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Australia

April 2, 2000

I don’t know if it was big news in America, but a veritable buzz washed up and down the New South Wales coast this summer (winter for those of you Stateside) as four of the world’s top pros made their way down to Oz to promote the sport of wakeboarding. Cobe Mikacich, Mike Weddington, Shaun Murray and Dean Lavelle all tackled the Sydney scene with a vengeance, and what they found was more than a land of prehistoric Aborigines. What they found is that wakeboarding is a thriving entity Down Under.
A country known more for its legendary surf locations and contests, Australia, the largest island country in the world, has grasped wakeboarding in a big way. That’s right, the home country of Mel Gibson, Greg Norman and Shannon Best. The land where they make the cars with the controls on the right (correct) side, offer beer as a breakfast drink and consider Vegemite an actual food group has adopted wakeboarding as a national pastime. And why not? Being such a large island means lots of coastline and many secret spots perfect for wakeboarding if you’re willing to put up with a little chop, or a croc or two if you’re up north. In fact, Aussie surfers/water skiers were free boarding, or skurfing, long before Tony Finn made his claim on a long, flat summer in 1985.
For instance, a fine example of two of these people are Grant Gettens and Reece Jordan, who live and train on the south side of Sydney. Grant and Reece have been buddies for over 10 years, and in the mid-1980s – “back in the day,” as Reece likes to say – they toured Australia together doing vert-ramp BMX demos at various events like surfing competitions and the world expo for the Coca-Cola team. At one point Reece appeared on tins of Milo (a chocolate-milk powder like Quik) riding vert on his BMX. That may not sound impressive to you, but it’s probably equivalent to Michael Jordan on the Wheaties box in America. These days, however, the two wakeboard more than anything and get into as much snowboarding in Australia as possible with only a three- to four-month snow season. And, Grant manages plenty of sly missions to New Zealand, the U.S. and Canada – his sister works for Qantas.
If you haven’t noticed yet, take a good look at the photos. Grant, with the help of Reece, also started his own wakeboard company called “Cordial,” named after a popular type of drink, an extremely sweet, flavored concentrate you add to water, sort of like Kool-Aid, but in a liquid form. The make-it-yourself aspect of cordial is why this name was chosen. Grant made his first board in 1993 and has hand-made over 30 boards, including some with non-release alloy and Velcro-strap baseless bindings. The bindings freak a lot of people out at camps, as the user must wear shoes.
Some Cordials have snapped, some Grant still has, and some have been sold off. At the moment, Dean Lavelle has one he bought from Grant when he was visiting with Shaun Murray. Cordial decks are more for the jibbing/snow-skate freaks, and Grant rides and recommends riding with no fins. But then he also says that the future of wakeboarding is in underwater tricks.
Although Grant and Reece can probably get most of the credit for getting wakeboarding noticed in this area, a whole crew of new rippers has exploded on the scene. Marshall Harrington, from Sydney’s south side, is a fine young lad who rides for Rusty and is possibly visiting North America to compete for a few months this year. Marshall’s girlfriend, Patricia Stewart, is also a heck of a rider, and wakeboarding brought them together. Patricia competed at the 1996 Wakeboard Worlds and did very well for someone still in school. So good in fact, Neptune threw some product her way and made her part of its international team.
While girls are the subject, Kylie Froggatt is one of the veteran female riders. lie works for Fila, goes out with Reece Jordan, rides (snow and wake) and is riding a Squirt for Liquid Force.
Getting back to the guys, Matt Lewis is another of the south-side Port Hacking River crew who competed at the ’96 Worlds. Matt is a production manager at his parents’ printing firm, and he eats like tomorrow ain’t coming. Arnette and Blindside thinks he’s A-OK and send him goodies in the mail all the time. One of our masters’ division competing riders is Stuart Darcy, who only got into wakeboarding a year or so ago. He is one of Australia’s cutting-edge surfboard shapers and is well-known and respected here for that. Sydney’s south has always produced solid surf, snow and skate boarders and is now coming good with the new breed of board riders.
With the introduction of the Hyperlite series of comps in late ’96 (which is what brought Shaun and Dean down), Sydney and the rest of the state of New South Wales finally had competitions run for the riders and sport, not for profit. This was a good meeting point for NSW riders to get together, talk turkey and watch each other ride. Competitors and spectators alike were treated and somewhat amazed when Shaun and Dean showed up to compete. Dean actually broke his personal-best point score on a killer run. Shaun took out the expression session on a tight course that made double-ups pretty much a nightmare, but Shaun stuck ’em anyway.
The level of talent American riders possess is mind-blowing, but by the same token, the U.S. crew is babied with their big boats, glassy water and insane wakes that are more functional for contest-type tricks. In my opinion, the Aussie style of riding is more punchy, more soulful just because we don’t have those conditions – though any one of us would kill to go as big as Dean or Cobe or Mike.
Other hot local riders around the Sydney area include Brett Turner, another Hyperlite boy. Great rider, but he’s not the brightest star in the sky either: He left his car sunroof open in a torrential rainstorm at the #2 Hyperlite comp. After the license plate number was called on the P.A. system at least five times, Brett finally recognized it and rushed to dry the leather interior. That’s how he met Dean and Shaun the first time.
Dale Carter is another local who rips and admits to being a crazy barefooter some time before wakeboarding entered his life. Dale lives in an area we call the central coast, about an hour north of Sydney on Lake Munmoarha. Dale’s married, has two cute-as-hell kids, and at the moment is the eldest pro division competitor. He is also the current Australian record holder.
To Sydney’s west we have Scott Kell, who goes out and belts himself each time he rides only because he is going way too big. Scotty also runs his own wakeboarding school and rides on a waterway called the Hawksbury River at Wiseman’s Ferry, which is fresh water. In summer, NSW reverts to daylight savings time, setting our state time an hour earlier than winter to maximize lines on late afternoon (9 p.m.) glassy, warm water. Most wakeboarders in Australia work full time to support their habit and appreciate the extra hours to train during the week.
And of course, there’s that other Australian. Despite the brilliant talents among our crew, hopes of an Aussie world championship still lie on the skinny shoulders of Shannon Best. Although no one has seen or heard from the guy in quite a few years, he’s practically a national hero. We hear he’s done tons for the cable scene in America, but it’s not that big in Australia yet. Here in Sydney, there is actually quite a large facility for potential cablers, but it is located west – an hour away from Sydney’s city and from the coastline. In Queensland, one state north of NSW, the cable scene is a little bigger and they have annual comps. This is where Shannon came from, and it has a perfect wakeboarding climate, very similar to Florida’s. Days are long and hot, with days in the summer when you can’t ride during lunch for fear of getting toasted by the sun. All in all, it’s really not as enticing as a boat.
Speaking of pros, I caught up with Cobe and Mike on the latter part of their tour in Sydney. Sydney Board Shop h

