John John Florence, Shark-deterrent gear, Women’s Big Wave Surfing and Dear Old Mick Fanning Top the List of This Year’s News Highlights
Surfersvillage Global Surf News, 26 December, 2016 - Each year we see a few stories come through the wire that are so big that they will go on to be remembered longafter 2016 ends. At the very least they will end up listed in year-end-articles like this one. And this year there was no shortage of clickthrough-worthy news.
While we were focused on the shark issues off both coasts of Australia, Mick Fanning returned to the scene of his shark encounter at JBay. There was also a flurry of products to hit the market to deter shark/surfer encounters.
Beyond toothy predators we saw the world’s favourite surfer, John John Florence, win both the Eddie and the WSL World Title. Women charged Pe’ahi and earned a specialty heat at Mavericks while the Red Bull Cape Fear event set the overall gold standard for live contest excitement when it ran at Ours in Sydney.
Enjoy the list below, which is by no means complete, but a random sampling of our favourite moments.
Following a season that involved the shark attack, a world runner-up finish and the tragic passing of his brother, Fanning is taking a personal year in 2016, surfing in only select events. However, the Australian icon has committed to returning to Jeffreys Bay, an event he has won three times (2002, 2006, 2014).
“When I decided I was only going to do a few events this season, J-Bay was always on the cards,” Fanning said. “Even if I decided I didn’t want to surf in the J-Bay Open, I was always going to go back. I’ve had so many great memories there that to leave J-Bay on the note from last year just didn’t seem right. I want to go back and right the wrongs and move forward.”
This year a number of companies emerged with high-tech solutions to deter sharks from encountering surfers. Buoys, leashes, patterned wetsuits, surf wax, board-mountable devices and anklets all emerged on the market to help quell the growing fear surfers have of sharks.
It's called using "visual pattern technologies" also known as SAMS, the stripey outer design added to a new line of wetsuits.
The theory behind the suits? According to the company SAMS is a series of designs based on scientific analysis of shark’s visual systems that can be applied to a variety of applications, including neoprene wetsuits, to disrupt sharks’ ability to visually detect its prey.
They did some tests in Mossel Bay, South Africa floating black wetsuits next to their SAMS shark deterrent design wetsuits. What did they find? "Sharks took an average of 90 seconds to engage with a “control” black neoprene, while interactions between sharks and SAMS disruptive colouration design took between five to six minutes," the company said in a statement.
Shark Shield partnered with Ocean and Earth to develop a tail pad with space for a removable electronics module near the kick of the tail pad. Electrodes run through a sticker-thin decal adhesive antenna connected to the tail pad via an adhesive flex cable. The tail pad retails for $99 AUS but doesn’t include the actual shark-deterrent device. The removable anti-shark power model sells separately at $499.
Modomsurf said a new leash tested well earlier this year. The leg rope features Sharkbanz technology built into the ankle cuff. It looks like your standard leash, but is outfitted with the Sharkbanz magnet where the urethane cord meets the cuff. The magnet does weigh a bit, but it’s your ankle carrying the added weight instead of it dragging in the water behind you.
There’s also a large watch-band product from Sharkbanz that one can wear on their ankle or wrist. It looks like a huge plastic surf watch without the digital face. The band is extra long so you can wear it on your leg.
The Sharkbanz technology employs simple magnets (albeit, special super-juiced magnets) to interfere with sharks sensitive electroreceptors. Research suggest that as a shark closes in on it’s prey, it relies on sensors in its snout to lock on to the food.
John John Florence winning the World Title
The world’s favourite surfer won the world title this year. Which comes at a time when surfing really needs it. Pro surfing has become very regimented, calculating and, well, professional. It’s all good but often the surfer who trains the hardest and has the most competitive drive usually wins - Yes it’s the nature of professional sports but what often happens is the surfer having the least amount of fun wins. So this year it was refreshing to see the young Hawaiian emerge victorious. John John’s style, power and overall body language tell the world that he’s having fun.
“My whole life has gone towards this, everything I’ve done, just this year especially learning so much about competitive surfing and just really focusing in on it and having so much help and support," said Florence. "The support has been amazing, I couldn’t have done it without everyone back at home and everyone here on the road with us. So many people, so much so much support.”
FLORENCE 2016 WSL CT RESULTS -
Quiksilver Pro Gold Coast: 5th
Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach: 13th
Drug Aware Margaret River Pro: 13th
Oi Rio Pro: WINNER
Fiji Pro: 5th
J-Bay Open: 2nd
Billabong Pro Tahiti: 2nd
Hurley Pro at Trestles: 13th
Quiksilver Pro France: 3rd
Meo Rip Curl Pro Portugal: WINNER
Billabong Pipe Masters: TBD
FLORENCE CAREER WSL CT FINISHES:
2016: WSL CHAMPION
At the 2016 Eddie, held during what many called “The Brock Swell” in honour of late big-wave surfer Brock Little who passed this year, John John Florence edged out previous event winner Ross Clarke-Jones.
Better known for his year-round pursuits on the WSL Championship Tour, Florence put himself at the head of the big wave riding movement.
A capacity crowd of 25,000 lined the headland-to-headland arena of Waimea Bay, witnessing eight hours of uninterrupted, mind-blowing entertainment. They roared and gasped as the 28-man field offered up fearless rides and more than a few horrific wipeouts from sun up to sun down.
After two straight days of unbelievably intense action, Red Bull Cape Fear came to a close for 2016. There was one man left standing, and his name is Russell Bierke. At only 18-years-old Bierke took down some of the world’s best slab riding specialists and guys who have made names for themselves by taking on this wild break.
“It didn’t really feel like a surf contest,” said Bierke. “I was just surfing perfect waves with a bunch of guys I really look up to. The waves yesterday were really scary, today was perfect. I can’t really believe that I won.”
Over the last few years Bierke has been quietly building a reputation for his hard charging ways and his ability to tackle Australia’s biggest waves. The young South Coast surfer paddled and whipped into the biggest and deepest tubes of the day to overcome renowned big wave barrel hunters Koby Abberton, Ryan Hipwood and James Adams in a stacked final.
Bierke finished the day with a near-perfect two wave heat score of 19.97 - making surfing one of the world’s most difficult and dangerous waves look like a walk in the park.
The world’s best female big wave surfers made history as 12 individuals took to the water to compete in a WSL Big Wave Tour event for the first time ever and contest for the maiden women’s title in heavy conditions at Pe’ahi during the Pe’ahi Challenge.
The Final saw Paige Alms, Justine Dupont and Felicity Palmateer take to the water for a 60 minute match-up. Finalists Keala Kennelly, Emily Erickson and Laura Enever were unable to compete after sustaining injuries in Round 1. Alms became the first ever Women’s Big Wave Tour Champion after taking victory in the Final.
“I still feel like that was a dream, I can’t quite believe it,” said Alms. “What a blessing to be out there with just a couple of girls, that was very special. The support feels so good and it’s so cool to have all my friends here and do this at home. This has been a dream to have an event for the women here. To have an empty lineup is a real blessing, win or lose. A few of the girls got hurt and I’m bummed that they weren’t out there with us but they’ll be back for more. I hope we get more opportunities so thank you WSL, this was really big.”