This weekend the Australian Bodyboarding Association hits the poor man’s Miami, better known as the Gold Coast for the Inverted Duranbah Pro.

There were fears that some a section of Australia’s talent would be busy competing at the APB Sparkgreen Tahiti Challenge, however it seems a lineup of Australia’s very best bodyboarders, as well as up-and-comers, have come out of the woodwork to stake their claim to be the 2016 Aussie Champ.

Names like Mitch Rawlins, Dave Winchester, Jake Stone, Joe Clarke, Michael Novy and Alex Bunting have locked in to try to hold the infamous Duranbah Old Ship Steering Wheel! To step things up another notch, organisers of this year’s event have taken feedback from the riders and will run the event for the first time ever at the Southern Duranbah Breakwall which should throw up some wedgey righthanders for competitors to spruik their talents.

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Here is the RIPTIDE FORM GUIDE for the weekend’s festivities!

The Outsiders

The journeymen of the Australian tour, Marshall Watson and John Cruickshank are heading north once again to sample Duranbah’s famous peaks. These guys have all the skills to take on Australia’s best and some wily competition knowledge to take down any unsuspecting professional. However, it is unlikely they will burn their way too far though this stellar field.

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John Cruickshank is still one to look out for. Free surfing in Indonesia. photo Elliott Morris.

The Brazilians

Silas Ganciar, the reigning club champion of the local Gold Coast Bodyboard Club, will be flying the flag for his caipirinha loving countrymen. Can Silas break through and be victorious on a national stage? Probably not, but there is a chance he will take down a couple of big scalps on his march through to the pointy end of the draw.

West Coast Love

Straight outta Perth, and the unusually shallow banks of Mandurah Wedge, Lee Wilson and Jake Metcalfe will be testing their high-flying acrobatics on the other side of the country. Both of these guys have the skills to cause a few upsets which have been perfected from years at their local wave “Pengos”. Although no one knows where this mythical place is, apparently it is just like a mini Blackrock! We are predicting a couple of big moves from these fellas, but their lack of comp experience may prove too costly against some of the bigwigs.

Youth

The youth contingent in this event is super-exciting and who knows how far some of them may go? Depending on what size waves Huey provides, young Duranbah locals like reigning pro junior champion Eric Roy, Palm Beach’s Noah Aubort and Sunny Coast duo Simon Cassidy and Josh Keenan may be hard to beat with their high energy levels and super technical surfing ability. These guys also have the waves and banks at D’bah dialled in from years of local and state contests.

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Simon Cassidy manages to snag a bomb from the crowd near home. Photo Kieran Tunbridge.


Breakwall Rats

In some big news for the event, and Australian bodyboarding, Port Macquarie’s Chase O’Leary has loaded up the former PMQ Bowls Club courtesy bus with a crew of rowdy North Wall shredders and has turned the six-wheeler towards Duranbah beach to try and rain on everyone’s parade. Likely passengers include Jones Russell, Charlie Holt and maybe even the mysterious dragger himself: Slam Sam Bennett. These four operators need no introduction. They were all child protégés and are still some of the most talented bodyboarders in Australia, possibly maybe even the world. Bennett maintains a cult like following in pockets of South America, whereas Chase and Charlie’s antics and hi-fi surfing at breakwall are legendary. Jones, the older statesman of the crew, has balls the size of a Japanese Kamikaze pilot and is one of true genuine Aussie blokes on the bodyboarding scene. Any of these four could go all the way, however, with his technical ability and competition smarts, we think Chase will finish highest out of this pack.

Dark Horses

A few names spring immediately to mind here: Alex Bunting, Michael Novy and Liam O’Toole. These guys all had the bodyboarding world at their feet at some time or another and their skill set remains as crisp as ever. Bunting is freshly back from a few weeks in Hawaii so will be fit as a fiddle and ready to rock. Novy had an insane 2015 with an incredible entry into the Nomad Big Wave awards and some epic free surfing around his new home on the Central Coast. This guy is also a competition machine and can tear apart a two-foot wave just as well as he can one which is 20 foot. Word on the street is that Toolbox has been turning some heads at a local Northern New South Wales reef and if conditions get a little bigger than expected we could be in for a show from the former Sunshine Coast native – similar to Caloundra bar circa 2004.

