Le-Ba: Best bar none
By BARRY CHEADLE
THE LE-BA (Lennox Head-Ballina) Boardriders Club will go into this weekend's Jim Beam Surftag National Series final in Sydney believing they can win and become the champion boardriding club of Australia.
Club president Rod Steeles says the team is riding a wave of success after scoring the two biggest wins in its history in the past two weekends.
First-up was the outstanding effort in halting the championship run of national title-holder Snapper Rocks by taking out the final of the Queensland Jim Beam Surftag at Duranbah on February 17-18.
"People said that win was a fluke," Steeles said.
But Le-Ba proved the doubters wrong by backing up last weekend with an even bigger win ? the Rip Curl Kirra Teams Challenge.
Steeles says the two wins have 'put Le-Ba on the map'. They've also put the club in the money -those two wins have netted the club more than $8000 in prizemoney, and the local surfers will double that amount if they win the national final.
Steeles says there is 'a good feeling' happening within the club and the camraderie is strong. "It's true what they say ? a champion team will beat a team of champions," he said of last weekend's win which saw the club topple surfing strongholds such as Curl Curl (Sydney northern beaches), North End Gold Coast and Snapper Rocks.
The Le-Ba team, which includes James Wood, Jock Barnes, Marcus Aboody, Stuart Kennedy, Joe Hudson, Dan Emery, Mark Hernage and Adam Melling, is home-grown, Steeles says. "I watched them grow up. It's a young team but they've all gelled. The vibe and camraderie is outstanding," he said.
Last weekend's win was described by Kirra Boardriders o-coordinator John Robin as the strongest in the event's history.
"Le-Ba's win included seven heat wins and a third placing across their required eight-surfer team, and seven wins is unprecedented at this event," he said.
"It's been an awesome performance from this club and it will be a record high score of 30 points that will stand and be very hard to beat."
Le Ba opened with elite Pro Junior surfer and former world junior champion James Wood, who set the scene for the win last Friday when he posted the highest-scoring heat win of the event.
Wood's heat win included the event's only perfect 10-point ride, along with a 7.5 to give him the event's highest heat tally of 17.5.
His teammates continued the winning run through and then relied on their final surfer, Adam Melling, of Lennox Head, to secure the win.
Surfing Australia's Steve Robertson said: "The pressure was immense on Melling, with Le-Ba leading the 38-strong field but only by one point over event favourites Snapper Rocks and Curl Curl.
"Melling needed to win to put the overall win out of Snapper and Curl Curl's reach ? a second placing would leave the title open to a possible surf-off, and a third or fourth placing would leave the door wide open for Snapper or Curl Curl to take the win outright.
"Adding further to the pressure on Melling was the strongest heat opposition of the event. Brazilian World Qualifying Surfer Thiago Pires, along with Sunshine Coast rising star Mitch Coleborn, were drawn in this same heat."
Melling started slowly but scored an excellent 8.83 to go to the lead. He backed that up with an 8.5 ride to shut the door on Le-Ba's rivals.
Melling's heat tally of 17.33 was the second highest of the event behind teammate James Wood.