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THE HUMAN BOX CHALLENGE

MARGARET RIVER, WESTERN AUSTRALIA. text by Phil Gallagher

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HERME TAMEGA LAYING OUT THE HEAVY ARTILLERY IN THE EARLY ROUNDS OF THIS YEAR’S HUMAN BOX CHALLENGE WITH A MONSTER BACKFLIP, THAT MANY CALLED MOVE OF THE EVENT. MAIN PIC: MG. • INSET SEQUENCE: GALLAGHER.

BRING 26 OF THE WORLD’S BEST RIDERS TO A WAVE WITH A REPUTATION FOR INTENSE PITS AND PUNCHY END BOWLS, THROW US$20,000 IN FRONT OF THEM, AND YOU’RE GUARANTEED ONE HELLUVA CONTEST. WORLD CHAMP, GUIL-


TYSON WILLIAMS IS NOT AFRAID TO GO. IN EVERY ONE OF THE LAST THREE MACKING CONTESTS HE HAS ENTERED – SHARK ISLAND, TAHITI AND THIS YEAR’S BOX EVENT – HE HAS PUT HIMSELF IN THE HOT SEAT OF SOME OF THE MEANEST WAVES RIDDEN. HE’S COME OUT ON TOP OF THE BEASTS TOO. TY RUNNING DEEP DURING THE SECOND ROUND OF COMPETITION. PHOTO: MG.


hoots and screams echoed from the channel all the way

Today, Margaret River’s hulk of a wave, The Box, was roaring, and so too was World Champ Guilherme Tamega. The Brazilian freak had just launched a mental backflip that stamped

included not some, but all of the world’s best. Everyone from GT

clear to all who witnessed it just how mind-blowing competitive

and Stewart to Hubbard and Rawlins were on deck and frothing. Not

bodyboarding is when run properly. This year’s Human Box Challenge

since the early years of the original GOB World Tour – back in ’95

was not only the first event of the new World Super Tour, it was also the

and ’96 – had so many of the elite congregated to compete. In the

first event of the new millennium to boast a competitor list that

words of Spencer Skipper, it was “good times”.

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SPREAD: A FEW HEATS SAW PRETTY SOLID BOX. AND WHEN THE BIGGER SETS CAME LOCAL STANDOUT SEAN VIRTUE TAPPED INTO HIS LOCAL KNOWLEDGE TO SCOOP INTO ’EM. VIRTUE SETTING HIS LINE FOR BOX’S SQUARE END BOWL. PHOTO: TUNGSTEN/NIKON. INSET SEQUENCE: JASON HAZLE HAS BEEN ABSOLUTELY BLAZING IN EVERY ONE OF THE GOB EVENTS HE’S ENTERED OF LATE. THE BOX CHALLENGE WAS NO EXCEPTION. ONE OF TWO DEEP TUBES THE YOUNG VICO WRESTLED ALL THE WAY TO THE CHANNEL. SEQUENCE: TUNGSTEN/NIKON.

back to the car park, located some 500 metres away.

C o m p Fa c t s

with it. Basically all events must have

So instead of competing against just

cash-purse thanks to tour sponsor

The format for professional competi-

a minimum of a two-week waiting peri-

those in their heats, competitors are

Human Shoes!). Simple. This style of

tive bodyboarding has seen so many

od in which two days of competition

battling the entire field. At the close

judging is a favourite with the riders

face lifts of late it’d give Cher a run

must be run. The heat and scoring

of the second round each rider has

due to the fact that they have noth-

for her money. After a lot of deliber-

structures are being run in the popu-

their three best waves from each round

ing to lose in the sense that they don’t

ation and experimentation the GOB

lar style of the Shark Island Challenge.

tallied and a score out of 180 points

have the stress of not qualifying for

board has decided on a simple for-

Every rider is given two chances to

is given. The person with the highest

the next round or heat. In short, they

mula for all Super Tour events. The

impress the judges in four to six-man

score is a rich man (all Super Tour

can go out there and go big for 45

Box event was the first to officially run

heats over two rounds of competition.

events this year boast a fat $20,000

minutes. That’s exactly what they did.

