I returned to work today in a semi-zombified state after what I have to say was one of the most full-on weekends away I’ve had since I can remember. What started as a pie-in-the-sky idea discussed with Maz over coffee on holiday last year quickly snowballed into NSC17, the best fun I’ve had in years, thankfully a sentiment shared by those I got around to catching up with on Sunday morning.
If you build it they will come…
Being newcomers to comp planning, we brainstormed a list of all of the companies we would have liked to have on board and Maz busied herself emailing and presenting sponsorship packages that echoed the dogged determination of Andy Dufresne trying to get that library in Shawshank Redemption. She did well and managed to entice some key sponsors on board to get the ball rolling.
Meanwhile I was left the task of finalising a location, insurance, permits, contingency plans, safety assessment and all the other fun bits. I settled on North Shore as the venue due to the relative shelter from big swells making the comp more accessible to new entrants with less offshore experience, having easily accessible reef areas in close to the launch. We were lucky to have Henty Bay jump on board as a location for base camp and a boat ramp located within the caravan park allowing entrants to roll out of their cabins/tents straight to the water.
Having a swell time…
The week leading up to the comp gave me a few more grey hairs, checking the long range forecasts waiting for them to come into range. They tended to reverse predictions daily with winds going with and against swell and ranging from 5knts to 25knts. As the long range forecasts became medium and short range, it became apparent that there was a very good chance that we might get not one but 4 days of fish-able weather over the long weekend. My back-up plan of running away to Ningaloo Reef with all of the prizes would have to be put on hold, this thing was going to go ahead! A mad scramble ensued to get the last few January skis fitted out and delivered. I also had to go and find a jet ski of all things and on arriving home with the ‘rescue vessel’ was duly informed by Maz that her mum had a tracksuit in those same colours back in the eighties! It looks fine in the far off shot she took…
Another entrant was kind enough to pass on this shot:
With all of the necessary gear packed in three cars and two trailers, we headed for Portland on Thursday, arriving in the early afternoon. The excitement built as we drove around town, where yaks could be spotted on top of cars in most of the main streets. We had a meet and greet with the Henty staff, checked in and set up camp. A quick walk around showed that many of the entrants were down and pre-fishing with Kieran nabbing a cracking tuna to get the ball rolling and a few of the Pie Floaters team reporting dropped fish out at Julia Reef. The fish were around and it boded well for a cracking weekend to come!
Friday rolled around and while I was running a few errands around Portland, the boys were on the water with Tas and Shane showing people how to get onto the fish. The marquee went up on the bluff (Thanks to Hatters for the loan) and people started to file in for the comp briefing. With everybody registered, welcome packs were divvied out and the competition procedure explained. The weather forecast was reviewed and we were on for the morning barring a major shift in the weather between then and 6am. A few of the entrants remained for the demonstration of the safety equipment, while the seasoned pros ventured off to get rigged up and discuss tactics with team-mates.
A picture paints a thousand words and we were lucky enough to have Amber from Sweep images on hand to capture the action on comp day. As teams set up in the pale morning light, keyrings were handed out and the start drew closer…
6.30 came and 35 keen fishos hit the water in a range of pedal and paddle kayaks. Some opted for a trip out to Julia Reef while others raced to the Anchorage. By the way, hats off to some entrants who paddled between 200km and 300km over the course of the weekend – a solid effort! A couple of yakkers decided to play the numbers game on the reef with the Dirty Faced Westies and All Show No Go trying their luck on the snapper. A squall rose up over the harbour suggesting some rain might move in over the comp area and a weather update over the VHF informed the field that it might get a little bumpy for 10 minutes but the rain radar showed the showers were due to push inland. Soon after, word came over the radio that GAB was on, as well as requests for someone to deliver him a gaff (with a few expletives thrown in for good measure). Cheater hit the beach looking for aspirin leaving Mal to do the hard yards on the reef for the Mud Brothers. I launched the jet ski to check in on the field, bloody hell those two strokes are loud – four stroke for next year! A hungover ‘McLovin’ in the Dirty Faced Westies was busy untangling three birds nests, none of which were the result of any fish. Scattered catches of snapper and salmon from those on the reef with Iron Horse having already sorted through over 60 pinkies for team All Show No Go, in search of some larger models. Others reported a struggle to find the fish but better conditions on the water after the squall passing with the drift slowing down somewhat. The Pie Floaters had disappeared over the horizon, as had most of the glass crew including the guest member Marto from the Up Sh1T Creek team, who opted to troll with one rod, from the Stealth Toura I had brought down on demo despite it not having any rod holders! The Hobie Get Along Gang were having mixed fortunes with Cruiser reporting a quiet one when I visited, Nello had only caught his rudder and the others were out wide. The Yakeroos were the relative unknowns, hard to locate on the water and the radio silence suggested they hadn’t found the fish but you can never write off Phil…
The time ticked by and the announcements over VHF revealed that there wasn’t long to go. Some of the guys began to hit the beach with reports relayed that Jordo had hooked up and was on his way to Tassie! As the entrants rolled in it was clear that it had been a tough day’s fishing – for some the numbers game on the reef had been the wise decision, while the gamble to go out wide for pelagics and glory made for a bittersweet tale.
