When Ryan told me that his other sponsors weren’t gonna fork out the $2000 entry fee into this years Shark Island Challenge, I knew that I had to do whatever I could to get him in the event. The Island comp just isn’t the same without him. With the end of financial year looming that sorta money wasn’t in our budget, but I somehow managed to scrape enough cash together just before entries closed. And shit am I happy that I did ’cause he is now the 2010 Fluidzone Shark Island Challenge Champion, taking the title in classic Hardy form ahead of Ben Player, Damian King and Shaun Pyne yesterday. I caught up with Ryan for the following exclusive interview when he landed back at home in Western Australia last night.
You just won the second Shark Island Challenge of your career, how stoked are you right now?
Amped! It was a really fun day of surf and close heats. It always makes it so much more rewarding when the waves are pumping and you ride some good waves to get the win!
Despite rushing to catch the red eye flight from Perth at midnight on Friday and arriving in Sydney at 6.00am for your first heat at 8 o’clock, you seemed relatively calm and collected, especially in the Final. How were you feeling throughout the event?
Yeah, the whole midnight rush to get to the Island comp was pretty stressful! The flight could’ve been cancelled or delayed, my bag could’ve been lost; there could’ve been traffic dramas on the way down. And beyond those uncontrollable elements, there was also the worry of cramping from overtiredness and jetlag! I think after my first heat went well I was able to shake off the anxieties of the mission to get there and just focus on the waves and the job at hand. In the semi and final I felt really comfortable and was quite surprised that I could feel so energised and limber after doing the midnight bolt on a crammed discount airplane.
BP (second), Kingy (third) and yourself have had a healthy rivalry for well over 10 years. You’re all in your early thirties now and not showing any signs of slowing down. How long do you think you can keep the dream alive?
That’s a good question! I know personally that I want to keep competing, and especially in waves like Shark Island, for as long as I physically can ‘cause I know, without a doubt, that it’s the biggest and the most rewarding challenge that I’ll pursue in my lifetime. I’d like to be able to look back when I’m older and be satisfied that I used my fit body and mind to their fullest potential and competing at a world level in epic bodyboarding waves is the apex of that realisation for me.
I wasn’t lucky enough to be at the event, but watched the whole webcast from start to finish and in my opinion, the three of you were just on a whole different level in comparison to the other competitors. You’re all consistently placing highly and winning international events and have been for quite a while, why do you think that is?
I think the main elements that we all share in common that contribute to our competitive success is all-round ability [in small waves and big waves], competition experience and an inner competitiveness that makes us bleed on the inside when we lose and breathe fire when we win. At the Island particularly, we have all been competing there as long as each other [since late 1990's] and have all had a win or two so we each share good knowledge of the wave and know what it takes to win.
So who do you think are the next generation of riders that are really start pushing you guys then? What’s it gonna take for them to step up and take it to the next level?
There are always next gen riders creeping on the verge that have the ability and the potential to make it to ‘the big leagues’, so to speak. A rider can have great talent and may blow you away in a certain contest or a certain session, but it takes a lot more than one session or one strength to make a major player. Consistency to blow minds and get results in and out of competition is the number one ingredient that will take a rider to the next level.
Right now there’s a lot of 20 something Aussies that are already a part of Australia’s young elite and are on the doorstep of bodyboarding’s future. I think guys like Stoney [Jake Stone], [Michael] Novy, Joe Clarke, Nick O [Ormerod], Thom Robinson, [Jason] Finlay, Tom Smith, Dallas [Singer], Mitch Woodland, Sam Bennett and Jones Russell are ripping right now for their generation and if they continue to progress and chase their dreams they will definitely be an international threat in the very near future.
For me, the prime example of a rider of this generation that has reached the elite level is Pierre [Louis Costes]. I know that’ll piss off all the young Aussies and that’s good! Make ‘em quiver with jealousy haha. Pierre has progressed over the past four or five years to the point that he can surf in any conditions, anywhere in the world and surf as good as anyone out there. In addition to this, he has one of the best competitive acts there is and will stick it to any of the world’s best competitors at any given contest. This is the level that our younger riders have to strive for to be a major player in the future of Australian bodyboarding. And it will happen, it’s inevitable. Australia has the best, most consistent waves – and the keenest bodyboarders – in the world.
With the SIC not being a part of the IBA World Tour this year, what level of importance and sense of achievement do you take from the victory? Does the contest still mean as much considering it’s only a Specialty Event?
Well, if I compared it to 2006 when I won – and it was on the World Tour – I would say that it didn’t carry the same weight or feeling as it did back then; that win put me at number one on the World Tour ratings for the first time. But in saying in that, of course it’s still an amazing event to win, up there with the most prestigious events in the world like Teahupoo and Pipe. Surfing sick waves against some of my best mates in bodyboarding, and some of the best bodyboarders in the world, and coming out on top is still an incredible feeling whether it’s a part of the World Tour or not.
You said after the final yesterday that “it’s a win of pride”, can you explain to everyone what you meant by that.
Yeah, basically I was just proud of winning the contest for Unite! Since you paid the $2000 entry fee and showed full commitment to myself and the Island event, I was amped from day one to do everything I could to fly the Unite flag. And what better way to flaunt it than by winning the event wearing the black Unite jersey!
What’s next then? You’re flying out to Europe this week, right?
Yep, heading off on Tuesday for three weeks in Europe. Definitely not expecting any high-performance Island like reef barrels but still, a win is great for momentum and I’ll be taking that in my stride to hopefully find some success on the European leg of the World Tour while havin’ a fun time with the Aussies.