TWC 2004 Report


By James Court

The TWC phenomenon.
After three successful years in a row and a long rich history dating back to the Sirocco expression sessions in the late ’80s and ’90s, the TWC has firmly asserted itself as the largest and most well organized wave sailing event in the southern hemisphere.

Wave sailors are a rare breed. Spread few and far between they doggedly, some fanatically, pursue this lonely discipline at their local spots in small tribes of often half a dozen sailors or less. Each year the advent of Labour weekend signals a migration of these tribes from all over New Zealand, the east coast of Australia, and some from more remote places, to Taranaki forming the largest collection of wave sailors in the southern hemisphere.

This phenomenon is known as the Taranaki Wave Classic (TWC).
After three successful years in a row and a long rich history dating back to the Sirocco expression sessions in the late eighties and nineties, the TWC has firmly asserted itself as the largest and most well organized wave sailing event in the southern hemisphere. Over the last three years between 60 to 70 competitors and an equal amount of supporters come together to sail against each other, party, catch up with distant friends and basically celebrate and revel in the sport of wave sailing.

Taranaki is an almost perfect location for a wave sailing event, set against the stunning backdrop of Mount Taranaki, the region offers a diverse variety of quality lineups to suit most wind and swell conditions.

Saturday – Size does matter!

The tribes finally converged on the Kiahihi Road Carbon art Factory forming an impressive crowd. Once the formalities of registration had been gone through sailing instructions and the venue announced, a moments silence was observed for kitesurfer and windsurfer Doug Wisor who died while kiting in the Hawkes Bay earlier in the month.

Saturdays Venue was Kina Road North break. The starboard tack specialists had been foaming about the possibility of the contest being held at Kina Road North all week. However, the wind conditions were at best marginal and any advantage was lost in the very light cross-offshore conditions, especially for the fatter guys (sorry, I meant larger). There were waves however and not bad at that, with a clean groundswell sometimes logo high forming a shifty outside peak and clean inside section.

Following the same expression session format as previous years, everyone hit the water to impress the judges and attempt to get a slot in the hotly contested top ten.

The session was dominated by sailors well equipped for the light wind condtions and the marginal wind did very little to stifle the quality of their wave sailing. Aussie young gun Luke Johnson impressed the gallery with his vertical attack, adding emphasis with snappy aerials and critical turns under and over the lip. The Wellington boys led by Woo Norris and Clayton Dougan held up the Kiwi end. Clayton was sailing for effect, toying with the lip and almost sailing away from a gu-screw attempt. Occasional gusts enabled a few forward and backward loops, some getting slapped more than others.

The problem with expression session events is that you don’t know how well you have done, so to make sure you have a chance at the super session you end up sailing yourself silly. Luke must have been really worried about not making the final ten, or perhaps he was just enjoying himself, sailing a marathon session in full contest mode eventually coming in, with blue lips from the cold.

The Super Session.

Ten sailors were selected for the super session. The three tourists got the nod: visiting Aussies Luke Johnson and Aaron Constable, and impressive UK sailor Spenser (the UK guy). A record five slots went to the Wellington crew: Woo Norris, James Court, Clayton Dougan, Lawrence Young, and 17 year old Tom Taylor. Auckland rippers Darren Jones and Tony Knussen also made the final cut.
The super session lasts for thirty minutes with the three best waves and the two best jumps counting. Waves scores were multiplied ensuring fierce competition for set waves.

The ten exhausted sailors set about making their mark. Wave selection was critical with much wailing and moaning as waves were lost and won. Luke and Clayton continued to duke it out with their snappy wave riding. Jumps were restrained to some desperate forward loops and back loops. The exception was Aaron Constable from Australia who showed us how a few months in Maui can improve your technique, by hammering home some beautiful dry plane-away forwards in sub 15 knots. The young Wellingtonian up and comer Tom Taylor sailed tactically getting a good number of quality waves under his belt. A combinations of exhaustion, marginal wind conditions and poor wave selection plagued the other sailors.

