photo, can I have a photo,’” he says.

The breath­ing tech­niques he’s learned spearfish­ing, mean­while, have be­come a big part of his suc­cess as a surfer.

“Be­ing able to calm your­self down and hold your breath is the big­gest thing in surf­ing. It doesn’t just help you sur­vive when it’s big, it helps you calm down when you’re un­der pres­sure in heats and stuff,” he says.

To a coun­try and me­dia whose mem­ory of Bondi stretches no longer than five years, Grayson must seem some kind of in­ex­pli­ca­ble anom­aly - an alien in a sub­urb known mostly as a home for the world’s rich, beau­ti­ful and fa­mous. To those from Bondi, the real Bondi - the work­ing class Bondi that built the sub­urb, and still work in its fire de­part­ments, on the wharves, and rep­re­sent its foot­ball teams, surf­ing clubs and fish­ing clubs - he’s a chip off the old block.

“In Bondi if you look past all the kooks there are some pretty cool peo­ple,” he says.

“We’ve had pros grow up here like Cheyne Ho­ran and stuff and if you know the back­story to Bondi we’re not just some city beach that doesn’t have any po­ten­tial,” he says.

Main: Grayson Hin­richs or­bit­ing to­wards a bet­ter fu­ture for Bondi surf­ing. In­set: Kid’s got wings. Pho­tos: Bill Mor­ris.

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