Things get wild as No Contest heads west to Margaret River and beyond
Hot on the heels of a crazy run through the beach breaks of Australia's East Coast, our team heads to Western Australia to test the power of the Indian Ocean at Margaret River and Rottnest Island.
While the Brazilian Storm sizzled on Australia's East Coast, suspicions ran high that the field would be levelled a little when the world's best surfers flew to Western Australia and dived into the untapped energy of the infamous south-west region.
Beyond the Mainbreak, home of the Boost Mobile Margaret River Pro, there are literally hundreds of waves along the 90km stretch from Yallingup to Augusta. If you can't find waves in this part of the world, you can't find them anywhere, so in and out of the jersey we were always going to be guaranteed a solid slice of action.
The crew at Stab enlisted yours truly to host this episode of No Contest and when I wasn't filling my regular beach commentator role at the event it was a pleasure to show the camera crew around my special part of the world and catch up with the characters that make the tour tribe such a special one to be a part of.
Margaret River roars, serves up serious swell
The Margaret River event kicked-off in the biggest competition waves seen outside of Hawaii in years, with sets at the Mainbreak stacking up out to sea before 12-foot bombs bulldozed the lineup. Boards and egos were left in pieces, reputations were forged and some insane wipeouts went down that will be talked about for years to come.
When the wild waves needed to be tamed naturally, John John Florence, Margaret River's biggest savant, stepped up to the plate. His opening round perfect wave was a modern wonder of the surfing world and was rightfully awarded the first 10 of the 2021 season. While all of this was going down the devilishly dangerous Box was going off on the other side of the bay and Jacob Wooden was more than happy to swim out and capture the best of the action for us.
Sadly for Florence his luck ran out in the round of 16, when an innocuous turn saw him limp up the beach afterwards. He still won the heat, but sadly had to withdraw from competition before the quarter-finals got underway. Two months later, at the time of writing he's still locked in a race against time to be ready for Tokyo.
Away from the event, we caught up with exciting young American star Caroline Marks and her Australian coach, the legendary Luke Egan, for a lush long lunch prepared by famed local chef Aaron Carr at his restaurant Yarri. We surveyed the surfers on their favourite West Australian movie sections and, when competition wrapped up, we even snuck in a stealthy session at a rare local gem.
Back at the Mainbreak, it was Filipe Toledo who tasted the champagne in the men's event, accounting for Jordy Smith in the final and giving the Brazilians a hat-trick for the leg. For the women, Tatiana Weston-Webb fed off the energy of her compatriots to claim another trophy for Brazil, beating Stephanie Gilmore in the final.
With Rip Curl throwing the full weight of their support behind this year's Aussie leg, they decided to bring back the coolest trophy in surfing and take us all on the legendary Search again. This time it was Rottnest Island – known in the traditional Noongar language as Wadjemup – that would play host to the world's best for the one-off travelling event that earns the winner a beautiful globe.
Just 20km off the coast, Rottnest has long been Western Australia's favourite holiday island and although it's most famed for its native quokkas and their love of the camera, this stunningly beautiful island is home to a number of great waves as well. Strickland Bay hosted the Search event, though the WSL surfers and staff found fun waves all over the place, including one terrifying session that went down at an infamous west-end slab on final's day.
When Mikey Wright wasn't wrangling below-sea level drainers or fishing, he was keen to be educated about the Wadjemup's past, so we introduced him to Simon Zuvich, a proud Yindjibarndi man who's been given permission to speak on behalf of elders from all over Western Australia about the island's history as an indigenous penal colony. The two surfers struck up a keen friendship and Zuvich's wish that people "ask, listen and learn" about Australia's past resonated strongly with Wright, who left the island promising to do just that.
Back at Strickland Bay, the waves served up everything from silky smooth walls to deceptively powerful pits and once again it was Gabriel Medina who landed atop the podium, the strength of his aerial attack matched only by the power of his rail game. Rookie Morgan Cibilic finished second and in more good news for the home team Sally Fitzgibbons claimed Australia's first trophy for the season with a valiant finals day campaign in double overhead conditions.
It was an exhausted crew who left Australia at the end of a two-month, four-event marathon, but its fair to say the leg will live on in the memory banks for a long time to come. When the going gets tough, the tough get going and for the WSL to pull off the unlikely and highly enjoyable run of events that they did isn't far short of a modern day miracle. Get comfortable and savour the fruits of all that labour in the video above and we'll see you for more episodes of No Contest later in the summer, as we round the bend and the final stretch of the 2021 season comes into sight.