The Perfect Pre-Game To The 2018 Shark Island Challenge
Finally, maybe, some good news for competitive bodyboarding: the 2018 Shark Island Challenge has been put on hold for Thursday 30 August.
We don't know much at this time – we've been given word that it's likely an invitational, with a run of both locals and pros scheduled to take part – but with this past month dishing up fairly dismal conditions for the Kiama Pro and, shortly after, the sudden loss of the Fronton King from the APB 2018 World Tour schedule, we're hoping the sizeable SSE groundswell that's about to hit the east coast of Australia can finally create some worthy competitive action in the coming days.
Whether the waves eventuate or not (but here's hoping), what better way to wind down the hours waiting for a possible green light than re-living some of Shark Island's greatest hits on video.
First up: the tome of Shark Island history, Holding On.
If you haven't yet watched this one (shame on you), it's all about the incredible true story of The Skid Kids, the notorious group of Cronulla locals who, through their reckless, no-holds-barred approach to living life and riding waves, changed the sport of bodyboarding forever in the late '80s to early '90s.
With no real guidance or path to follow, the motley crew consisting of Dave Ballard, Matt Percy, Nathan ‘Nugget’ Purcell, Adam ‘Wingnut’ Smith, Mark Fordham, Christian ‘Rissole’ Rigucinni and others surfed, competed, and partied their way to cult status, placing their revolutionary style of Australian bodyboarding on the map – with Shark Island at the centre of all the action. The flick itself is one of the finest wave-riding documentaries of our time, packed full of exclusive interviews and archival footage. Essentially, it's a crash course in the history of one of the world's most iconic waves and the names forever tied to it.
Now, let's segue closer to present day: to the 2016 Shark Island Challenge, a year graced with some of the heaviest waves ever seen in competition.
Thanks to a historical east coast low, Shark Island lit up and produced what could only be labeled an intense day of slabs. It also marked the return of bodyboarding's prodigal son, Mitch Rawlins, to competition – and it came as no surprise when the man himself eventually beat out the entire lineup of wildcards, seasoned riders and Island locals to take home the crown. It wasn't Shark Island's biggest or most perfect form, but it combined all the elements that make the wave so damn alluring – scary, slabbing, and with an ability to level anyone it chooses, no matter their street cred.
Speaking of the biggest Shark Island in a comp setting... in step the 2001 Challenge.
Less about finessing the competition than it was about simply making it back to dry land alive, Shark Island dished up conditions with that still make throats croak – the wave's infamous surge section playing a major role throughout the event, dishing up pinches that caused unforgettable beatings including a wipeout that sent bodyboarding veteran Alistair Taylor to the emergency room with an injured spine. The eventual winner was Damian King who tackled the conditions with freakish ability, but overall, everyone who survived that day was a winner. I believe the top commenters of the video recap summed it up best when they said, "fuckin' madmen!!!!!!!!!", "mental", "o shit" and "SICKEST SIC SO FAR".
Next up: how could we forget the 2004 Shark Island Challenge?
[Skip to 33:00 to watch the 2004 Shark Island Challenge]
A competition immortalised by specific moments – Winny's phenomenal acid drop, Tamega's big ol' roll (and eventual win), John Showell in fine form and all perfectly synced with his local, Chris White forking out on a helicopter to shoot the comp from the sky before drones were even a thing. What a time to be alive...
And finally, rounding off our walk down memory lane: the 1998 Shark Island Challenge, pulled from the deep archives of Chris Stroh's iconic Rush Tapes.
The second ever Shark Island Challenge to take place, '98 was a good time for bodyboarding in both Cronulla and on the world stage – with names like mike Mike Stewart, Tully Beevor and Eppo donning the comp rashie alongside the Shark Island locals who, together with names like Stroh, boosted Shark Island (and '90s punk-rock) into infamy.