Surfers to battle for teams title
LENNOX Head surfer James Wood only had to walk across the road to compete in the Jim Beam Boardriders Cup event yesterday.
Wood used his front yard advantage and looked right at home when he took out the final representing the Lennox-Ballina Boardriders Club.
And today the 25-year-old is back in action as Lennox Head hosts the Jim Beam Surftag finals for the first time since the competition began in 2001.
Surftag is Australia's largest national teams surfing competition with a combined prize pool of more than $130,000.
The Le-Ba team will consist of ASP World Tours surfers Owen Wright and Adam Melling along with Wood Stuart Kennedy and Marcus Aboody.
World No.2 Joel Parkinson and Josh Kerr will surf for Snapper Rocks.
For Kennedy, Melling and Wood, it marks their first competition at Lennox Head since their teenage years surfing in the popular Rusty Gromfest event.
"I was just thinking about that this morning," Wood said.
"We've never really had a major Australian open men's event here and it's pretty cool to have one now.
"It will be good to have family and friends come down and cheer us on.
"Any team on paper can win this competition and that will make it exciting."
Byron Bay Boardriders Club will also be one of the 24 teams competing and with the likes of 2011 pipeline pro event winner Kieren Perrow and local prodigy Garrett Parkes, could prove to be the dark horse of the competition.
Event organiser Steve Harrison is thrilled to bring the event to the Far North Coast.
"Everyone is excited to come here and it's such a good region for waves," Harrison said.
"It was time for a change and here we are.
"We have 120 surfers here and it's the five best surfers from each beach in Australia that have qualified.
"It's going to be a really good standard and not just from the big names but the underground guys that will look to step it up."
The competition has been moved from North Wall Ballina, with the beach decision to be made each morning.
"We have Shelly Beach, Sharpes Beach, Lennox Head and North Wall to pick from," Harrison said.
"The banks are really deep and the water is dirty so it was a safety call to move it away from North Wall.
"It will most likely be at Lennox Head both days."
Former world champion Mark Occhilupo will compete in the Snapper Rocks B team.
"You look at the history of this competition and home-ground advantage is a big thing," Harrison said.
"I think the Le-Ba boys are going to be very hard to beat."
Defending champion North Narrabeen has won the event more than any other club and was knocked out in the qualifying rounds last month.
Byron Bay's heat is at 10am with Le-Ba to follow at 1pm.
The final is set down for 1.45pm tomorrow.