IBC World Tour Event 1: Arica, Chile
Professional bodyboarding has largely been missing from the aquatic seascape for nigh on three years now, and it recently made a welcome return at Arica, Chile.
Before we recap the contest, a quick history of bodyboarding world tours. In 1996, what was called the Global Association of Bodyboarding (GOB) launched the first multi-stop, international world tour. While it did include some quality waves like Pipeline and Reunion Island, many stops were plagued by small beachbreak venues which led to somewhat of a riders rebellion about how the sport was being portrayed in such weak conditions. This birthed what was dubbed the 'Super Tour' with events at waves like Teahupoo, Shark Island, and Pipeline which continued until the 9/11 attacks made sponsorship difficult to come by and the GOB folded.
In 2003, a newly formed association consisting of riders, promoters, and investment backers launched the International Bodyboarding Association (IBA) which went from strength to strength over the next eleven years adding waves like El Fronton in the Canary Islands and El Floppo’s in Arica, Chile to the tour as well as heavy waves conducive for bodyboarding. The IBA was so successful that at its peak it was drawing more viewers on their live streamed events than the then ASP surfing tour.
However, in 2014 a mix of behind-the-scenes issues and a few hushed up dastardly acts caused the investors backing the tour to pull their funds, leaving it essentially bankrupt. From here, former CEO of the IBA Alex Leon and a group of the most senior riders on the tour formed the Association of Professional Bodyboarders (APB) and kept a world tour alive for the next six years on a shoestring budget before agreeing to hand over the running of the tour to a new collective of promoters and event organisers largely based in South America who named their organisation the International Bodyboarding Corporation (IBC). The IBC was set to launch their new world tour format at the beginning of 2020 until, well, you know, COVID.
While previous iterations of the world tour have followed the standard of season-long points accrual - i.e Everyone surfs against each other at a series of venues to determine an overall winner, the new IBC model takes only a riders best four results and tallies the associated points to determine where they will finish in the overall standings at the end of the year.
The prize money and points on offer at each event is determined by the standard of the wave at which the contest takes place. Essentially, the heavier the wave, and the more prestigious the contest, then the more points on offer.
This format was born from the acknowledgement that chasing a full-time world tour around the globe was not a financially viable option for the bodyboarding community. In the past, most riders have actually lost money pursuing the tour which is simply not a sustainable practice.
So here we are:
The first event in the IBC’s new world champion-crowning structure kicked off in spectacular style with an epic competition at the reef known as 'El Floppos' in Arica, Chile. A top-rated comp featuring 3,000 tour points and a prize pool of $30,00, it attracted almost all of the sports best competitive riders and a host of unknown rippers willing to throw their hat into the ring.
The wave itself is a split peak left and right which onloads onto shallow volcanic rock. The left is more dangerous with most rides finishing on almost dry, jagged rock, while the rights run off slightly around the headland offering a greater chance of escape.
The contest window was blessed with a consistent run of swell from beginning to end, never really dropping below 6 feet over the marathon eight rounds it took to decide the finalists which we’ll cover below.
Finals day dawned with pumping 6 foot plus sets,an offshore breeze, and stacked man on man Quarter-Final heats. As many of the Swellnet audience won’t be well versed on the who’s who in the boogieverse, I’ll endeavour to do a little character development as we run through the happenings on finals day.
Quarter 1 started with Tanner McDaniel taking on Alan Munoz. Tanner was the classic child protege’, qualifying to compete in the Pipeline contest at only twelve-years old, mentored from a young age by Mike Stewart. He’s now one of the top riders in the world and a world title seems a matter of when not if. Alan is a four times national Chilean champion and regular in the Arica lineup.
The swell was slow for the first heat of the day. Tanner opened up with a mid sized left, fitting in a nice barrel, tight spinner in the pocket, and then clocking off with a tidy flip which drew 7.5 from the judges. Alan’s highest score of the heat came on his first wave when he bangs a reasonable, if not largely unremarkable, invert air off the close out section for a 6.5.
Needing only a 6.6 to take the heat, Alan inexplicably paddled for a clearly closing out right before pulling back and handing priority over to Tanner who closes out the heat with a back up score from a well-threaded left barrel.
Quarter 2 features 2019 world champion Tristan Roberts from South Africa up against unknown Yon Aimar from France. Tristan is one of the top three bodyboarders in the world and one of the favourites for world champion this year.
