AT THE Laguna Real Estate Noosa Festival of Surfing, the Classic Malibu Teams Challenge is always a hell-for-leather frantic race against the clock.
The teams of four have 30 minutes to catch one top wave each, with a five-point penalty a constant threat, should they not make it back to the beach by heat's end. Several teams throughout the opening round suffered such consequences, but the diverse range of surfers offered some incredible action for the spectators.
Defending champions, Ray White Noosa, led out by Jai Lee and Jared Mell, were little short of perfect, decimating heat one for a strong lead, while their second outfit, the Ray White Holiday Noosa team, did likewise in heat two.
Former world champion, Taylor Jensen, was simply remarkable, but it was the familiar names creeping through to round two. MS Surfboards - a young team all shy of 20-years-old, showed maturity and talent in equal portions to claim a healthy second, making the second round a very exciting prospect.
The heavens gave way and the sun shone upon round two of the sudden death Bendigo Bank Family Challenge, only the winning team being permitted progression to the final, to take place next Saturday. The lulls had expanded with the dropping tide, and teams were challenged to find a significant ride. The Marrs were unable to match the English contingent, the Griffiths family surfing brilliantly to progress, joined by Chris Cox and Matt Schuler in heat two, and the Californian Takayamas in the third.
Back again to the teams, and the Ray White Noosa team again showed sublime talent, but despite doing enough to progress, were unable to hold back the youthful consistency of the MS Surfboards foursome. The Surf Relik team, headed again by Taylor Jensen, took the win in the second semi-final, with the two teams from Thomas Surfboards both making up the numbers.
The two Garage Handplanes Body Bash finals - the men's and inaugural women's, displayed almost dolphin-like prowess from contestants. Without the assistance and floatation of surfboards, it was a wonder they could even catch a wave, let alone perform spectacularly.
It was in the last 10 minutes that Californian Kate Maxfield caught her first significant wave, a high seven-point wave, but the big flat spells in between sets didn't offer much hope ... until the final 30 seconds. Queensland's Lynda Franklin had been leading for much of the heat before being ousted by Loz Williams, from WA, but a miraculous set saved the Californian, Maxfield in perfect position to take a beautiful wave that carried her almost through to the sand and straight into first place and the victory.
Showing the skills that have gifted him a world title, David Ford was unstoppable. Zane Baxter again did brilliantly, but defending champ Tom Marr, despite a good opening wave, could not find a second to give him the points required. It would be time to relinquish his three-time crown of the event, but to succumb to the current world champion in Ford is hardly shameful, and all finalists surfed exceptionally.