The nimble and explosive Harley Ingleby. Winner in Japan, he now leads the tour.

27 July – 2 August 2009

Sam Bleakley

The Japanese have a great belief in the transience of the world, in impermanence and renewal. Surfing sits beautifully in a place that values the importance of both nature and innovation, of the given forces of life and of cultural change in dialogue. As a result, there are two million surfers in Japan blending tradition and experimentation. Akabane Beach, Tahara, was an excellent location for the first event of the Oxbow World Longboard Tour, presented by Yumeya. This beautiful stretch of Aichi prefecture, on the south coast of central Honshu, is lined with glasshouses growing watermelons, fringed by bamboo groves and offering sweet beachbreak waves.

A fresh four foot swell was ringing out a melody against a bottom bass for the main day of action. A winner would be sealed in the long raking lefts – back to back heats offering a gruelling day for surfers, organisers and judges. Brazilians Eduardo Bage and Phil Rajzman, Hawaiians Duane DeSoto, Keegan Edwards and Bonga Perkins, Frenchman Antoine Delpero, Australian Harley Ingleby and Californian Colin McPhillips hit the right notes to join the band in the quarter finals. The audience was wringing out sweat for the quarters and semis under a heron-blue sky on a hot, sultry day. The long, sinuous waves picked up in size with the tide and the beat intensified. Duane and Bonga drummed out Eduardo and Keegan to meet in the first semi final. A solid opening pennant-shaped wall swept in, pulled on a green skin that split at its ridge, and Duane took off to savour the wave’s raw meat. He landed two huge off-the-lips as if at the eye of a storm, in a still patch of ocean, the movie reel flicking over, the screen gone white, and advanced to the final in spectacular form. Despite their excellence, Antoine and Colin lost in the quarters, as Phil and Harley progressed to the second semi. Harley’s long rides were filled by snappy moves that left the faces with watermarks. His cat-like agility showing exquisite timing and torque would reach perfect pitch in the final.

The sea was veined with greens and pale blues for the deciding final between Harley and Duane. Harley smacked rim-shots as the lip cracked down the line, like a drummer suddenly moving into double time. Duane charged back into centre stage, racing up the faces in honking solos, cutting back and hitting the nose with poise. Harley unpacked his cymbals once more, splashing them with rapid footwork, a hang ten, cracks to fraying lips, hooking back and finally hitting the sand as a final flourish on the snare drum and first place. The solos were over. Both Harley and Duane played the waves rail to rail, footstep to footstep, and pulled off explosive, committed surfing and improvised brilliant music against the Japanese sea-score. Harley treated the waves like a good sushi chef, with sharp, decisive moves, cutting the water into tasty morsels, leaving a sweet aftertaste. $10,000 richer, he now leads the 2009 Oxbow WLT heading to the final event in the Maldives in October. Domo arigato Tahara, Japan.

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