Wednesday, October 8, 2014

EDITORIAL: Reports of Bodyboarding's Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

EDITORIAL: Reports of Bodyboarding's Death Have Been Greatly Exaggerated

An editorial written by Steve Jackson

"The report of my death was an exaggeration."
Mark Twain, American Writer
Quote from the New York Journal, 2 June 1897

  Back at the beginning of 2014, the future of professional bodyboarding, and the world tour, were in question.  Following several temultuous seasons filled with rumor, speculation, cancelled events, the resignation of key personnel, and more questions than answers the IBA Pty. Ltd. (International Bodyboarding Association Party Limited) announced that it was cancelling the 2014 world tour in order to conduct, "a strategic review to best ascertain the most sustainable model for the sport moving forward."  Even after the formation of the new APB (Association of Professional Bodyboarders) and running of the 2014 Pipe Challenge, a five month break from competition led more than a couple of media outlets and many people within the international bodyboarding community to prematurely speculate about the "slow death" of professional bodyboarding.

3x World Champion Ben Player wins his second Pipe Challenge in a row!

  As events for the 2014 APB world tour schedule resumed and the tour moved forward, it became quite clear to a large majority of the bodyboarding world (myself included) that in a year where we were presented with the proposition of having nothing we we given something truly special.  Was this a transitional year for the sport of bodyboarding?  Yes, obviously.  Are there things that need to be improved upon?  Of course.  There is always room for improvement.  Were there lessons to be learned from the first year of the new APB?  Without question!  As with anything in life, you want to learn from your mistakes and build upon your successes.  For me, personally, I like to look at "Season One" of the new APB World Tour as a first step towards a bigger and better and brighter future.  This year was merely a glimpse of the potential the future of bodyboarding possesses.  If I sound a little too idealistic and hopeful, think about what we all witnessed this year.

After years of trying, Lilly Pollard wins Pipeline!

  In 2014 we saw the APB rise up from the crumbling ruins of the IBA Pty. Ltd. to provide a world tour.  That, in itself, should be worthy of the bodyboarding world's collective grattitude.  In the first event of the year, The Pipe Challenge, we were all treated to some very special moments.  Having won Pipeline the previous year and claiming his third world title in an abbreviated 2013 campaign, Australia's Ben Player came out and won Pipe for the second straight year.  Now a 3x World Champion and 2x Pipeline Champion, BP continued to build on his already legendary status in the bodyboarding history books.  The biggest story coming out of the 2014 Pipe Challenge, though, was fellow Australian Lilly Pollard.  After years and years of spending winters on the North Shore, she was finally able to capture that ever-elusive first Pipeline win.  If that wasn't an inspiring story of determination and accomplishment worthy of a Hollywood script, then I don't know what is!

51 year old, 9x World Champion Mike Stewart and 15 year old Supergrom Tanner McDaniel.  Proof that you are never too old...or too make things happen!

  Event #2, The Itacoatiara Pro in Brazil, had its fair share of noteworthy moments as well.  The first item prominently on display was the broad spectrum that is ever-present within bodyboarding.  We all know about the skill range with our sport, from novice "weekend warriors" on cheap boards playing around in the whitewater ripples on a hot summer day to intermediate-level riders to top level professionals, as well as our mutiple riding disciplines...prone, drop knee, and stand-up.  What I am referring to, though, is the age spectrum at the pro level.  This year, we saw 51 year old, 9x World Champion Mike Stewart (Hawaii) and his 15 year old protege Tanner McDaniel (Hawaii) both progressing deep into competition.  The sport of bodyboarding has never been so wide open at any other point in its history as it is right now.  Along with Tanner's impressive showing, young Brazilian standouts David Barbosa and Socrates Santana provided further proof that the talent level for the next generation of bodyboarding runs extremely deep worldwide.  Then, to cap things off at Itacoatiara, South African Jared Houston finally claimed his long-overdue first career world tour win.  One day, when Jerry becomes a world champion (something I have no doubt of), we will all look back to this event as a turning point.

Jared Houston enjoying his first career world tour victory with a little champagne shower!