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Overpopulation

and Dre’s pad became the movie

Margaret River is a small and gener-

mecca of Margaret River. At one

ally quiet town, but for about three

point he even considered charging

months of the year the place is

admission fees. By the close of the

swarming with people gearing up to

first week a new batch of fronts had

compete in one of many competitions

developed and patience was begin-

that take place in this special area

ning to be tested. Beer and the

of coastline. Whether it be surfing,

internet became the new saviours.

bodyboarding or longboarding this town takes its fair share of the load.

Lady Luck shows

In a lot of ways it’s similar to Hawaii

Thankfully it wasn’t too long before

in that it is predominantly only good

the computers were turned off and

for three months of the year, and when

the beers returned to the fridge. A

it does get good it gets real good, and

break in the weather with a nice

damn big too. Not all local people

sunny day, offshore winds and per-

are happy to see another comp roll

fect swell showed by day 10 of

into town. It’s not the event that real-

the waiting period and The Box

ly bothers them, rather the fact that

Challenge was called on. It wasn’t

they might miss out on the little

ball-breaking big, but Box doesn’t

things in their town that they have

have to be. A four-to-five-foot chunk

been so accustomed to for so long.

out there will provide you with

Like their park at the check spot or

ample tube to work with and a bowl

waiting a little longer in line at the

big enough to launch Big Kev into

local supermarket for one of the

orbit. It was around this time that it

town’s infamous cheap and heaped-

became clear just how wired the

salad sandwiches. In our case it

organisers had this competition. An

might have been the fact that the

entire fleet of boats filled with judges,

bodyboarders were cleaning up at the

media and competitors banked up

pub and won a hell of a lot of the free

alongside each other in the chan-

beer on offer; or that they were tak-

nel. Even the hooter that signalled

ing home the finest ladies in a town

the start of competition was pretty

were fine women are as common as

flash, much like the big red ones

the chances of finding a gold nugget

your school principal used to chase

in its red, dusty hills.

you back to class.

It wasn’t ball-breaking big, but Box doesn’t have to be. A four-to-five foot-chunk out there will provide you with ample tube to work with … Tested

Hammer time

While Margs might lay claim to one

The mixed field of competitors, both

of the most consistent coastlines in

old-school and new, made things

the world in terms of swell, it isn’t

pretty interesting on the drawcard,

always pretty swell that turns up.

but from the start of the first heat it

First week of the waiting period and

was clear no-one gave a shit who you

the place was being destroyed by

were and what you had done in the

several huge fronts that bore 20-

past. It was about now, and if you

foot seas and 50-knot onshores. It

were going to paddle for a wave

wasn’t long before some of the 26

you better go it because if you pull

competitors (the Top 24 from the

back you’re not only going to lose

the first round’s best tubes. The

site more reassuring than the looks

Super Tour, plus two wildcards)

your position in the lineup, you’ll

proof of just how amped everyone

of disgust and distress that had been

grew restless. For some it was easy

also have enough abuse hurled at

was on this event was in watching

coming from their direction for the

to kill the boredom, just go rent a

you from the channel to scar you for

seasoned competitors like Stewart

past 10 days as huge onshore gusts

video. Or in Andre Botha’s case,

the rest of your heat. Like all of Oz’s

and Tamega go at it as if they were

sent them scampering back to the

rent all the new releases in the town

most famous bodyboarding waves,

back in their early World Title bouts.

shelter and warmth of their trusty

and sit on them for a week. It

The Box is a bitch for a first-timer,

Everyone was hungry.

hire cars upon checking conditions

worked out well for myself, Ben and

just ask Brazil’s Gonzalo Faria and

Toby Player. We were staying right

California’s Jason Bitzer. While a few

Day one done

next-door so a quick in and out

struggled to find rhythm, others like

With the first day out of the way GOB

traded over who stood out for the

meant we would have ourselves a

local boost-boy Sean Virtue and vet-

henchmen Steve Kirkman and Mark

day, but practically everyone had got

new release free of charge, sucker!

