Unlike the pretty stale WCT Tour, the IBA has had 3 classic events in what’s been happening during the 2012 campaign. First off was the best surf Pipe saw in the winter, second was the Box with a mixed bag of waves though intense action and third was the Stealth Arica Chilean Challenge, which finished this past Sunday. If you missed the event, no worries, heats on demand on the ibaworldtour youtube channel guarantee that you’ll see every bit of action, and boy was there action.
First off, a big congrats to all the riders in the IBA world tour. They put on a great show, local Chilean riders showed they are to be taken VERY seriously and few if any riders failed to put on a good showing. Injuries? You bet there were injuries, and still Ben Player, Amaury Lavernhe and Danton Correa put on a great show. These are serious pros who REALLY want to win and put it all on the line.
The webcast started super deep into the trials so we were treated to a deep look into what goes into one of the most prized events in bodyboarding. A pool of 100 international riders put on a great show and who won the trials? A guy from Morocco called Brahim Iddouch who flipped himself silly for the win. So a big thanks to the IBA for letting fans see an event in its entirety.
Then came the main event. Conditions varied intensely throughout the week with waves from 3-12 feet and conditions that varied as well. Often ridden with overcast skies, El Gringo is a wave that goes left and right and has high consequences either way, though the left is even sketchier. The scoring criteria adjusted superbly and the judges really deserve a shoutout for making the right call 99% of the time.
If I could use three words to describe the air one could grasp through the webcast they would be focus, determination and joy. Bodyboarders are a friendly bunch of guys most of the time, but the blast they seemed to have in Chile just permeated throughout the whole event. Then again, that’s what happens when you have thousands of people lining up to see the world’s best face off against one of the best waves on the planet. Some standout things I saw were:
1. The Lan ladies - Promoters from Lan Airlines that kept what few males were there smiling from ear to ear. Having a representative of Lan Airlines was also awesome since it pretty much shows that bodyboarding is a serious and popular sport in Latin America.
2. A mummy replica they brought to the booth. Super weird moment and I don’t know how Manny could eat on that table after they brought that thing out.
3. The mayor of Arica giving an interview.
4. All the riders doing commentating. Everyone put in their time in the event and highlights in the booth are too many to name, though my vote goes for Mark McCarthy since his enthusiasm was infectious.
Then there was the riding. Although I have my 5 favorite waves from the event, please make sure to see the entire event. This was quality riding from the highest quality of riders. Then again, there are always waves that standout and here are my top five:
Top Five waves of the Stealth Arica Chilean Challenge:
5. Jeff Hubbard’s ARS to barrel in round 4: Jeff pulls into a big right hander that looks a little fat. Then he hits a massive ARS and lands in the barrel, which he pulls out from into a roll.
4. Ben Player’s round 6 reverse to barrel to flip: One of the most technical waves ridden in the event, Ben Player pulls into a big right, thinks it’s not going to pitch so does a reverse to stall for time. As he finishes the reverse, the wave throws, he gets a sick barrel and comes out with a flip.
3. Guilherme Tamega Barrel for the win in Semi Final #1. PLC had Guilherme on the ropes at the end, but the Brazilian behemoth was not going to be denied a Final berth. He pulls insanely deep on a right hander and I’m pretty sure he yelled at the wave to stay open. I really didn’t think he was going to make it, and he did.
2. Dave Hubbard’s MASSIVE Boost in round 3. In this round, people were looking for Nick Gornall to boost big. After he hit a section a little late, Dave Hubbard grabs a quick left and proceeds to go higher than his brother did the entire event with the biggest air in Chile. What’s crazier is how smooth he landed it and that he even had the presence of mind to launch another roll afterwards.
1. Mike Stewart’s spinner, to barrel to HUGE invert in Quarterfinal #4. Vintage Mike, that’s what you’re going to hear for a long time. Stewart smoked Ben Player in the quarters starting out with a beautiful looking left hander. He proceeds to do a textbook smooth spinner into the barrel, grabs a long drawn out tube and even while he’s shacked, you see him eyeing the section coming. It was a 2-3 ft section and he boosted like 6 feet in the air, completely inverted and landed on barely covered rocks… rightfully so, this was the highest scoring wave of the event.
It was a hell of a contest, and like I said… everyone was riding so well it was a sight to see. Now there were some riders that looked more in form than the rest, and here’s my list:
Brahim Iddouch – Took down the trials and though he didn’t progress very far in the event, he showed he charges and that he’s a welcome addition to any event.