Sunday – The Fog rolls in

Looking out the window on Sunday morning I had to do a stock take on how many beers I had consumed the night before. Overnight a dense sea fog had rolled off the Tasman lowering the visibility to about 100 metres, it didn’t look good and to top it off film chopper was grounded for the day… no Kodak glory for the boys. Thankfully down the coast at Kina Road the fog had lifted and an 18 – 20 knot north westerly had kicked in. The swell with the exception of the occasional set was no where near as good as Saturday.
The 2nd expression session kicked off and was an opportunity for the starboard tack specialists to throw themselves around. Woo Norris went into pycho forward mode pulling about a hundred forwards. But wave sailing was confined to milking the ever decreasing wind swell.

Unfortunately the waves continued to degrade into 1-2 foot slop and it was decided that the second Super Session would not be held. So in the end Sunday didn’t count and the final placings would be based on Saturdays Super Session.

The final results were:

1 – Luke Johnson (Aus)
2 – Aaron Constable (Aus)
3 – Clayton Dougan (NZ-Wel)
4 – Tom Taylor (NZ-Wel)
5 – Spenser (UK)
6 – Chris ‘Woo’ Norris (NZ-Wel)
7 – James Court (NZ-Wel)
8 – Lawrence Young (NZ-Wel)
9 – Tony Knussen (NZ-Auc)
10 – Darren Jones (NZ-Auc)

1 – Alex Burnett (UK)
2 – Ruth Wallis (NZ-Wel)

Congratulations to Luke who put a mammoth effort into his sailing and really stood out with the quality of his wavesailing.

The Party – Freestylers

WARNING: It is highly likely that the following recollection of events is a little inaccurate, as the author has a very fuzzy recollection of events after 10pm.

Ok, previous TWC parties have been relatively subdued affairs, possibly due to how rooted the sailors have been after the contest. However, this TWC party absolutely went off, and deserves to be permanently etched in the annals of all time windsurfing parties.

Master of ceremonies James Dinnis professionally guided us through the announcement of placings and the ritual handing out of the spot prizes, worth over $10,000. The major spot prizes were dished out and in the ultimate streak of good Karma Stu Warmin walked away with the new Carbon Art board after losing his old board off the roof of his car the day before.

If the collection of wavesailing tribes and their supporters weren’t partying hard before they certainly were after the results were announced and the spot prizes were dished out.
The other ingredients ensuring a kick arse party were:

A snug venue on the beach at Oakura, just snug enough to not be able to avoid talking to the stranger next to you.
Enough food on hand to make sure everyone had a good feed.
A large plastic bin of ice cold brews free for the drinking.
A smattering of Aussies ready to party with loads of duty free liquor .
A gang of gate crashing Auckland kiters, also with lots of liquor.
And a DJ cranking out some phat dance tracks until 2am
The liquor and conversation flowed, the music cranked up a notch, and the stories gushed like diarrhea. The DJ got the place moving with some great sounds, and it ending up looking like a dancing expression session. At times it seemed like everyone was on the floor grooving it up pulling impressive freestyle moves (I am sure I saw at least a couple of grubbies), some even sought more room to move by swinging off the rafters. As the night went on into the early hours absolute madness set in: complete strangers became best friends; people swung from the rafters by their feet, men hugged men, men hugged women, even windsurfers hugged kiters. (it was a bit of a hug-fest really – ed) Yes, I saw it all with my own eyes . . . .
. . . . well I think I did.

And that was the Taranaki wave classic for 2004, long may it continue. See you next year.

Extra special thanks to the organisers and sponsors James Dinnis (Carbon Art and Chris Brown (Deepfried With out these guys organising epic contests like this New Zealand windsurfing would be much duller.

Also, Gaastra, Hotsails Maui, Neil Pryde, Naish, Wind&Kite Magazine, Stashit, Point 5, Surfinn, ice breaker, Red Bull.
Support these guys because they’re the ones that make the event so enjoyable.