The biggest and richest club competition in the world is on the 15th and 16th of this month in Newcastle.  The “Australian Boardriders Battle” is a WSL sanctioned Speciality event run by Surfing Australia and has 24 of the country’s finest board riding clubs battling it out for overall $110,500 including the qualifying series with the winning club at Newcastle taking home $24,000.  Now in its seventh year the event starts for over 60 individual clubs in every state at the qualifying events where a one-day comp decides who is going to Newy and who isn’t.  The event is packed with quality surfers and even the top-ranked Australian pro’s have been allowed by the WSL to surf for their clubs, which hasn’t always been the case with similar events.  The finals format features individual, four-person heats on Saturday in opens, womens, juniors and masters divisions. This determines the seeding order for the tag-team style ”nudie teams” finals held on the Sunday.

The big surprise in 2020 is that the inaugural winners and two-time champions Snapper Rocks don’t appear in the draw.  A reliable source from the Goldy told me that they may not have been able to get a couple of their highest-profile surfers to commit to representing the club at Newy.  This is possibly why, after failing to progress in their semi-final at the QLD qualifier at D-Bah back in August, they recently just missed out on securing one of the official wildcard spots in the event.  Following this lead, I spoke to one of the ABB organisers and they confirmed that this was indeed the case and informed me that the standard of your nominated team roster is one of the most important criteria for making the cut in the wildcard selection process.  While it’s disappointing that such a celebrated club is not in the mix this year, their top pro surfers obviously have many commitments to sponsors and of course other higher-level competitions to prepare for, so it’s not always possible for them to turn out for their club.

One of the teams that did manage to secure one of the five wildcards was Byron Bay Boardriders who have a stacked team lead by Soli Bailey, Danny Wills, and the ex-commissioner and Pipeline Master himself Kieran Perrow. With many talented team rosters throughout Australia, it’s an event that any one of the 24 teams could win on the day.  Avoca Boardriders Club is another serious contender coming into the event as a wildcard club, boasting Adrian Buchan, Wade Carmichael and Matt Wilkinson on their team card and having won the National Final back in 2017.  Reigning champions Merewether Surfboard Club will yet again field a heavyweight lineup including WSL Championship Tour surfers Ryan Callinan and Morgan Cibilic.

While watching surfing comps online can be a bit of a yawn when the waves aren’t firing, you can be guaranteed entertainment at this event, especially when the tag team style format kicks in. Most surfers will agree that there’s no competitive experience more exciting and more nerve-racking than team competitions. Even world champs can falter and have a shocker under the immense pressure of surfing for their club.  With the surf forecast map for the weekend of the event dominated by a purple blob off the East Coast, it looks like some solid size and challenging conditions for all the clubs looking to win this year.  You can watch the action online via www.australianboardridersbattle.com and it will also be broadcast live on Fox Sports.