The 2019 Point Panic Body Surfing Contents has came to an end. It was a truly special weekend, with a spectacular display of body surfing from the competitors.
In the women’s final, the ladies put on a show with Rea Sojot taking the win with an overall score of 12.84. Trailing behind in second place was Delori Gomes with 11.66, followed by 3rd Sanja Du Plessis and 4th Windy Vaughs.
The men had two categories, hand board and ‘freestyle’. In the freestyle category Dane Torres turned it up a notch in the final and came first with an overall score of 16, followed by Dylan Biggerstaff (15.83). Third was Christopher Moore with 11.13 and Austin Kino with overall score of 9.5 came 4th.
We managed to have a quick talk to Dylan after podium finish. He body surfed strong from the begging, and even on a few occasions made the crowd go wild.
“It was such an amazing experience. I’m blessed to have been able to compete in such a beautiful place with incredible waves for both days of the contest. The level of wave riding was elite”Dylan Biggerstaff on his Point Panic Experience
Finally the men hardboard finals. 26 year old Kaeo Awana was simply outstanding, scoring 6.83 and 6.6 which lead him to a 13.43 combo and the victory. Second was the legendary Mark Cunningham with 11.83. Sean Enoka, the man who single-handedly organized the tournament, managed to score 11.33 and come 3rd. Menko Mckee came 4th with 10.67.
At Point Panic, Australia had their own representative, who was extraordinary in all of his rounds, and pushed hard to get into semi’s, but was ultimately beaten by Hawaiian magicians.
Exclusive, for WaterUKnow we got to speak with Dean all things body surfing.
First of all huge congratulation to you, representing Australia and the premier body-surfing event and what an achievement. But before we get right into the contest, we would love to ask few questions.
Could you please tell us a little bit about yourself. When did you start body-surfing, how did you get drawn to it?
“I grew up in a small town in North Queensland where there are no waves (with the Great Barrier Reef doing what barrier reefs do). My Dad encouraged myself and my older sisters into swimming training from a young age and I did quite well in my primary school days swimming competitively. When I moved to Brisbane to study at uni in the mid 90’s, we spent the breaks down at the beach on the Gold Coast and Byron and that’s when I got into surfing. I sucked at first, but one wave is all it takes and I’ve longed for the ocean ever since. I moved to Sydney in 2000 and kept with the surfing. It wasn’t until about 2015 when I tried body surfing just with a pair of fins. I loved the freedom and intimacy of body surfing and haven’t looked back. I was also getting into flying drones around the same time and by chance was flying at Maroubra when I took a photo of some bodysurfers. And that’s how I met Rikki, Jake, Paul and the rest of the East Sydney Body Surfers crew.“
Fantastic result at Point Panic this year. Was this your first experience here at Hawaii or did you get a chance to compete elsewhere?
“Yes, this was my first contest at Panics. I also competed at Sandys a couple of months ago here on Oahu but didn’t place. Prior to this I competed in Bali last year for the 9ft and Single body surf event and made it to the quarter finals. I’m an ESBS member and competed in the Whomp Off Australia team event last year to take 3rd. We will be back at it next month charging for the title.”
How did this years contest come about, did you go to Hawaii specifically for this tournament?
“I co-founded and owned a mobile app development company which let me travel the world between our offices. Whenever I’d do a US trip, I’d always stop off in Hawaii on the way over and back from Sydney. It’s easy to travel with body surfing gear – a pair of fins and maybe a hand-board and you’re all set. Hawaii is one of my favorite places in the world. It has everything I like. The sun, the surf, the smiles, the aloha.“
Swimming into the line up at Hawaii and seeing some of the best body-surfers, how does it feel?
“It was a little intimidating to swim out at Panics the first few times seeing the local OGs (older guys), some who have been bodysurfing here for over 40 years, reading the type of waves and calling each other into them. And on the real good days seeing all of the faces of the bodysurfers I follow on instagram, out there carving it up, pulling out manoeuvres I’d never seen before. Hawaiian legend Sean Enoka, who organised both the Oahu events, welcomed me with aloha and introduced to a few of the locals and called me in on a couple of waves. I try to give more than I get, offering up waves in the lineup until it is my turn to charge one. Hawaiians have had a bad rap from the rest of the world taking what is rightfully theirs. The protests on Mauna Loa are a testament to that ongoing battle.I can’t change the past, but giving a wave and seeing the smile and stoke afterwards is reward in itself. Sometimes, the small things make all the difference. Besides, no one likes the jerk newcomer who rocks up to the lineup and nabs the wave of the set when others have been waiting for over an hour in a slow long period swell. I hope to extend the same warm hospitality in Australia when Sean and some fellow bodysurfers travel down under one day.“
Are you staying a few extra days to body-surf some other breaks, what are your plans after the comp?