As entrants filed up the ramp to sign in and measure their catch a call came in from Shane to report that he probably wouldn’t make it back in time as progress was being hampered by a large tuna. Jordo and Shane were the last two on the water with Jordo’s radio having failed to hold charge. Shane at that point reported that he didn’t have a visual on Jordo leaving me wondering if he had passed the ships at the Anchorage on the way back or was passing customs at Auckland. Tas luckily had a set of binoculars and from the bluff I could see the yellow deck of Jordo’s Kaskazi pushing for the shore. Unfortunately the distance was too great to cover in the time remaining for both of the boys with Jordo hitting the beach at 1.50pm and Shane a further 20 mins back the road.
The Individual Challenge Award and Best Catch Award went to Gabriele Meoni who caught a 98cm tuna from his Stealth fibreglass kayak.
Second prize went to Peter Ritchie who caught two snapper and a salmon, showing that a large pelagic fish wasn’t a prerequisite to success. Pete had gone out fishing again after measuring in his fish, but we crossed live to him out on the water to give him the news that he hadn’t come first and his Hobie had in fact been beaten by a Stealth…
Third prize went to Mr Nelson Rouw who caught two snapper and four Adventure Island rudders. Unfortunately the rudders were not on the accepted species list, but the snapper earned him a set of Lockracks, a Fish Chilla bag from Dry Store and a Visor Buff.
Portland man David Webb used his local knowledge of the reefs to nab fourth place.
…and Luke Easton took fifth place much to his own surprise, earning himself a Beachwheelz kayak cart for his efforts.
Special mentions to both Jordan Rouw and Shane Esmore for their cracking catches on the day. Jordan landed a 19.4kg tuna having paddled 40km on the day and Shane landed a 23kg model as well as a kingfish. Unfortunately both Jordan and Shane did not return to shore within the competition window.
In the Teams Challenge, Iron Horse’s plan to play the numbers game on the reef paid off, even if he had to land over 100 snapper for the day to pull it off. The Team challenge was decided by calculating the team average, giving All Show No Go the first spot on the perpetual Team Challenge trophy with a team average of 11.8. Steady catches from Luke and another Portland local Derrick, helped Team Berley Pro into second place. In the absence of Shane’s tuna on the scorecard, the Get Along Gang had to settle for third spot despite the efforts of Spider for the Dirty Faced Westies. The wooden spoon goes to the Pie Floaters, of whom no-one really expected much, in a cruel turn of events it turned out that unfortunately for them the only South Australian that can catch a fish these days had entered as an independent. They have vowed to return next year in an attempt to relive their days of former glory, such as the time they lost the State of Origin to the Vics in Port Augusta.
|All Show No Go (Team Mirage)
|Up Sh!t Creek With A Paddle (Team Berleypro)
|Hobie Get Along Gang (Team A.I.)
|Dirty Faced Westies (Team Pink)
|Yakeroos (Team VKA)
|Mud Brothers (Team Western Port)
|Pie Floaters (Team SA)
That about wraps up the North Shore Challenge for this year with only the winner of the photo/video comp yet to be decided. With some cracking photos already in, it will be a hard task to choose a winner. If you want to check out entrant’s photos, search #NSC17 on social media.
Here’s a collection of some of the event photos taken by Amber over at Sweep Images as well as some shots sent my way by the entrants:
I’ll finish with a massive thank you to all involved in the weekend, the entrants, support crew, the sponsors, spectators and those that gave help and advice along the way.
Roll on #NSC18 !