North Narrabeen Boardriders Club won the Jim Beam Surftag Australian Championships on Sunday April 7 delivering a brilliant performance of critical surfing and clever team strategy to take the top prize. It’s their fifth crown and their first win outside of Sydney, solidifying them as the strongest club in the country and arguable Jim Beam Surftag history.
It was a day of firing conditions as a 3-4 foot swell continued to pulse into Duranbah Beach for the finals as the business end of competition began. Some big names fell short of the closing round as local club D-Bah Boardriders, Mereweather Blue, Queenscliff Boardriders and Noosa failed to perform in the semi finals.
But the result left a group of heavyweights for the final with North Narrabeen (99.93), Bronte (94.67), LeBa (81.37) and Snapper Rocks (74.23) maintaining an impressive level of consistency throughout the two-day event.
The final heat of the year was electric with every team producing scores that saw the lead swing every which way. But it was the North Narrabeen – Nathan Hedge, Davey Cathels, Cooper Chapman, Chris Davidson and Nathan Webster – who managed to capitalise on the later stages, snatching the win in the dying seconds with a sprint up the beach from anchor surfer, Nathan ‘Noodles’ Webster.
“This is five wins now in basically the last seven years, I think we can safely say we’re the dominant force around,” Webster said.
“We’ve got a really strong team, on paper we are probably the gnarliest around, but we just wanted to do ourselves proud, our beach proud and reclaim what we believe is ours. We’re really stoked.”
“We’ve been having an unreal weekend together. We all came up on the bus and stayed in one big house in the bush and it’s been really tight-knit. It’s been a great bonding experience.”
Nathan “The Hog” Hedge opened North Narrabeen’s account with an impressive 26.33. Hedge had been in scintillating form all competition and carried his backhand attack into the finals.
Defending Champions LeBa (Lennox Head & Ballina) began strong with James Woods setting a promising opening score for the North Coast club, a 19.27.
After a sluggish start for Snapper Rocks, young-gun Eli Jacobs brought the historic club back into contention with a perfect 10-point ride on his BOSCH Powerwave.
Jacobs rode a wedging right off the end of the D-Bah breakwall and performed top-to-bottom, critical manoeuvres and the judges awarded him accordingly. Jacobs top-scored the final with a 30.43 personal total.
But Narrabeen natural-footer, Davey Cathels, answered straight back with his own 10-point ride on his BOSCH Powerwave, notching up a collective 27.6 total. With two 10-point rides dropping in the final – a rare occurrence in tag-team format – the level of surfing was nothing short of spectacular.
“I’d fallen on my first wave in the final and I’d taken a fair bit of time. Everyone kept paddling on my inside up the channel then that wave came through and it walled-up the whole way through,” Cathels said.
“I wasn’t sure if it was going to be a 10 but the judges obviously thought so. I’m just so stoked for the boys.”
“It doesn’t get much closer than that, it’s what’s so good about these events, anyone can win at any time. It’s all fun in the end and it’s epic to get every boardriders club together.”
“We’re frothing to get up here to Queensland and win the Nationals away from the Northern Beaches.”
Jay Phillips – who has competed in every Jim Beam Surftag Series in its 12-year history – did his club proud with a heat score of 15.7. The veteran surftag competitor said North Narrabeen proved they are now the club to beat.
“Big congratulations to the boys from Northy,” he said. “To win away from their home break is a huge victory, especially with ourselves and D-Bah in the event at our local.”
“We’ve got a really young team and I think in the coming years you’ll see a really strong Snapper club.”
The Bronte boys built a strong heat total with standout surfing from Tom Whitaker who used his fierce rail-to-rail technique to score 24.97. Whitaker was awarded the Rhondda Harrison Surfer of the Series Award after he averaged an outstanding 6.23 on every one of his 24 waves he rode throughout the year.
Ryan ‘Whippet’ Clark did everything he could to force a gap between the south Sydney club and their northern rivals but Nathan Webster surfed smart to claim the win for North Narrabeen.
“We knew we had a 10-point buffer but we were running down on time,” Webster said.
“Whippet did a good job for Bronte to get them so close and I just had two minutes to catch two waves.”
“I ran out caught a little shorey, paddle out the back, got the first wave I could and did one little snap, then came in and got another foamy one and just made it into the box before the hooter.”
North Narrabeen not only went home with a hard-fought title as the country’s best boardriders club, but the five competitors will be invited on a 7-day Maldives boat trip (provided by event co sponsor – The Perfect Wave Travel Experience) and the club pocketed a huge $15,000.
The Australian Championships was the final event of the 2013 Jim Beam Surftag Series but expect another full-throttle year in 2014.
BOSCH, Sanuk, The Perfect Wave, Swimmable Underwear, Tracks and Coastalwatch proudly support the Jim Beam Surftag Australian Series.
For results, photos and videos from the event go to www.facebook.com/surftag.