eran Box-er Bullet thrived, Bullet

Fordham finally raised their cheeks

at least one good one. Jason Hazle,

It wasn’t long before word got out

clocking up what were easily two of

and pulled a smile. It was a damn

Bullet, Skipp and GT seemed to have

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for each day. Back on land plenty of words were


WITH THE WORLD SUPER TOUR LOOKING BETTER THAN EVER, IT WAS NO SURPRISE TO SEE STEWART GIVING HIS ALL COME COMPETITION TIME. PHOTO: MG.

more votes of confidence that the

only two days remaining in the wait-

rest. All four had clearly got the

ing period the decision to get the

biggest sets of the day. It had been

boats fired up was an easy one. Every-

a big day and an early night beck-

body knew this was their last chance

oned everyone involved, much to the

to impress the judges, and the stan-

THE JUDGING QUARTERS. PHOTO: GALLAGHER.

relief of the local townsfolk.

dard of surfing was reflective of it.

WHAT THE EVENT LOOKED LIKE FROM SHORE. PHOTO: GALLAGHER.

The US$6000 winner’s cheque The big Day

(around $12,000 Aussie at the

Another day passed before Box again

moment) had to have added heat to

woke from her slumber, and when she

the fire too – quite a nice little nest

did she looked even better than she

egg for two days’ work. As each heat

did in round one. It still wasn’t huge,

ended, another would begin, and with

but it was certainly perfect, and with

each several memorable waves would

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FINAL RESULTS FOR THE HUMAN BOX CHALLENGE

1ST BEAU DAY 142.7

3RD JASON HAZLE 138.1

5TH GRAHAME MILLER 136.8

2ND SEAN VIRTUE 139.4

4TH RYAN HARDY 137.2

6TH JOE JORDANOFF 133.7

Massive props must go to Human, Elemenohpee (the official board sponsor of The Box Challenge), the orgainsers and to the township of Margaret River for all their help and support. SPREAD: THE HAPPIEST MAN IN BODYBOARDING AT PRESENT, BEAU DAY RIDING HIS WAY TO

INSET SEQUENCE: COMPETITION FAVOURITE HARDY WASN’T FAR OFF THE PACE WITH IMPRESSIVE SURFING LIKE

HIS FIRST WIN ON THE WORLD SUPER TOUR, AND A FAT CHEQUE. PHOTO: GALLAGHER.

THIS. THE GUY KNOW’S BOX BETTER THAN ANYONE. BOOSTING INTO THE FLATS. SEQUENCE: MG.

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go down. Trying to pick a favourite for the winner’s coin was a lost cause. As the last heat hit the water almost everyone bar the judges had returned to shore to check the action out from the hill, which gives you a clear view of the whole scene. It had become the place where everyone who had already competed hung out and closely watched the other heats to see how their own performances stacked up against the other heats. The end of competition was signalled by the departure of the judges’ boats. No-one had a clue who had won. Unlike every other contest I have ever witnessed where there are a few clear leaders, this event seemed to have none. The local pub made for the preso site, much to the delight of thirsty officials who now knew their job was successfully done. The place was packed with bodyboarders from all around town and even as far as Perth. Even a few of the local townspeople were on deck, probably to take advantage of the free beer that was flowing pre-presentation time. With the top eight brought out on stage things became a little clearer. One by one each man was taken out of the equation until there was just two riders left on stage. Virtue versus Tamarama’s Beau Day. The rest is as follows, if I can remember it rightly: Beau shook his head in disbelief, Virty shook Beau’s hand, and Toby Player ran on stage to hoist Beau on to his shoulders. Long regarded by his peers as one of the most underrated riders in the world, the 24year-old from Tamma had won the biggest contest of his life, the biggest cheque of his life and what a lot of people, including guys like GT, were calling the closest contest they had seen – a total of 16.1 points separating the top eight and a mere 3.3 points between Beau and Virty. Competitive bodyboarding is bigger, better, tighter, faster and stronger. The rest of the night is a loud, drunken, mixed-up bunch of memories. An epic start to the World Super Tour. If the next stop, Shark Island, goes anything like this one you can expect one helluva time.

7TH DAMIAN KING 130.0 8TH ANDRE BOTHA 126.6

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Riptide 2002 Box Pro