31 Dec merewether set to defend title
While North Narrabeen are only just dusting off their boards after month-long celebrations from a historic 2013 and fifth Jim Beam Surftag Championship, it all begins again this Saturday with the NSW North Qualifier set to explode at Merewether Beach.
And after snatching last year’s regional competition by less than two points, Merewether Boardriders are sure to conjure some local furore and aim to go back-to-back. For several years, the club has pulled out its local hot-shots and world recognised surfers – the Callinans, Andersons, Egans and Hoys – leaving many clubs and their surfers doubting their own talent. The notoriety of these individuals is often considered an almighty advantage. But what some forget is Jim Beam Surftag is not an individual sport and while the club’s headline acts can daunt and intimidate, it’s often the lesser-known surf hounds, ripping their local breaks everyday no matter the conditions, who frequently produce the goods on competition day. None-more-so than Paul Parkes.
The current over-35’s Australian Champion has been representing Merewether in team events since he was 16. Now 39, Parkes says the pressure of competing in a Jim Beam Surftag continues to mount year-on-year.
“I’ve been competing in teams events for nearly triple figures,” says Parkes. “And I swear to God, the pressure doesn’t get any better – it’s getting worse. Surftag is all about confidence and the tiniest dent in that as you get older and it’s all over.”
“You can imagine the pressure when half the club will turn out on Saturday and being a working class town, the boys will have no troubles telling you where you went wrong.”
Other high-profile locals including Jesse Adam and Jake Sylvester are making up a giant squad and Parkes believes their competitors can often become star-struck.
“It’s getting to a point where it’s hard to get into this team,” he says. “We’ve got loads of depth, even if guys like Craig or Ryan can’t surf for whatever reason.”
“Having them though can definitely be an advantage sometimes. As you know, there’s nothing else like teams events but having those boys in our squad other teams can feel a little intimidated. Some of the younger guys come up against Ryan and Craig and they’ve been watching them in videos or reading about them in magazines and they can become a little star-struck, forget to hassle and push them.”
Not only can you find Parkes dialling into the peaks of Merewether, he is also a full-time shaper making crafts for Adam and Callinan and other high-performance surfers.
“We’ve had really good banks lately,” informs Parkes. “With the swell and conditions we’re expecting it’s looking like Saturday could be really fun.”
With all the surprises and upsets known with Surftag, there’s one certainty Merewether can count on – that 16 teams will be arriving on their sand hungry to solidify their position in the Australian Championships. Parkes expects last year’s runners-up, North Shelly and Port Macquarie to be hot-contenders but teams from Umina, Catherine Hill Bay, Avoca and more will be whipping on Jim Beam Surftag rashies come Saturday.
The top 6 teams from the NSW North Qualifier will advance to the Jim Beam Surftag Australian Championships being held on the Gold Coast in March.
The Jim Beam Surftag is the biggest tag team surfing series in the country with a combined prize pool of over $130,000 in cash and prizes.
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