ad organized a session behind a 32-foot Bertram cruiser and called me for the mission. It went like this: Weather, total crap. Howling wind, 2-foot chop on the bay, and the lighting was not much better. Anyway, we load her up and push off. Next mission: Find a keen rider to go first. Marshall Harrington volunteers. Mike and Cobe finally get hyped to go as they see young Harrington blasting off the beast of a wake. But they don’t like the look of the local jellyfish and decided to wait for better water. (What did I say about U.S. riders being babies? Ha-ha.) When they finally do ride, it’s unreal. Cobe gets a disgusting amount of air throwing big old mobiuses, whirly birds and every other trick known to man. Mike goes out and goes just as hard and impresses the local crew to no end, worth the petrol bill from the twin 454s pushing the show.
Anyhow, with this latest push from the American market, the creation of Australia’s own wakeboarding magazine, Wake and, of course, the crew of hard-core local riders and shops (Balmoral and Sydney Board Shop), Australia is pretty much ready to charge the wakeboarding scene. How’s that for Oz-mosis? have annual comps. This is where Shannon came from, and it has a perfect wakeboarding climate, very similar to Florida’s. Days are long and hot, with days in the summer when you can’t ride during lunch for fear of getting toasted by the sun. All in all, it’s really not as enticing as a boat.
Speaking of pros, I caught up with Cobe and Mike on the latter part of their tour in Sydney. Sydney Board Shop had organized a session behind a 32-foot Bertram cruiser and called me for the mission. It went like this: Weather, total crap. Howling wind, 2-foot chop on the bay, and the lighting was not much better. Anyway, we load her up and push off. Next mission: Find a keen rider to go first. Marshall Harrington volunteers. Mike and Cobe finally get hyped to go as they see young Harrington blasting off the beast of a wake. But they don’t like the look of the local jellyfish and decided to wait for better water. (What did I say about U.S. riders being babies? Ha-ha.) When they finally do ride, it’s unreal. Cobe gets a disgusting amount of air throwing big old mobiuses, whirly birds and every other trick known to man. Mike goes out and goes just as hard and impresses the local crew to no end, worth the petrol bill from the twin 454s pushing the show.
Anyhow, with this latest push from the American market, the creation of Australia’s own wakeboarding magazine, Wake and, of course, the crew of hard-core local riders and shops (Balmoral and Sydney Board Shop), Australia is pretty much ready to charge the wakeboarding scene. How’s that for Oz-mosis?

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