Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Parko heads to the pointy end

Well we’re half way through the year and Parko is the runaway leader on the ASP World Tour. This is probably stating the obvious and if you applied the same scenario to Kelly Slater this time last year then Parko’s first world title would be a matter of ‘when’ and not ‘if’.

Bounce this around the number crunches who follow the ASP world tour and the word is that Parko’s title is not necessarily a certainty. Basically there are five World tour events to go, four back to back over the next eight weeks and ‘anything could happen’.

When Joel won in J-Bay one of the first guys to congratulate him after all the media had disappeared was his good mate Mick Fanning. Mick had been in a similar position to Joel two years earlier and he just gave his friend a big hug and said. “Just one step closer mate.”
It was almost as if Mick had conceded that this was going to be another of the ‘Cooly Kids’ chance to hold up the World Title trophy even though Mick, who is rated at #7, is still in the mix for this years title race.

The main contenders are probably the Hobgood twins, Taj Burrow and Adriano de Souza. Bobby Martinez would have to be considered an outsider and Kelly who is in the Top 10, but I his own words figures he could be still in the race with a ‘…. mathematical outside chance.’, but not a lot of people are giving him this chance. Beware of the underdog you ask? Well he’s definitely that but the wheels would really have to fall off a few guys’ campaigns ahead of him to even give him a sniff.

Will this be Parko’s year? There was an injury scare out of Bali with Parko hurting his ankle. Team Parko have down played the injury via Twitter and blogs on his website but there haven’t been many sightings for the past few weeks. Could have a lot to do with the lack of surf on the Gold Coast. We’ve been getting summer Northerlies in winter. It’s a few days into Spring but the surf hasn’t improved much. There have been almost no waves since the end of July on the Gold Coast. Other Ct surfers have been around but they have also been going stir crazy because of the conditions.

The Hurly Pro, Event #6 on this years tour, is only four days away and you can bet a lot of the Gold Coast crew are already in California trying to get a few waves at Trestles because they haven’t been getting any at home.
Will this be Parko’s year? It certainly seems like it at the moment. He’s being in such consistent form since late last year. The 2008 Triple Crown is testament to that and three wins out of five events is nothing to be sneezed at.
I’m hitting the road in a few days time with six weeks of contests through Europe on the itinerary. Will I get a shot of Parko holding that world title trophy above his head in the next six weeks… I certainly hope so.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Joli On Safari

Just returned from a successful trip to Jeffrey's Bay in South Africa. Great surf for the Billabong Pro with a strong win for Joel Parkinson but not a lot of great free surfing. Missed a swell by a few days and then hung around after the contest waiting for two bumps on the Surfline swell maps. One came and went without much activity while the second bump provided plenty of surf in the 2 metre range with over 60mm of rain. Not ideal shooting weather. Shaun Tomson was on hand for the second swell but with overcast skies and more rain I ended up heading to the game reserves of Shamwari and Pumba to shoot four legged animals instead of the usual two legged surfing variety.
Got nice and close to lots of animals including hippos, elephants, rhinos and lions.
The scary thing was that a lioness took a liking to our open Landrover and charged us. Came within a metre of leaping into the truck. Scared the hell out of everyone including our ranger, who hightailed it through the bush to get away.

One of the elephants got nice and friendly too. Gave us a little 'don't argue' when we got a bit close but it all makes for some interesting photos.

Arrived home to Coolangatta to beautiful winter days and no decent surf. Bells Beach pumped on the weekend but my bags need to stay unpacked for a few days.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Environmental Impact at Coolangatta: Man Made vs Climate Change with Joel Parkinson.

Kirra Point is the northern limit of the fabled Coolangatta, Queensland's most southeastern town and the home of a long line of "Coolie" surfing legends such as Rabbit Bartholomew, Peter ‘PT’ Townsend, Michael ‘MP’ Peterson and the new Coolie Kids, Mick Fanning, Dean Morrison and Joel Parkinson.

On Australia’s National Day, January 26th 2009, more than 1500 surfers gathered for a protest paddle out. Their mission was to bring public awareness to the fact that the fabled Kirra Point had all but disappeared due to sand pumping from the mouth of the Tweed River just a few kilometers south.

The protesting surfers formed the outline of a map of Australia and drew media recognition from all around the world for their plight.

