Australia Bodyboarding: Is It A Spent Force?
By Dan Dobbin.
The the only certainty in life is change.
Like different epochs of geological time scale, bodyboarding is old enough that we can begin to see the emergence of definitive time periods within our sport.
From it’s conception in 1971 until the mid 1990’s, bodyboarding was dominated by the Hawaiians, names like Lindholm, Stewart, Severson, Caldwell, and McGee.
With the wins of Eppelstun in 1993, Tamega in 94/95/96 and Botha in 98/99 the dominance began to slip. Not finish mind you, as Skipper, Hubbard, Booth, Maligro and the like continued to fly the Hawaiian flag, but the lustre was dimming.
The Australians, the Brazilians and the South Africans all established themselves as nations to be contended with on the international scene.
As the 20th century came to a close, it was the Australian’s that seemed emerge from the pack to assend to the top of the cultural and performance totem pole.
Hardy, Rawlins, King, the Players, Winchester, Virtue, Lester, Lackey.
Guys who would sit at the top of the game for almost the following two decades and are still commanding respect as some of the best in the world today.
Underneath them came a swarm of aspiring Aussie grommets who would decend on Hawaii each winter like the Mongol hoardes used to sweep into central Asia, pushing limits, partying and pissing off the locals. Names like Novy, Singer and Finley emerged from the pack and were beginning to give the tour a good shake, ready to rise as the old lions began to falter.
However when the spoken of but still truly unspoken dastardly act cruelled the APB at perhaps the peak of bodyboardings power, everything went to shit.
Magazines hit the digital wall, Bodyboarders Surf Co. closed its doors impacting sales Australia wide, a spike in the price of the U.S. dollar affected profit margins and sponsorship flow.
Like the Chicxulub impactor 66 million years ago, this sometimes felt like an almost extinction level event on the Australian scene.
Careers ruined, sponsorships down graded, retirements both elected and imposed, scenes and dreams flushed away.
Which brings us to where are today.
Namely; If the IBC is able to run a World Tour next year, as it stands not one Australian rider will pursue it.
Not Lewy Finnegan, not George Humphreys, or Davis Blackwell. Not Lachlan Cramsie or even Josh Kirkman.
From dominance to dearth in just over half a decade.
So what of the future? Is becoming World Champion still something groms in Australia aspire to? Does anyone have designs on chasing the tour in the future? What’s standing in there way?
Using the power of the socials, we created a group chat, added some of Australia’s best up and comers and one or two “older staggers” , tossed in the questions and saw what unfolded.
Initially the enthusiasm was high to compete, especially if an Australian stop where to be included.
However the passion to be crowned the world’s best was soon crashing up against the realities of pursuing the tour.
Novacastrian Kane Brewer’s response perhaps best encapsulated the tension at the heart of the current and future Australian generations dreams to chase the tour from our southern shores.
So it seems that far from being self absorb narcissists obsessed with Tik Tok likes and Fortnight dances, Generation Z are actually cold hearted realists savey to the crushing fiancial realities of pursuing what may be an antiquated model of determining the best bodyboarder in the world.
Kids these days huh!
So that’s it then. Unless companies start throwing around 50k+ pay packets for riders to chase the tour again, it seems the Aussie age, at least in competition, is over.
Hardy 4Play models to consigned to the role of Index fossils.
The drawing of a close to the second great bodyboarding epoch.
Acta est Fabula, Plaudite!
And the future?