After a long extended breath hold due to COVID entering our existence, the Longboard SUP Revolution cosmic experience was finally a green light on all accounts. The international competition was held in Sanur, Bali over four magnificent days from the 7th to the 10th of April 2023.
This event was the dream of the Longboard SUP Revolution creator Michael Jenkins. It became a spectacular reality with the joint effort of Jonni Morrison Deaker owner of Rip Curl School of Surf in Sanur and SMIK owner/shaper and legendary waterman Scott McKercher. Proceedings kicked off with a beautiful Balinese blessing ceremony and really highlighted how fortunate we were to be in the islands of the gods at the very first inaugural dedicated SUP Longboard international event.
The swell forecast leading into the event didn’t look too favorable. We had the tides and we had the correct wind direction, but the waves we called to be only one-foot for the first two days of competition with a slight bump in the swell size and period for our remaining days. Fortunately, Serangan did its magic and the correct calls were made working with the tides to run three heats of the first round in small but contestable surf on Day One.
The event was made up of four official divisions: Elite Men’s and Women’s, Weekend Warrior’s Men’s and Women’s with an unofficial crowning of the over-60’s World Champion which was won by Western Australian, Richard Wain.
Big international names including Benoit Carpenter, Zane Schweitzer, Beau Nixon and Iballa Moreno showed up for the competition as well as the young shred crew from Australia, including Wes Fry, Kai Bates, Skyla Rayner, Brea Wright. The Weekend Warrior divisions were made up of international competitors from Canada, USA, with the majority flying in from all states around Australia. A highlight was seeing the local Balinese athletes going for it in their heats and really pushing it for the finals.
The daily routine was to meet up at Rip Curl School of Surf for the day's safety briefing followed by the boats being launched to make the short trip out to Serangan. There is something really special about heading out to surf via boat especially in a competition setting like the LSR Bali event. The laughs and smiles, the anticipation of what the waves will be like, the backdrop of the mountains and the ocean, the smells to the dry heat, is truly a cosmic experience. Once around Oka point, we could see the waves breaking. The closer we approached the wave, and could now see the judges and media pontoon anchored in the channel while the contest boats ferried competitors back and forth during the entirety of the competition.
Day Two witnessed the Elite Women in the water first and they certainly got the pick of the waves from the whole day. Twenty minutes of non-stop 2ft peaky, walling, right handers swinging in on the reef made way for some great SUP longboard surfing. Next up was the Women's Weekend Warriors heat followed by the Weekend Warriors Men’s competition. The tide began to fill in and we headed back for lunch and waited for the tide to drop to conclude the last of the first rounds of all divisions. Three heats were surfed after lunch with the waves turning on for the Elite Men’s competition. Fortunately, the dropping tide really helped define the waves on the reef and some quality surfing was on show.
Day Three held the same glorious routine with a hint of more swell. We approached Serangan and saw the swell had certainly kicked up a notch. The energy of the competitors was all time that day! The waves were 2-3 feet with bigger sets pushing through. The call was made several times during the heats to just continue to finish the semi-final heats in order to have the last day be finals day. Luckily, I came prepared as I was in the hot seat shooting water photos for six hours straight with a quick swim to the boat for water on occasion. I was rewarded by nailing some fantastic images and documenting SUP Longboarding history in the process. Some very impressive surfing was on display that day. The vibe in the channel was electric and - at times - I had to refocus on the task at hand because it all felt surreal. The boat ride back was one of complete exhaustion combined with absolute jubilation. What would tomorrow, aka finals day, bring? We had a quick rest before the full competitor roster met for a combined event dinner. What a way to end such an action packed and mesmerizing day in Bali.
Day Four: Finals day! On Finals Day we had the luxury of picking the best times to run the final heats with the tides and, once again, the crew nailed it. With a later start, the same swell size as the day before with winds a little more crossshore were still perfect for SUP Longboarding and highly contestable for all divisions.
Weekend Warrior Women’s were up first. All final heats were thirty minutes opposed to the previous twenty minute heats and allowed for a little more strategy. The ladies all picked of some great waves and the trophy went to Queensland's Dimity Faulkner after a three heat total score with Bali’s Bonne Gea coming 2nd after leading the first two rounds,. 3rd place went to Madelaine Rayner from the South Coast Of NSW, Australia with Kylie Kay from Drift Hideaway Kuta Lombok taking 4th position.
Next up was Weekend Warrior Men’s. The tide began to drop out and the waves began to stand up on the reef a little more. For this heat, the competitive surfing began right from the hooter. The crew began picking off as many waves as they could, letting luck play its part. All luck aside, Starboard's Trevor Tunnington came away with the trophy followed by South Australian Trafford Harris in 2nd place. 3rd place went to Drift Hideaway owner Wayne Dean and another Starboard team member Ollie O’relly slotting into 4th place.
Now, it came down to the pointy end of business: Elite Men and Elite Women who began to get ready to hit the water for the final time of the competition. The waves were getting better with the tide really running out. The Elite Women put on a really great performance of stylish SUP Longboarding with Iballa Moreno taking the last round and trophy by 0.17 points, scoring 16.33 over Australian Champion Skyla Rayner 16.16, Brea Wright took 3rd on the overall heat scores with local girl Lorraine Lapus rounding off the final placings in 4th.
The Last SUP longboard surf event of the competition kicked off with the Elite Men’s in the line up. The tide was perfect and certainly this heat drew the best conditions we saw all day. The reef was breaking in two different sections with inconsistent, peaky, right A-frame running all the way through to the boats. They were still elusive but beginning to come into play and those swells clearly became Current World Champion Benoit Carpenter’s strategy as he surfed to a big opening score of 8.50. Australian Wes Fry and Zane Schweitzer, both goofy footers, were in a constant paddle battle for the inside right hand runners which just seemed to be running away from them as they pushed each other deeper and deeper. They both eventually found what they were looking for, both locking in 9.0 point rides to open up. Australian Kai Bates played an impressive patience game and nailed a 9.5 on his second wave before going a little quiet before coming back in the last ten minutes of the final.
The odd left hand peak was swinging in from out wide and Zane found himself in position to really capitalize on a few running lefts which allowed him to go to the nose and use his rail to finish off his chosen waves strongly. I was enjoying a front row seat to some of the world’s best SUP longboard surfers and especially Wes Fry’s backhand attack, smashing out solid turns right into my camera's direction. The lead was a see-sawing affair with all finalists now starting to build their wave count and higher scores getting locked in. Kai finally found what he was looking for and seemed to find a few gems under the noses of everyone else, Wes slowed down towards the end of the heat, while Benoit was still waiting for the wave of the final. Why wouldn’t you after securing the first 10-point ride in the semi-final and first one ever for the event? But, the wave he was looking for never came and Zane Schweitzer continued his rhythm and picked the best waves taking out the Elite men’s final with a two wave score of 19.30, winning by 0.43 over little Aussie legend Kai Bates 18.87. Wes Fry picked up 3rd with 18.34 and Benoit Carpenter scored 17.20 to take 4th place for the event.
Overall, the event was an amazing experience and a world’s first for SUP Longboarding on an international and Australian domestic level. We wish to send a warm and big ‘thank you!’ to everyone involved: the organizers, competitors, and stakeholders. Onwards to 2024!