In days gone by a long lethal ribbon of sand was responsible for Kirra's supertube magic. Swells used to hit the sandbar at a 45-degree angle and suck their way with increasing intensity toward a small groyne off the Surf club and sometimes even past it.

When the sand was right it was literally sectionless, the barrel forming and reforming like some sort of incredible moving version of a wave machine. Large volumes of water ran down the outside rim of the sandbar, which made paddling back out a grueling proposition; many experienced Kirra surfers just got out of the water at a ride's finish and jogged back along the rim of the point to the jump-off point.

The loss of Kirra Point has been caused by an excessive build-up of sand that has been pumped and dredged into the Coolangatta Bay over the past 12 years. In this time there have been relatively low levels of storm activity and the sand has not naturally made its way north at the same speed at which it was placed in the bay.

An increase in the level of sand in the bay by 3–4 metres on average has resulted in a significant widening of the beaches, in some cases by over 150m, the loss of surf quality and an increase in rips

Currently the sand flow has moved slowly from Coolangatta Bay and into Kirra Beach, which now resembles a desert oasis and a 400-metre walk to the waters edge. After 6 years of sand pumping only 1/8 of the volume has moved north along Gold Coast beaches with the majority of sand volume lodged at Coolangatta and more so at Kirra and especially North Kirra. It’s the biggest pile-up of sand ever seen from Kirra to North Kirra, yet the sand continues to be pumped from the main outlet at Lovers Rock, Point Danger just north of D-bah beach.

This sand pumping issue is not one caused by Climate Change but a man made problem which current ASP world # 1 Joel Parkinson considers to be the main environmental issue facing his hometown beaches.

‘Sand pumping,’ says Joel, ‘they’re dammed if they do it and dammed if they don’t. We’ll never have Kirra and Snapper working at the same time while they continue to pump sand. Why are they even pumping sand?’ he asks.

The original reason sand pumping was put in place was to keep the Tweed River mouth clear of sand so that the local fishing fleet and pleasure craft could cross the sandbar safely. Despite nearly 12 years of dredging and pumping the bar has never been completely clear. Joel jokes that he saw Occy score one of the best barrels he’s ever seen ridden at the bar earlier this year.

Despite Parko considering the sand pumping as the major environmental threat to his surf breaks Climate Change has had an effect on the southern Gold Coast beaches. In late May this year a massive storm ripped apart the beaches causing some of the worst beach erosion in 40-50 years.

Gold Coast beaches from D-Bah in the south all the way to Surfers Paradise in the north suffered massive erosion. The ironic thing was that Kirra and Coolangatta had little damage and the massive sand build up from the sand pumping refused to budge. In the aftermath of the storm the local council used the Kirra sand to replenish some of the destroyed beaches.

‘It was cool they were able to use some of the excess sand to replenish the other beaches after that big storm hit, commented Parko, ‘… but I reckon at some stage they will run out of sand to pump.’

‘They’ve dumped a shit load of sand at D-bah and it hasn’t helped the erosion one little bit. It’s the worst I’ve seen it in all the time I’ve lived there.’

The May storm destroyed the bank at Snapper, exposing rocks and causing deep holes just off the beach.

‘There’s a hole the size of an Olympic swimming pool out the back of Snapper right now that will take a lot of sand to fill up,’ says Joel. ‘We wont even get Snapper back until that fills up. Climate Change is having a huge effect on our beaches and I don’t know what’s going to happen … they’re going to run out of sand to pump pretty soon. The beaches to the south of the sand pumping jetty are eroding too. What are they going to do? Pump sand south?’

As Joel said earlier there doesn’t seem to be one solution to the environmental damage being caused to the Coolangatta beaches. The authorities are dammed if the do pump sand or dammed if they don’t.

Parko reckons, ‘They just need to stop pumping for awhile and let nature settle things down, but we are either going to have Kirra or Snapper but we are never going to have both breaks at the same time.’

AS this piece was being written, during the Euro leg of the WCT world tour, Parko got news that, ‘The boys were scoring little low tide barrels behind the Rock at Snapper’. He just laughed when he heard the claim because he reckons it’ll take a long time before either bank, Kirra or Snapper is back to it’s best after the May storm.

Peter 'Joli" Wilson