The weekend started off well. (Well kind of, if you discount the smoky bushfire air). There were some fun little waves on offer. Especially, if you had a longboard or a fish you were laughing. Or a single fin would have been handy too as the annual single fin comp run by Bondi Board Riders was on Saturday. Looked like heaps of fun. Not only did you get judged on your surfing ability but on your dancing skills. Every surfer had to pull out some moves before they were heading into the water, which made for some entertaining viewing.
Yup, lots going on last weekend. Sculptures by the Sea is also on at the moment (in case you have not noticed the 10 million crystal ball photos on FB yet). Every year, it draws lots and lots of people to the already busy Eastern Suburbs. So Bondi and surrounds was chockers. Until a bit of a storm hit at around 3. That’s when the mass exodus from Bondi started. Hundreds of people queuing for buses trying to leave the bubble.
The big Southerly was not the only storm that has hit the surfing world last week. You probably heard the news about the big wave surfer Maya Gabeira who almost died in an attempt to ride a massive, massive wave. Thankfully, she survived. And she’s now recovering with a broken ankle. What followed was a bit of a sh*t storm in the media.
Globally, famous big wave surfer Laird Hamilton slammed her and her tow partner for not having the skills. I don’t know but to some people it may sound like he was more worried about his world record that was in jeopardy and a bit of regret that he did not get his act together to get there and surf it himself.
And locally, Uge from Aquabumps put himself into hot water with this comment, quickly followed by about 120 differing opinions:
I see silly things all the time, especially in big waves. I met Maya in Mentawais last year. She’s 100% nuts – will surf anything even if closing out or on dry reef. The bravest women’s surfer I’ve seen. Her surfing ability is pretty low – what the hell was she thinking when she paddled out in 80 foot! Thankfully she’s fine, but nearly drowned yesterday at Nazare after breaking her ankle. I respect her for having a go…but there are limits.
I guess Uge might have a fair point with the limits parts of his comment. And I also have to agree with some of the other comments that followed, along the lines of ‘Goes beyond bravery to silly at a certain point’. I mean you have to be nuts to take on big waves like that and there is definitely a fine line between bravery and silliness. And I also agree that there are lots of people out there who do silly things. Just thinking back to G-land, I pulled out of 7ft barrels crashing onto the reef because I was too scared and way out of my depth. However, there were guys out there who were less experienced than I was and they just went for it and one after the other dove head first into the reef with no regard for risk. Actually, you don’t even have to go as far as Indo. Even in Bondi you see it on the bigger days. Beginners who barely know how to paddle throwing themselves into massive close-outs.
But on the other hand, we are not talking about Bondi, Indo or the Mentawais here. In the realm of professional big wave surfing, who is to judge what’s ok for someone else to attempt, especially those who have never tried it?
More to the point, we are not talking about any random punter here. We are talking about one of the best known female big wave riders in the world. Unlike Uge, I have not seen Maya Gabeira surfing in the Mentawais but I’ve seen a hell lot of footage of her surfing massive waves. I would not call that low surfing ability.
What do you define as ‘low surfing ability’ anyway? I’m sure I’ve heard somewhere that big wave surfers are not necessarily the most technically advanced or graceful surfers. And they don’t have to be… they ‘just’ need to survive going down a mountain of a wave followed by a whitewash avalanche but I’ve hardly heard of a big wave surfer who is wicked at airs and stuff. It’s like telling a downhill skier his skiing ability is low because he sucks in the half pipe…
I’m trying to stay objective here and I can’t help wondering if the person who took on an 80ft wave and broke their ankle was male, say an aspiring Tom Carroll or Ross Clarke Jones in their younger days, or any of the other male big wave surfers – would anyone have called them brave? Probably. Crazy? Most likely. Would anyone question their right to be out there…or their surfing ability’ ? Mmmh. Or would a male surfer attempting massive way, well out of his comfort zone and surviving be hailed as a legend or a hero ?
Oh well, fact is…surfing is still dominated by guys and as such, so is the commentary and viewpoints. Lucky, there are a lot of gidgets out there who could not care less and are happy to focus on what’s most important…no matter if big or small waves…it’s the joy of surfing.
PS Here’s the footage if you have not seen in it