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It definitely won’t be this big at Duranbah this weekend. But Michael Novy is as skilled in the small stuff as he is on monsters at The Right. Photo Trent Slatter.

Bigwigs

Two names come to mind here: Cade Sharp and Jake Stone. Both big name riders with board models in their own right. But if the wall at Duranbah is offering up the wedgey rights it is known for,  Sharp may struggle against the talent that surrounds him. Straight from Clown Town (Caloundra) on the Sunshine Coast, he is much more comfortable in the playful left handers of Governors rather than the rampy right wedges D’Bah has to offer.

Jake Stone needs no introduction, being the dual national champion and one of the most talented riders in our sport, Stoney is looking to create history by becoming the first person ever to win three national bodyboard titles in a row. Unfortunately he isn’t as good at trampolining as he is at bodyboarding, and suffered a super painful compound leg fracture only a couple of months ago. However, Jake has shown how tough he is and how disciplined his attitude towards rehab has been to be able to get back in the water this quickly. Last year Stoney was head and shoulders above every other competitor, will his dominant form remain?

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With moves like the double barrel roll and a full rotation 720 reverse, Jake Stone is one of the best competitive surfers in the world. Photo APB/Specker

The Locals

What a moment it will be when the “Prince of Duranbah”, Mitch Rawlins, once again pulls on the competition rashie and begins a campaign to become an Australia champion. Like almost every bodyboarder on earth, we hope the experience will light the fire for Mitch’s final assault on the APB World Title in the future. What a fairytale it will be if Mitch blazes through the field to win his first event back? Can he do it? Hell yeah he can. Who would not want to see Mitch laying down one of his trademark cutback reverses after flying down the face of a big right reeling off the D’bah wall? Those cutback reverses are one of the hardest moves in bodyboarding and have earnt Mitch a cult following from not only bodyboarders worldwide, but also a hearty respect from some of our fellow watermen riding sticks. He can win this, and any other bodyboarding event on earth.

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Mitch Rawlins developed his trademark style on the ramps of D’Bah. Can he show the new generation how it’s done this weekend? Lofty reverse at Lovers. Photo Mike Egan.

After coming so close to winning the title in 2014, Gold Coast’s Joe Clarke had a relatively disappointing ABA Tour season last year. So many could have, should have, would have, moments and many heats where even Joe would tell you he got the competition yips. This guy is one of the most exciting and crisp free surfers on earth but just needs to find a way to put it together on the competition scene. His local event could be just the place where he breaks the shackles and puts on an insane show for his adoring fans. Now he has ticked over to 30 years of age, time is no longer on his side – is there any better time than this event for him to make like the Hindenburg and blow up?

The Favourite

This event is Dave Winchester’s to lose. Winny is a multiple Australian prone and dropknee champion and now lives on the Northern coast of New South Wales – just minutes away from Duranbah. He is an active member of the Gold Coast Bodyboard Club and, on top of that, the guy put in a great showing at the APB Mike Stewart Pipeline Invitational last month. Big, small, heavy, fat – the conditions won’t faze Winny too much. He has the full bag of tricks and, if some of the video content being released by the ABA social media channel this week is anything to go by, he is very at home on the righthand wedges off the wall. One giant air reverse comes to mind which would be a 10 point ride every single day of the week. Despite winning the ABA dropknee National title, it was a “quiet” year by the champ’s standards.Winny would love nothing more than to be holding up some silverware come this Sunday not only to cement his relevance in modern bodyboarding but also to get a couple more high fives from his fast growing clan of micro groms!

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Dave Winchester is back in contest form after an impressive performance at Pipeline last month. He will be the one to beat at D’Bah this weekend. Photo Mickey Edwards.

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