Surfers Bring Back The Hassle-off At Newcastle…
By Col Bernasconi | 15 March 2012
Jack Freestone managed to avoid the Hassle-off in his heat this morning – just. Pic: ASP/Robertson
On my first (proper) trip to the Steel City in 10 years I’ve noticed a welcome lack of aggression about the place – out of the water anyway. Free surfing aside, and much like last year, the surfing celebration known as Surfest has had an unusually high amount of altercations, some deemed to be interferences by the ASP judges, some not. It appears some competitors in the Burton Toyota Pro and Hunter Ports Women’s Classic just can’t seem to control the urge to push the envelope of etiquette. Now we all love a bit of passion in battle, but snaking and hassling is ugly at best and not factors we want deciding heats. Still, while surfing may not be a contact sport those pursing the dream have a right to ‘fight for their right’ when it comes to wave claims. But where we draw the line in the hassle stakes seem to have become a blur?
The first I witnessed involved an average looking two-foot peak, Hawaiian Fred Patacchia and Australian Leigh Sedley. Fred, who has recently faced the sweet and sour experiences of bringing a child into the world and dropping off the ASP World Tour was determined to go left; while Seds, a surfing warhorse of sorts who’s been fighting it out on the World Qualifying Series for some years with mixed results, was determined to go right. You can guess the rest. For the other guys in the heat, Nic Muscroft and Adrien Toyon, it was a good leg up – they smell frustration and regret in the water and run away. Seds and Freddy out.
The hassling looks to be varying from heat to heat. Bronte former World Tour veteran Tom Whitaker wants none of it, and after being paddled around a few times opts to leave the four-man scrum and surf a left further south. I hope the small crowd is paying attention to the tactic. The black sheep move is a brave one and oh so sweet when it pays off – the other three continued to hassle each other while Tom surfed to victory alone on his little fat left. Justice.
Alan Jhones avoids the hassle-off by surfing the skyline. Pic: ASP/Robertson
Another interesting non-interference worthy hassle-hoff, was surprisingly staged between South African countrymen Travis Logie and Dale Staples. Logie, a successful and current card carrying member of the World Tour elite club, is under the pump from the younger (perhaps hungrier) Staples. In the end the seemingly ruthless hassle tactics of Staples sees him through and Travis is eliminated finishing third. He later Tweet’s about it being “the heaviest hassling I’ve dealt with for a while, and from a fellow countrymen?” I text Travis direct and ask why this Tweet is now removed and he explains that people started weighing in and saying mean things about Dale… Still pissed about the heat, but ever the gentleman.
Last but not least was a snake so slippery and cunning in nature you could put a hat on it and call it Roger the weasel. Brazilian, Alex Ribeiro, paddled over and around Australian Tim MacDonald from our right hand side on the beach as if positioning for the right, but to Tim’s surprise swung left and bumped rails… A genuinely surprised Macdonald yielded as best he could as the Brazilian tumbled to his feet showing more concern to raise his hands to the judges as if to say, “Look what he just did to me?” Not on my watch Alex. Neither Alex nor Tim were actually pulled up by the judges as having interfered – but being roped into such gutter ball tactics effected them both adversely in an instant. Both looked shaky and rattle post hassle-hoff and failed to score in the excellent range. There’s a lesson in that folks.
As there is in flipping off the judges, just ask Thomas Woods from the heat prior… But that’s another chestnut all together.