Damian King – Runner up in the trials, Kingy looked downright deadly in his riding and just came up short in the heat he lost. Still, his riding was tight and focused and it’s awesome to see him charging.
Sacha Specker – Riding tight and quick, flipping, tubing and still with enough energy to click some land and water shots. The man is on fire and I wouldn’t be surprised if an in form Sacha makes the Semis or Finals of an event this year.
Nick Gornall – The scariest launch of the event has to go to Nick Gornall, who threw an invert off a section that would have people pooping their pants.
Andrew Lester – Lester made it to the Quarters until he met up with the eventual event winner. His riding was focused and technical and he showed he’s someone to take serious in any heat you’re in.
Dave Hubbard – Biggest air of the event, Dave missed the quarters by .06 pts… it’s a harsh loss because he was ripping and you can probably make a case that he deserved the win… then again you can also make a case for Lester deserving the win. It’s one of those heats you’d hate to have to judge. That aside, Dave looked sharp, fast and motivated to go big. He did a crazy flip on the rocks to stay in the event and was always looking to go deep and big.
Jake Stone – His lowest scoring heat was 13 something… he was looking sharp and deadly and can always take you out when you least expect it with a huge flip when you think a wave won’t get the score. Just ask Stewart and Mark McCarthy.
Jeff Hubbard – Hubb has looked great in two events. One of the few air reverses in the event, he’s known for busting for a reason or twenty. When he was on, he was way on and he bowed out to a scarily determined Guilherme Tamega.
Dallas Singer – Dallas looked as good as I think I’ve ever seen him in a contest and it was a shame he got nipped in the end of his heat against PLC. Consistently spinning out of the barrel, the smoothest air reverse of the event was his. I hope he uses this loss to keep the momentum up because he was riding awesome.
Amaury Lavernhe – That’s twice Amaury has been caught up in the Tamega storm at Arica… and to be honest, it was more the ocean than his skills or will. He just didn’t get the rides he needed when he needed them. That aside, I don’t know if he needs to be injured more often because I hadn’t seen him riding that precise in a while. His heat wins were borderline inspirational and if GT gets him in another heat, he should know he’s going to have to go even bigger.
Mitch Rawlins – Mitch brought the momentum from the Box and launched some crazy big rolls and deep tubes. PLC shut the door on him, so look for Mitch to look for redemption.
Ben Player – What corked thigh? For a second I thought BP wasn’t going to ride the event, then I remembered that these guys aren’t about to fly thousands of miles to complain about an injury. With a strong promotion for Coke, he used cut off patches from 2 liter Coke bottles to protect his thigh and he was riding excellent even when he was steamrolled by a wizard.
Pierre Louis Costes – Riding tight, going big and flipping like crazy… though I have to admit, it’s getting to the point where I want him to launch something other than a backflip… and he did. He did a wonky air forward, a textbook perfect reverse off the lip and some big rolls that made me enjoy his flips more when he mixed it up.
Guilherme Tamega – Tamega’s focus was downright scary. Really, I’m glad heats aren’t full contact because he’d put you in a jiu-jitsu hold in the first 30 seconds, for sure. Up to the final he was winning on pure will and determination. Look at the Semi Final against PLC for pure evidence of this where you can almost hear the wave weeping as he whips it into submission. I’ll say this for Winey, thank God he left the big score for the end because with more time, GT might have done something to top his 2011 antics for a win.
Mike Stewart – At 49, Mike is riding just like or better than he did ten or more years ago. No one in the event was putting up better combos than Mike in my view, even going as far as doing an ARS on the rocks on a wave he’d done a spin, done a roll and gotten a barrel on. It was a treat to see him charging so hard and it’s just a shame he didn’t make it into the final, then again, unlike other occasions, more than any, it was all on the ocean since every good wave he got, he completely shredded and he’s gone back to being one of the last guys you want in your heat.
Dave Winchester – Wave magnet… that’s Winey for you in two words. Flipping, barreling, inverting and rolling his way to victory, Dave Winchester wrestled the Arica title from GT’s hands in the last minute of competition. It’s a hell of a victory for Australia and Winey is the in-form rider of the year, placing 3rd twice and now winning an event in the first three events of the year. Two more good results should do it, and I’m super stoked for him. Great guy and another asset to the sport.
So there you have it, 3 events down, 5 to go… Expectations are high and Brazil is coming up… I’ll write my predictions throughout the week.
Viva La Bodyboarding!