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Sharing the playing field

I still remember as a kid being able to have a kick on the oval after a game and feeling the sense of excitement of being on the same field as my heroes and imagining that one day I’d be out there alongside them. Sadly this is becoming a thing of the past for many kids, but in surfing this will never be the case and is something I really love about it.

The Rip Curl Pro is an event where the world’s greatest surfers not only compete, but also rub shoulders with the fans and share a magical sporting experience on the shores of Bells Beach.

It’s very much the nature of the sport, maybe because at the end of the day there’s a sense that nobody actually owns the ocean – we all just share and love the same playing field. Just a few days after the Pro any person can roll down to Bells and jump in and experience what guys like Kelly Slater might have seen only a week earlier. There’s no barriers, no boundaries, no security guards lining the fence, no one telling you you’re too small, too fat, too old or not good enough – it’s completely up to you. (Although I’d certainly recommend you think carefully about jumping in as it’s pretty wild out there! But you get my point).

On the weekend I was down at the Pro with Joel Selwood at the TeamUp tent as part of the AFL Players’ TeamUp 20 Day Challenge. We were unlucky in the sense that it was a lay day, so no surfing, but there was still a sense of mystique and energy in the air as we toured the arena seeing names like Fanning, Parkinson and Slater across the lockers in a typical surfing style no fuss wooden portable. We also were lucky enough to hold the holy grail of surfing – the Bell! It’s these simple elements which have maintained the grassroots feel you get at the event and make you feel deeply invested in the Pro.

I’m not a great surfer and don’t get to do it as much as I would like too, but as a young guy at Geelong College I was happy to get out there and try my luck and then continued that when I went up to Brisbane.

I still try to hit the board with a few of the boys from Carlton. Jarrad Waite and Tom Bell are keen surfers, and Ed Curnow is a Torquay boy so we head down together whether it Bells right through to the Torquoy back beach you can’t beat that coast, it’s just sensational.

I’ve get out there on my 6’4 Al Merrick and abide by the advice I’ve heard from many of the pros. ‘It doesn’t matter how good or bad you are if you get out of the water with a smile on your face you’d had the best day ever.’ It’s simple advice but it’s all about having a go and I think this is also an important message to remember in any sport, whether you are at the top of your game just having a kick in the park it’s about enjoying it.

For me surfing is all about the waves and your mates. For those who are looking to find a few new surfing buddies it is definitely worth checking out the app, which allows you to find other people who are keen to exercise at the same time and skill level as you. Download the app here.

With only a few days to go in the Pro I’ll be watching closely and am eager to see guys like Fanning and Parkinson keep tearing it up. But what I love more than anything about this event is no matter who the winner is, when he takes the stage and begins the traditional of ringing the bell there will be thousands of screaming fans who will feel they’ve just witnessed one of the greatest sporting moments of their lives standing and cheering alongside their heroes.

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