Burleigh Heads surfer James Watson led a surfing renaissance at Currumbin Alley, Gold Coast, Qld, this weekend, trumping a talented brigade of surfers to win Australia’s first stand-up paddle surfing tournament. Watson, 27, was in a league of his own; unleashing a skillful showing of the revived Hawaiian surfing style at the inaugural Honolua Stand Up Paddle Challenge.
The first wave of paddle surfing was attributed to the Hawaiian Beach Boys in the 1930’s who used to surf in Waikiki, Hawaii using canoe paddles to power themselves into waves. Interest in the sport later faded out with the arrival of shorter and lighter boards, but it has recently seen a resurgence with a swag of surfers keen to try their hand at the reborn aquatic craze.
While a 32-strong field of competitors battled it out for a share of the $1000 prize purse in clean 3ft point break waves today, it was Watson who left his surfing opponents in his wake, grabbing bragging rights as Australia's no.1 stand up paddle surfer along with the $500 winner’s prize.
Watson, who is also a talented surfer, finished the multidisciplinary tournament in the numero-uno position on 2000-points after winning both the surfing and paddle race divisions. Burleigh Heads Lifeguard Mick Dibetta finished behind Watson in second on 1360-points, whilst Sinclair Black (Emerald Beach) rounded out the top three with 1285-points.
Showing no signs of nerves in the highly-anticipated surfing final, Watson stylishly steered his 3-metre long stand up paddleboard through a series of razor sharp carves and vertical lip blasts enroute to defeating Guy Walker (Burleigh Heads), Woody Jack (Currumbin) and Dale Chapman (Burleigh Heads) in the 30-minute final.
"I'm over the moon," he said. "I was kind of nervous at the start of the final, but I settled into rhythm quickly. I jagged a set wave right off the bat which really setup the win for me." Blasting out of the gates with a 8.17 ride, he backed it up with an even better 8.67 to finish with a two wave combined total of a 16.84 out of a possible 20.
Guy Walker finished behind Watson in second on 14.00-points, whilst Woody Jack (Currumbin) rounded out the top three with a 12.76 combination.
Utilising the standard judging criteria as per the Surfing Australia Rule Book, competitors were also judged on how they utilized their paddle to push into waves and execute maneouvres.
Meanwhile, Watson crossed the line in first in the paddle race in a super-fast time of 26 minutes and 24 seconds, just ahead of Mick DiBetta (Burleigh Heads) in 27 minutes and 16 seconds. Sinclair Black finished in third in a time of 28 minutes and 12 seconds.
Competitors were required to paddle the two-kilometre race involving both flat and surf water condtions for the second component of the one-day tournament. 32 paddlers raced from Currumbin Creek out through the surf and around a buoy back into Currumbin Creek around the M1 Highway Bridge and back to a finish line where a Hawaiian style band, The Blue Hulas, greeted competitors as they hit the sand.
As an added sweetener, Watson won a C4 Waterman carbon surf blade for the highest individual wave score of the event, an impressive 9.5 out of a possible 10, whilst Woogie Marsh received a blade for the most progressive manoeuvre.
Currumbin surfer and lifeguard Shakira Westdorp was the lone female taking part in the event. The champion ‘waterwomen’, who won this year’s arduous 52 km Molokai to Oahu paddleboard race, gave the blokes some stiff competition to finish in equal 17th place.