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Cyclones, drift wood, and Maccas food trays, just a standard surf carnival really.

As the book centers around the Albatross nippers and their build up and participation in the 2019 Queensland State Titles. I thought I’d share a tale from one of my early state nipper championships. I was 11 years old and racing for Metropolitan Caloundra. We had a strong group of Nippers in both my age group and the age groups above and below mine. It was a super fun group and as my Dad and I, along with all the other nippers and their parents strolled in to the local Mackay Hotel/Motel, we had no idea of what the next 4 days would hold.

Mackay surf club since then has under-gone significant up grades and I’ve since been back multiple times for state championships but on this trip the surf club was nothing more than a beach shack and given we arrived on the tail end of a cyclone, there was a very real chance both it, and the mountains of debris and drift wood that had washed up on the shore, would be blown away.

Being a “Briso” (Brisbane based clubby) with supposed no surf skills, this had always been a state titles that as a nipper we’d dreamed about. No waves. dead flat and would favour the kids who spend all their training time in the pool. But with the cyclone, the normally flat Mackay surf had turned in to something that resembled the surfing mecca Nazare. Or at least that’s what it felt like to a 11 year old Briso.

I’ve vivid memories of arriving at the beach with the surf out of control, the wind howling, rain coming in sideways and driftwood piled up on the beach. Like any ‘Briso’, thinking my god there’s no way I’m racing in this. Moments later though, I hear the familiar sound of ‘hollering and hooting’ and look around to see two fellow surf competitors from Surfers Paradise surf club run past, with McDonalds Food Trays tucked under their arms, yelling “we’re off to get some sick cyclone barrels”.

Clearly keen to see what this madness with a McDonalds Food Tray was and also to be fair, ask where the closest McDonalds could be found, my Dad and I went down to the beach and waters edge, to watch these nippers.

Now the other part to mention is that for the Nipper championships in areas in the north of the state, there’s a need to wear ‘stinger suits’ or stockings from head to toe, so to avoid being stung by Box Jellyfish. This was long before Ian Thorpe swam to Olympic gold in a full swimsuit or Cathy Freeman wore a suit to run in and made something like this cool. These suits were ridiculous. Some in fact, looked like you’d stepped off the set of a “crusty Demons of Dirt” show. Nowadays the stinger suits are made in club colours and appear far tamer. Back then there were suits with flames or tiger, lion and leopard skins.

So here in front of my father and I, are two kids in orange and back tiger print stinger suits from head to toe, armed with “Maccas Trays” looking to get some ‘sick cyclone pits’. We certainly weren’t in Brissy anymore.

The state titles went ahead, and despite not only having to contend with, surf, swell, wind and rain, most competitors also returned to shore with splinters, such was the amount of driftwood in the ocean. But that’s all part of being a clubby.

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