13th July 2008
Mark McCarthy (Richards Bay, South Africa) and Ben Player (Australia) faced off in the final of the 2008 Human Shark Island Challenge at Cronulla (Sydney, Australia) for a rematch of their epic 2007 final battle where both bodyboarders carded near perfect heat scores. In 2007 it was Player who edged off the challenge from World Tour rookie McCarthy and it was Player who went on to win the 2007 World Title with McCarthy finishing a credible 5th for his first year on tour.
While the 2007 final was played out in perfect 4-5 foot surf, 2008 could hardly have been more different with a lack of swell and unfavourable winds providing some fairly average and challenging conditions at Shark Island, a wave which on it's day is one of the most perfect and fearsome bodyboarding waves on the planet.
In 2007 Player & McCarthy were also joined by Hawaiians Mike Stewart and Jeff Hubbard in the final, however, Hubbard fell early in Round 1 of the main event - to McCarthy and Jonathan Vega - while bodyboarding legend Stewart fell short in the semi-finals. This year the final two places went to two Australians - Ryan Hardy, a past winner, and 2007 semi-finalist and Shark Island local John Showell.
From the get go it was Hardy who looked like the man to beat with some strong early rides in the trying conditions but it was Player who secured victory with a rare tube ride in the final minutes.
"I honestly had conceded defeat and even congratulated Ryan when we were in the water. Then out of nowhere a little peak popped up and I no-one wanted it, so I spun around and it turned into a good wave", said Ben.
"It's a shame that the swell never came for the last part of the waiting period but, hey, that's all part of being a professional bodyboarder. We just deal with whatever is happening on the day. It was an awesome event and thanks to everyone involved for putting on such a slick show.", continued the champ.
McCarthy finished third behind Hardy, however, he was just one good wave away from victory in the close 30 minute final and in the final 60 seconds found a little ramp to bust one of his trademark back-flips. Mark had been landing these manoeuvres all event and blew his semi-final competitors away with the highest single wave score of the day - an 8.77 which he earned with a massive back-flip over the shallow end section. Unfortunately in that final minute he was unable to complete the one that really mattered.
"Just so gutted that I did not land that last manoeuvre - I only needed a 5 and if I landed it I would have got a 6 at least. So I just have to get ready for the next event now!! I am killing for a win!", said the humble South African.
Local rider John Showell was happy to get a solid result by finishing fourth, "I had been surfing the Island in all conditions leading up to the event but on a day like today it comes down to who gets the waves."
The IBA Tour now heads towards South America for the next two stops at Rio Das Ostras (Brazil) and Arica (Chile) before a three leg European leg in August / September.
Mark McCarthy Interview
What were your goals going into the Shark Island event?
Well my goals for this event were to win it as I wanted to better last year's result (2nd). Just so gutted that I did not land that last manoeuvre - I only needed a 5 and if I landed it I would have got a 6 at least. So I just have to get ready for the next event now!! I am killing for a win!
Run us through your preparations?
I spent lots of time down in Cronulla studying 'the Island' in all different swells big or small. It is really a special wave to bodyboard so it pays off to do your homework. All the local boys have been really cool to me down here so they have been good help too. But at the end of the day it was just bodyboarding the Island lots and try going big every surf and just learning from all the mistakes.
What do you attribute your continued success at Shark Island to?
I really enjoy bodyboarding the Island - it just such an amazing wave. I think the wave suits my type of riding. To do well in the Shark Island event you have to ride the barrel well and be able to hit the end bowl exiting the barrels but it takes time to get the timing right to mix it up ... but I am not going to give to much away now.
What's up next for Mark McCarthy?
From here I would say Arica next but I will see how it goes as I might go down to Brazil for a smaller IBA event before going to Arica. Arica this year will be a really big event for me due to all the smaller wave events on the tour. There are also maximum points in the Arica Pro so I hope to do well in that and training will continue tomorrow.
How healthy is bodyboarding as a sport in Australia?
The sport of bodyboarding is booming down here in OZ. There are so many good riders with good backing from their sponsors. It is always a good sign when bodyboarding is on TV and they are running a whole program on the IBA World Tour on Channel 10!!! So yes, the sport is really heading in the right direction and is in good hands here in OZ.
Any final words on the Shark Island event?
I am really happy with how the event ran - a really god job by Terry McKenna and the rest of the IBA team.
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13th July 2008 19:21
|Well done Mac! Super stoked for you!|