Joel Parkinson Wins The Burleigh Single Fin Festival
Mitch Crews gives a rundown on "the best event in surfing"
Did you, like us, think Joel Parkinson would never squeeze into a coloured rashie again? We knew he'd cop the odd wildcard, and show face at the occasional novelty event, but winning finals less than a month after his official retirement wasn't quite what we expected. That however is only because our hungover New Year's minds lapsed on the arrival of the annual Burleigh Single Fin Festival.
A damn fine surfing event and festivity held the first weekend of every year.
Today marked the end of that weekend. The 22nd consecutive Single Fin Fest of its kind and Burleigh was as fun as it gets inside. Drainers past the rocks on high and it only got better as the tide ran out.
"It's one of the best events I've ever been to." Mitch Crews, self-confessed hi-fi QS guy and semi-finalist told Stab between sinking beers post-event. "It’s the best contest there is. It’s such a level play field. Ever board has to be earlier than 1985 – it can’t just be a single fin that your mate has made you – and then you’ve gotta try and rip the fuck out of the thing."
Parko went on to win the event in the final six-man heat on Sunday afternoon (his second ever win at the event), and according to Mitch and others ashore, his surfing was indistinguishable from his thruster hey-days.
"If you saw the way he was surfing today you would’ve given him the same scores as if he were on a shortboard. He’s a fucking beast. There's no pressure on him and it looked as if he was on his favourite shortboard."
Up against Jay Thompson, Tai Buddha, James Woods, Chris Brookes, and Liam O’Brien, Parko snatched the final with experienced steeze.
The Burleigh Single Fin Festival isn't your prototypical WSL event, or even anything like your jocky local boardriders. It's the epitome of what a surfing event should be and the turn out is a testament in itself.
"You’ve got Joel, Shane [Dorian], Brad Gerlach, Occy, Tom Carroll and all these maddogs here for it. Everyone is just wigging out that you can enter against dudes like that. You might draw Occy in your heat!" Mitch continued.
"There’s also junior, womens, and a heritage division for the old dogs. Most of the old boys did opens as well though."
And while there's a tonne of hi-fidelity, thruster confined shred-heads throwing themselves into the mix. There's also a few entrants who apply a less refined approach to the over 30-year old boards.
"Dude, Creed [McTaggart and Harrison [Roach]..." Crewsy bawked.
"I feel like there’s single fin surfing where you ride it as a normal board. You know, your HP guys, Bottle, Dorian, or a Parko. They typically surf a single fin the same way they would a high-performance surfboard.
"Creed and Roach though were surfing them how you would traditionally surf a single fin. Creed and Harry were riding so fucking beautifully. Their boards were longer, the turns were more drawn out. They looked like they belonged on those boards."
"I guess the conversation then shifts to whether you should score surfing that’s done in that manner, or the modern high performance surfing manner."
"The judges were scoring portions of that [old school] surfing, but then if someone ripped the fuck out of it, it got to a point where you couldn’t not score it. Like if Joel takes off and is teeing off on the thing like he’s on a thruster you have to give him the score. If you're doing a finner on an early 80's single it’s psycho."
Even Crewsy himself had a bit of a run. He racked up the highest heat total of the event with a pair of nines in the quarter finals, and would've gone further had Tai Buddha not "wiped the floor" with him in the semi's with carefully employed heat tactics.
"When I lost, I thankfully had an opportunity to start sinking some ice cold beers. It’s a hard weekend to stay off the beers till Sunday, but I somehow made it." Crewsy said in between sips of a much earned tin. "I potentially won the whole event based on that [laughs]."
It isn't just the surfing done, or the pumping waves, that garnered attention either. The boards themselves are historic, and in many cases carry a number of remembered stories.
"I had crew bail me up on the hill about the board. Dudes who had refurbished the board, owned it, or even just seen it." Mitch continued. "The board had history and all of them are like that."
"I ended up loaning my 5'7" to Shane [Dorian] too. He went and got a nine, plus a seven on it, he was equally blown away by how well that thing surfed. It's over 30 years old and the surfing it lets you do is psycho.
This afternoon, as the event wrapped, Burleigh was still chockers. The police were letting events unravel naturally, everyone was mellow, and according to Crewsy, "it's basically the best vibe you could ever get for an event".
"Events like this are letting surfing stay core. It’s honestly as sick as it gets."
Till next year I guess.