Titlegate: An Ozzie Dker responds!
By Matt Sullivan.
A sports world title… what do you think of when you envision a person who has had that status?
A surfing world title…? I’d assume this makes you think of Kelly Slater and the corresponding dollar signs of surf sponsors and the perfect lifestyle balance of sponsor paid travel to international comps and free surf destinations.
A bodyboard world Title?
If you are even in the loop of the sport these days you’d have a good understanding that any world tour events would be predominantly paid for with your own expenses and any prize money would barely cover the cost of the flights to the destination. The guys at the top are there for the love of it; not the money.
Now… a Dropknee world Title?
As an Aussie DK rider, I couldn’t imagine that if I spent the money I would need to chase a world title for DK that it could ever be justified in my heart. I’d love to think that if I went and gave it my all, regardless of money, and fought tooth and nail and somehow came home with a world title, at best it might inspire a heap of groms around Australia to go down to the local boog shop and getting a new DK board. Maybe they’d go try and do the moves that I did in the world title final so they could try and emulate their new sports hero.
Even more I’d love to think these groms would be so keen to get into it that they’d sign up to local clubs and try putting their boards and skills to the test so that one day they could verse their idol that got them in the water and knock him from the biggest heat of their lives!
That’s usually how the fairy tale goes isn’t it?
The reality for me when I was chasing higher levels of DK comps in Australia was somewhat different.
I had completed in 2 years of State and National titles, placing fairly well and I set goals for the next year that I would be entering the ABA Aussie tour events and giving it fucking everything I had!
The thought of competing against Dave Winchester, and Matt Lackey truely had me sold even though I didn’t realise at the time they were likely not doing those events much at that point. However that whole thought process had me locked and loaded with where I wanted to aim!
The next year came, and the ABA announced the scheduled tour dates for the year, and to my absolute disgust I find out they will not running any DK events that year. I was gutted.
This was a major turning point for me on how I viewed the sport and the realisation of politics and how broken the sport in general was becoming.
The biggest thing that kept me on the scene competing here in Oz is just getting together with other DK riders from around Australia and being together in one place. It’s always a god damn blast and catching up talking pure dk is always the highlight!
I did get a chance at redemption 2 years later in 2018. The ABA did there best to accomodate the dying DK division when they held a round at the northern beaches comp, which had 4 Dropknee riders turn up. This was a slap in the face to the riders who had complained the previous 2 years to get DK back on the scene.
Here they throw us a bone and myself and 3 other riders turn up to a pro event to show them “how badly Australia wants and needs dropknee back in the prestigious ABA event”. That was a sad day.
Things were kicked up a notch for the DBah pro later in the year with the announcement that Jeff and Dave Hubbard would be competing! The star power was there but the waves were less than a foot. The highlight of that day was being in a heat with Dubb and watching a pod of dolphins literally have an orgy in front of us!
I guess that was enough ticked off the bucket list for me to not bother trying to head overseas to compete since I got the chance to literally verse the world champion in a heat.
Why would an Aussie chase any world title for bodyboarding, let alone Dropknee, is beyond me though.
If money was no issue, I’d be there in an absolute heart beat solely for the experience of hanging out with the guys who inspire me to continue doing what I do in the water. I’d like to think the friendships made whilst on the trips would be more rewarding than a dropknee world title.
However knowing that I’d be left with a huge hole in my wallet and nothing to show except a cheeseburger award, a pat on the back and maybe a few new Instagram followers well…
I’m more than happy free surfing and competing in comps at home and doing my best to inspire younger riders without the price-tag of world travel and a world title comp.
Right now Australia is in a ridiculous place with its covid crap, so even if we wanted to burn our bank accounts and get over to compete for a DK world title we can’t.
I’d like to think my thoughts on this can be changed over the coming years although I’d imagine I’ll be passed the point of higher level competing by the time the bodyboard industry sorts its stuff out, not only here in Australia but on the international level too. Hopefully we can help make something happen so that our great sport is accessible to the world and worth the while of anyone who thinks they are good enough to give it a world title a red hot crack!