Intro by Liam O'Brien

The formula is pretty simple: every year we take a group of good surfers, give them each a healthy stack of boards to test and send them out in the best waves we can find.

But fear not, for whilst the concept is simple, it is taken very seriously. Meticulous care is applied from the tests’ beginning to end. From the embryonic stages of planning and organisation to the physical testing of the equipment, every measure is employed to make sure that the boards are given the best chance possible to perform. With that in mind, it is no wonder that we have a predilection for the warm, wave-rich waters of Indonesia when conducting the Ride Guide. Retrospectively, locations like the Telo Islands and the Mentawais have provided some of our best board tests to date. Thus, the blueprint for the 2020 Tracks Ride Guide anticipated the likes of Mitch Crews, Sheldon Simkus and me to touch down on a luscious atoll in the Telo’s.

As you might have guessed though, our plans were thrown into a whirlwind with the COVID-19 pandemic essentially bringing the world to a halt. International flights became a rarity and borders were locked down, meaning that our dreams of coasting across vibrant, blue Indonesian walls were over. Yet there was still hope, for winter on the east coast of Australia can offer up some pretty darn good waves itself. Our contingency plan was to descend on the idyllic coves of Forster on the Central Coast. However, that plan suffered the same fate as our Indonesian reveries when tightened border restrictions and a proliferation of COVID-19 cases in Sydney stopped our Queensland based team from migrating south.

So, where did this leave us? Amid the suffocating crowds of the Gold Coast? Well… not exactly. Fortunately, we had a very cooperative forecast that enabled us to score waves all up and down the coast. Our first few days were spent at North Stradbroke Island thanks to ‘Stradbroke Island Beach Hotel’ where we made avail of the many coves and corners on offer to run the boards through their paces in small yet punchy beach break conditions. A kick in south swell then saw the Gold Coast light up, where spots like D’bah and various other beach breaks offered some high-performance walls, really enabling the boards to display their full potential. On the tail end of this swell, some less inspiring beach break conditions challenged the boards, teasing out their true capabilities in marginal surf. In spite of the many speed bumps along the way, the 2020 Ride Guide ended up being a highly successful board test. We were served up the full gamut of surf which thus enabled the boards the best chance possible to perform. These conditions were also representative of typical east coast surf, which gave an accurate indication of how these boards really went. Dive into the microsite, digest the board reviews and find out what your next sled might look like.

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