The first ever event that the WSL ran, as part of their new ownership of the sport of surfing, was the 2014 Quiksilver Pro and Roxy Pro Gold Coast. During the opening days of that event the surf turned on, with excellent, barreling four to five foot gems peeling down Snapper and the Superbank. Then a very surprising but positive decision was made – the WSL sent the girls out, in what was actually looking like the best day of the waiting period.
It was awesome, but while Carissa was surfing out of her skin, a mounting crew of the best male surfers in the world and their best friends felt thwarted, and were frothing for the waves they felt entitled to. When the final heat of the day was over, the lineup turned into pure chaos. I paddled out, simultaneously with 20 others, and there were four or five deep rows of surfers behind me - girls, longboarders, professionals, groms and locals, all clogging up the gulley.
I hung at the top for about 3 seconds, before heading down the point, ending up in the middle of Rainbow Bay. There were hundreds of us out there. A head count from the judging tower that afternoon put it at an estimated 600 surfers in the water from behind the rock to the middle of Greenmount, with streams more doing the run around. It was hard to count though, as the whole crowd from entry to exit had become an infinite loop.
A big set came through and Slater was on it. I needed to paddle out, to get out of his way, but there was no way I could move. I was totally hemmed in. Eventually, on my insistence – ‘dude, you've got to paddle!’ - The guy in front mobilized, and I followed him, literally paddling on top of him to get out the way. It was a stressful experience, and eventually I broke free and sat further out, watching.
That day I got three waves in an hour. A bomb, dropped in on immediately by a muscular longboarding goofy-footer who looked back at me with utter disdain as he bounced his board around. He was never going to pull out. My second wave was a straight-hander, closing out immediately, and a final third wave that faded so quickly I was cutting back from take off, and I rode it in.
1. When it’s super-crowded, have no expectations whatsoever. That way you can’t get bummed.
2. When you commit, you have to go. Pull back once on a super-crowded day and you will not get another wave.
3. Go on anything. You do not have the privilege of wave selection.
4. Take your best paddler. If you’re not catching waves you’re not surfing, and any advantages help.
5. Don't be a prick. You do need a certain level of tolerance when it gets super-crowded. People will bump rails, there will be a bit of a push and shove on the jump off, and there will be people shouting and whistling. Don’t be that guy, and take offence to one person out of hundreds who might be irritating you.
6. Also, don’t be that guy irritating everyone by whistling and shouting.
7. Always give it a go and paddle out, no matter where you are and no matter the size of the crowd. It would have been so easy to say, ‘fuck it, too crowded’ and gone and drunk beer at the RSL with the rest of the media crew who were over it. If you don't paddle out, you’ll never be in line for a bomb, however remote the possibility.
8. If you go to the Superbank, don't bother with a dawnie. They surf through the night there.