Written by Troy Pease, organiser of the Apsu 12 Towers Ocean Paddle Festival…
With the remnants of Oma still lingering, directional wind and swell set the back drop to one of the best “Tower” races to date. East south east swell and wind gusts up to 46km/h, comfort zones were stretched for many while others surfed the entire 16kms. One competitor in particular could possibly lay claim to the best buoy to beach finish in ocean distance race history.
“I knew how close Tito and Noic were coming into the turning buoy. And as the bumps started to grow approaching the turn, I had to take the first one. Yeah, it was pretty gnarly but managed to hold it through to the beach. I was so pumped”!
Lincoln Dews– Open Men’s SUP Champion
The early morning check-in of coffee and registration had the record number of 240 participants in anticipation of a late wind swing. Briefing check, cars loaded and the annual road train choked the highway south to Palm Beach through Snapper Rocks. Benny “SUP Taxi” Kapa added colour to the procession with a plethora of SUP’s, Prone Boards, Ocean Skis and Canoes strapped to his van.
“It was like the turbines were switched on and the waves instantly doubled in size”
Peter Patch– Beach support for partner Sue Gollagher
The late afternoon predicted wind hit early…..about 2 hours early, and spared no one in its path. With the blustery SE wind came the swell, and didn’t it play havoc with the sand banks on the lower tide. With paddlers struggling to make it through the “washing machine” mid channel for the short course start, big bumps were forming out to sea and being embraced by the long course “front runners” on Ocean Skis and SUP’s.
And while competitors were enjoying the Pacific Ocean playground of hair parting wind and corduroy runners, they had no idea what was unfolding at the North Burleigh finish area. The tide had changed, wave height crept into the 6-foot range that ultimately left many rinsing sand out of their boardies for days.
An emergency call got radioed through to Michael Chan (Chief Water safety jet ski) that the final turning buoy had broken from its anchor and catching waves by itself. With about 5 seconds to spare of a buoy rescue and a reposition, the first of the top end battles was approaching the turn. In an act of great sportsmanship and respect, line honours champion and local Ocean Ski Paddler Dan Collins pulled back from a set wave that “sauced” second placed Frenchman Hector Henot. Dan waited for him to right his ski, asked if he was all good and then began a sprint dual to the line.
Eight minutes and eight places later and what is described as one of the best race finishes ever, the 2018 World SUP Paddle League Champion rides a giant wave from outside the turning buoy to step off at the waters’ edge to take out the SUP division. Lincoln Dews tenacity and precise handling of his 23” Velocity Dugout (DEEP Ocean Boards) was nothing short of spectacular. The 2014 winner and dual World Champion Titouan Puyo (FR, Team NSP/QB) followed a minute behind in second place with one of the best-looking guys in SUP James Casey (Sunova) winning a foot race to claim third place over team mate and the New Caledonia Kid Noic Garioud.
Big names fell in short succession down to tenth place. The other “Newcale Super Kid” Clement Colmas 5th, Ty Judson 6th, Michael Booth 7th, Tim Cyprien 8th, Matt Nottage 9th, and legend “Ol’ Boy” Dave Kissane rounding out that magic top ten.
Multi-sport World Champion and no stranger to conditions like race day, local Karla Gilbert powered home to take out the hotly contested women’s division. Also negotiating the waves better than most, her time of 01:23:47 handed her a sixth 12 Towers Title. Two minutes behind Karla was the ever-impressive Kate Baker (2018 Runner-up) who’s climb up the world rankings is rapid. Third place was rounded out by the 2018 Champion and the biggest smile on the water, Japan’s Yuka Sato. Special mention to local paddler Keale Dorries a further 4 minutes behind Yuka in a great performance.
With both Long & Short Course paddlers starting to join the que like a Coles Deli on specials day, the selection on what bumps to waves offer at the turning buoy was a hard choice. And I bet some of those paddlers would like to rethink their decision. GoPro footage of OC2 partners Sonia Dufus and Renato Mercuri shows the impact of a mis-timed dash to the beach. 24’ of fibreglass under a solid set wave will always lose. But the stoke and excitement of the New Caledonians was felt by many, and have vowed to be back next year.
There were so many fantastic finishes on all crafts. It didn’t matter if you placed or not, or even crossed the line like a drowned rat….just the pump on everyone’s face gave that something special and was felt by everyone.
Some epic performances to mention was “Ironman Legend” Zane Holmes giving it to the faster Ocean Ski competitors by taking out his category and third in line honours on a Surf Lifesaving Spec Ski.
Mick Schaffer, Mick Herden and Greg McGoldrick were separated by 31 seconds in the +45yrs OC1 category.
68yr old Geoff Dews (3rdplace) taking it to the young crew in the Short Course Prone.
James Casey and Noic Garioud (3rd& 4th) with 1 second separation in the Open Men SUP. Similar split with Ben Tardrew and Jonno Hagan (13th& 14th) Open Men SUP.
Kristy Morris and Christine Den Elzen (5th& 6th) 3 secs between 40-45yrs Women’s SUP.
Bernie Rix and Denise Holmes (1stOC2) catching and holding a bomb wave to the beach.
Grace Rosato with a dominating performance to take out the Long Course Women’s Prone.
Carter De Wilde in the Short Course Prone Men who paddled for the R U OK charity, (legendary) supporting girlfriend Mikaela Scullen (1stProne Women Short Course) from the Palm Beach start.
As with every event, volunteers and sponsors play a huge role in its success. Please acknowledge the following supporters of the 2019 Apsu 12 Towers Ocean Paddle Festival.
Apsu Nutrition, Tourism Events Queensland, DEEP Ocean Boards, Waterman Store Au & NZ, 1SUP1, Australian Paddler HQ, Surfing Queensland, Surflife Physio, Vonzipper Australia, Hydralyte Sport, North Burleigh Surf Club, Burleigh Mediterranean Resort, Casey Performance Wear, Hickey Sports Management Group.
My special and heart felt thank you to my event crew.
Behind the scenes– Simon Hunnybun, Zane Holmes, Peter Hickey, Josh Fletcher, Jo Percy, Dev Lahey, Chris Clarke
In-front of the scenes– Anthony Clark, Lance Milnes, Teej Searl, Jodi Ritchie, Kelly Clark, Greg Cockerill, Annie Churchin, Sue Dorries, Keale Dorries, Tiarni Ritchings, Dogman, Lachie Lansdown, Sue Gollagher
Water Safety- Michael Chan, Juan Cruz, Kirra IRB Team, Benny Kapa
Race Marshall– Geoff Bryant
Graphic Design– Tim Patterson
Lens action & Media– Georgia Schofield
Always on scene– My gorgeous partner Alanah Mercer
Eight years on and 240 paddlers strong. There’s something that makes this event so very special. Those who have supported each year know what I’m talking about.
The 2019 Apsu 12 Towers Ocean Paddle Festival……has been TACKLED!
Check out the full library of photos on Facebook: www.facebook.com/12towers