“I have a 1 bed condo in Honolulu which makes it easier to stay for longer periods of time with my girlfriend Alina. I mostly bodysurf Point Panic as it’s a convenient 10 minute bike ride away. I also like to get over to Sandys and Makapuu on good days. I used to come visit Oahu in the winter time and that’s where the north shore (Pipe, Sunset, Rock Piles, Log Cabins etc) gets big, really big. I’ve also checked out a few lesser well known spots on Oahu, and I’ve been fortunate to score some waves on Maui, Kauai and the Kona side of the Big Island. I’d really like to get back over to the Big Island and explore the east side further.”
The competition started yesterday, how is the vibe surrounding the competition and what were your expectations going into it?
“The vibe was awesome leading up to the comp. So much excitement and talk about it in between the sets by fellow bodysurfers – locals and visitors. There was talk about the building swell, stories of the previous years, the contestants – all with big smiles on faces. You get the feeling that it’s going to be special. I had low expectations of my performance in the event. Some of the best bodysurfers in the world hang out there. Body surfers are a special breed of people and I haven’t met one I don’t like. Humans are made mostly of water, and bodysurfers spend countless hours floating in the salty brine. It has a relaxing, permeating effect which soothes and invigorates the soul.“
You made it all the way to the semi finals. How were the conditions in the heats, anything like anywhere in Australia ?
“A point break that works in summer with a consistent barreling section, offshore breeze, warm water AND is dedicated to bodysurfers? These are things that dreams are made of. I haven’t seen anything like it in Australia, and certainly not within a stones throw of a major city.“
Could you give us a run down, how did it all unfold, from round 1 to where you are now?
“In the Hand-board division on Saturday, I was stoked to place 2nd in my heat and advance to the quarterfinals to place 2nd and make it to the semi-finals. I had an epic full length wave in the dying seconds of the semi-finals where I threw everything I had into it. Nice smooth take off down into the pocket launching into a triple forward spin, half reverse lay back that sort of went wrong as my left elbow dug into the lip and pushed me all the way around over the shoulder down the face – fortunately I somehow had to presence of mind to stick the landing and recover in the pocket adding another forward spin and ending with a salute in the whitewash near the rocks. Not quite enough to secure a spot in the final, but very very pleased with a tied 5th result and one of my all time rides.“
“The power, skill and grace of the hard-board finalists were amazing to watch – Kāʻeo Awana, Mark Cunningham, Sean Enoka and Menko McGee – extremely talented water-men.
In the Open Mens division on Sunday, I advanced from the heats in some scrappy wind blown conditions but made some poor wave selections in round 2 and failed to advance from there.
Both womens and mens finals were epic performances to say the least. Hui did not disappoint and the swell jacked up to well overhead barrels and clean faces, as the skilled bodysurfers flourished in cherry conditions. The crowd was cheering all of the finalists along, and it was a really special afternoon. In those moments, you get why Panics is cherished so fondly by the locals. There is nothing else quite like it. Big congrats to Rae Sojot and Dane Torres taking out their respective titles.“
Finally tell us about your ‘floppy bucket’. What gear are you using over there ?
“I started out with some Redleys and Churchill fins. I lost each one of those at Tama, and realised the importance of fin savers 🙂 I have a couple of sets of Dafins (with fin savers!) which are my go-to. I’ve tried Yuccas and MS Vipers, but I like the stiff blades and rails of the Dafins with the soft foot pockets. As for handboards, I have the WAW fish, WAW badfish and my custom made WAW from the shaping workshop. The custom WAW handboard is my go-to these days and what I rode in the Panics comp. I also have fun with the experimental designs of RC Handboards made from upcycled materials.“
Dean ,you are true legend and thank you so much for taking some time for this interview.
Dean also had one last message to all bodysurfers living abroad visiting Australia:
“Flick myself and the ESBS crew a message on Instagram, and we’ll show you a good time.”