So it turns out that as we had decided to come to Australia on our world tour, Sydney had decided to hold a contest in our honour and also host the finals on Steph’s Birthday, you know as we are contest winners and hang out with all the pro’s…….
Yeah right we wish!! However Sydney was due to host the Inaugural Australian Open of Surfing Pro contest at my favourite Manly beach (See Blog Manly Beach). This was the first time since the Inaugural world championships in 1964 that Manly had held such a contest so it was fantastic timing by us being in Sydney for the entire event and being able to enjoy the festival of surfing that accompanied it.
The Contest was running for 10 days and from day one we made the most of the event and also the time it gave us on the beach to hang out and watch surfing live whilst soaking up the glorious sunshine! The contest has set up what they called Surf Stadium which is where we decided to sit ourselves most days we made it to the contest
Whilst we were there we saw a few famous folks and one such person was Bethany Hamilton. If you don’t know her she is the young Hawaiian lady who at the age of 13 was surfing and lost her left arm in a shark attack, they recently produced a film about her called Soul Surfer. Her story is an amazing one and she is back surfing and competing. So it was quite by coincidence that we saw her as we were heading off to move the car (Manly and its free 2hr parking!!). As we walked further down Manly Beach away from the contest I spotted a girl with a surfboard and one arm and said to Steph, not thinking, that girl only has one arm (not very PC but I was saying what I saw), it did not take long for us to click it was Bethany Hamilton.
She was the nicest person we watched her stop for a couple of photo’s with a few fans, then she skipped off into the Surf and we watched, she can rip, she was an amazing surfer. Steph was a bit bummed as she wanted to get a photo with her, but as luck would have it on our way back from moving the car, there she was walking up the road, Bethany obliged and I got a great photograph of them.
I must say the contest was fantastic, I have been to a few now but the AOS has been by far the best for atmosphere, talent and action. Although the waves were not epic the competitors made the best of it for their battles in the rounds and finals, which in turn gave the crowd a great experience.
The finals day was actually Steph’s birthday so we made a day of it and celebrated at the finals. Again we were treated to some great surfing and epic battles in the finals in which Sally Fitzgibbons and Matt Banting took the honours, and I would say Matt is def one to watch for the future as at 17 he claimed the Pro Junior and Men’s titles, not bad for a weeks work!
On finals day we were also treated to an expression session by Australian surfing royalty for 30 minutes of fun and games in the surf, the names that took part were a whose who of Australia’s greats, including 5 former world champions. A few of which I managed to grab a photograph of as they left the water, one got away Mark Occhilupo snuck out of the water without me seeing!
In order L to R: Rabbit Bartholomew, Barton Lynch, Peter Townend, Rob Macchado, Layne Beachley, Luke Egan, Sally Fitzgibbons (Women’s Winner),Matt Banting (Pro Junior & Pro Men’s Open Winner.