  Up next at Event #3, The Arica Chilean Challenge,  I finally got to see, first-hand, what all of us have been watching develop over the past few years.  Chilean bodyboarders like Alan Munoz are not only competitive at events and working their way into the upper rankings of the world tour, but one of these days a Chilean is going to win the world title.  Something else to remember from this event was the final between Pierre Louis Costes (France) and Amaury Lavernhe (Reunion Island).  Somehow, some way, the final at Arica is always something to remember.  This year was no exception.  That perfect 10 air reverse off of the left bowl by Amaury on the last wave of the heat was nothing short of awesome!

Moz claiming victory at The 2014 Arica Chilean Challenge!

  Antofagasta Bodyboarding Festival was EVENT #4, and offered up no shortage of important moments for the 2014 APB World Tour.  In the Men's division, 2008 World Champion Uri Valadao took the win in an all-Brazilian final.  This set up a three-man race for the world title between three former world champions...2011 World Champion Pierre Louis Costes, Uri, and 2010 World Champion Amaury Lavernhe.  In the women's division, 16 year old Alexandra Rinder (Canary Islands) registered her first career world tour win and, in doing so, became one of the youngest tour rankings leaders in bodyboarding history.

Uri Valadao and Alexandra Rinder claim victory in Antofagasta.

  All of the world titles for 2014 were decided at the 19th Annual Sintra Portugal Pro this year.  This historic, long-running cornerstone of professional bodyboarding provided near-perfect waves for the final day of competition, and there was a list of noteworthy moments.  First and foremost, the Hubbard brothers reversed roles, to an extent.  Dave claimed his first world tour victory ever in the Men's division, while Jeff advanced all the way through to the Drop Knee semifinals.

2014 APB DK World Champion Dave Hubbard.

  To continue with the role reversal theme, Dave won the Men's division and clinched the DK world title, while Amaury won the DK division and clinched the Men's world title.  With this year's DK title, Dave Hubbard is now 6x DK World Champion.  After coming up just short in 2013, Amaury Lavernhe is now 2x Men's World Champion having claimed the 2014 title.

2014 APB Men's World Champion Amaury Lavernhe.

  In the Women's division, the world title race turned into a nail-biter that went down to the final.  After an unexpectedly early elimination, Alexandra Rinder was forced to anxiously wait and watch as Jessica Becker (Brasil) made her run at stealing away the world title.  The scenerio was simple: win the contest and win the word title.  Unfortunately, Jessica could not overtake an in-form 3x World Champion Isabela Sousa (Brasil) in the final.  As a result, 16 year old Alexandra Rinder became the youngest world champion in bodyboarding history.

2014 APB Women's World Champion Alexandra Rinder.

  The 2014 Sintra Portugal Pro was also the debut of the Pro Junior division, which the APB is considering as part of the 2015 world tour.  If I had not already been impressed by the depth of young international talent earlier on the tour, watching young guns like Miguel Adao (Portugal) and eventual event winner/ 2014 Pro Junior Champion Tristan Roberts (South Africa) battle it out in this new "Supergrom" division drove the point home.

The 2014 APB World Champions: Pro Jr. Champion Tristan Roberts, Men's Champion Amaury Lavernhe, DK Champion Dave Hubbard, and Women's Champion Alexandra Rinder.

  Wrapping up the 2014 APB World Tour, after all the world champions had been crowned, there was one award left to be given out.  Finishing 22nd in his first year of competition on the Men's world tour, 15 year old Tanner McDaniel earned the Rookie of the Year award becoming the youngest Rookie award winner in bodyboarding history.

  Looking back at the year that was the 2014 APB World Tour and reflecting on all of the memorable, if not historically significant, moments that transpired I can't help but look forward to the 2015 world tour season with a sense of anxious optimism.  The sport of bodyboarding and the APB World Tour are progressing forward.  The past couple of years, most certainly, have been difficult but we have survived and move forward to a future filled with great potential.  We have an entire up and coming generation of young bodyboarders that are going to change the complexion of the sport.  We have an entire legion of seasoned veterans and living legends that continue to remain viable in the competitive arena and will not go down quietly.  I can't wait to see what happens with next year's tour...and the year after that...and the year after that!  Certain media outlets and a few "Negative Nancies" want to talk about bodyboarding being dead?  Sorry, think again.  For me, bodyboarding and it's future are still very much alive with future potential pulsing through its veins!

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