On Tristan’s first wave the judging wheels showed a little wobble that only got more and more pronounced as the day progressed. The Saffa hucked a fairly standard backflip through the lip of a foamy right-hander, the flip neither overly large nor overly clean in its execution. Ordinarily, you'd probably expect a high 5 / low 6, yet the judges saw things differently dropping an 8.
Seconds later, Yon opened his account with a full rotation air reverse into the flats on the left that have gone into the high 9’s if completed. Unfortunately, he got blasted off his board by the wash after landing facing the beach. From hereon Yon couldn’t get his campaign back on track and floundered for the rest of the heat.
Tristan was then awarded a 9 for a mid-size left where he threaded a deep barrel. A solid score, but a 9..? The judging wobble wobbled some more.
Robert's next left was a full 2 foot bigger and featured two spits as he locked into the barrel from start to finish. Having backed themselves into a corner by overcooking the scale, the judging panel awarded the first 10 of what might be argued became too many 10s as the day progressed, but more on that later.
Poor Yon was comboed with a 10 and a 9 while holding down a 3 and 1.5. Game over.
Quarter 3 saw Jeff Hubbard up against another Frenchman in Maxime Castillo. Hubb is bodyboarding's foremost aerialist, flinging and twisting his body high above the lip. He's also 47-years old. His age-defying antics could be compared to Kelly Slater's, if Kelly was hitting 8 foot sections at Backdoor and landing in the flats.
Maxime’s first wave was bigger, thicker, and deeper than either of Tristan’s 9 or 10 scores from the previous heat. The judging wobble produced a score of 9.25.
Jeff had a definite strategy to target the rights at the start of the heat, but couldn’t find the right ramp for a patented Hubb launch.
Maxime missed an opportunity, falling at the end of a barrel to flip on the left that would have gone high 8’s, garnering him a 4 instead. Hubb tracked down an inside left barrel for a 7.25 to get out of comboland and back into the fight.
Jeff then made a priority error paddling and then pulling back on a wave trying to sniff out a ramp on a right, placing Maxime’s fate into his own hands. However, the Frenchman just couldn’t seem to find the dagger to finish things off, leaving the door open for some late heat Hubb heroics.
After a judging wobble somehow awarded Jeff a 7 for an incomplete barrel, he had one last chance to snatch victory when he launched a looping flip on an inside left bowl. Shelling peas for an aerialist like Jeff Hubbard one would assume, however the three-time world champ caught a rail upon landing, handing Maxime a Semi-Final showdown with the winner of the last Quarter.
Quarter 4 seemed like it might be almost over as soon as it began with Amaury Lavernhe awarded the second 10 of the comp for a long tube on the very first wave of the heat against Chilean pro Matias Diaz. Moz then went nuts, awarded an 8.25 after a huge invert air out of the left bowl, bettered again by an even bigger invert punt moments later for a 9.25.
Allow me to flesh out the character of Amaury Lavernhe to those unfamiliar with the man. A two time world champ - 2010 and 2014 - he is arguably bodyboarding's most professional rider and paramount athlete in the truest sense of the word. His life is a study in dedication to strength, conditioning and diet to perform at peak performance. Moz takes bodyboarding very seriously. Sitting on a heat total of 19.25 the heat looked over before it had even really started.
Then the Diaz fight back began. The Chilean clawed himself out of combo with a spitting pit to air forward spin to be awarded a 9.4. Needing a 9.86 to take the lead, Matias’ chance came with eight minutes to go. Under priority he found an inside bowl and launched a full rotation air forward spin out of a bowl where he unfortunately buried the nose on landing and couldn’t ride out of the move.
Moz’s riding, however, was undeniable, and he moved on to face Maxine in Semi 2.
Semi 1 might have been the most anticipated match up of the comp with the two young titans, Tanner and Tristan, going head to head. The current world champ vs the champ in waiting. Again the judges seemed infatuated with the Roberts' backflip, throwing him an 8 for a flip on the lefthander before Tristan switched tactics and began to chase the rights.
He hucked a huge backflip attempt off a section that was all of 8 foot that would have to have gone top scale if completed, and then followed it up with looping forward air out if the bowl for another 8 pointer. Unfortunately for Tanner who had been hunting the more quality left's all contest, they all but dried up for the 25 minutes of this heat. He worked hard to try to manufacture a comeback, gaining a 6.65 for a flip to spin and a valiant barrel to air reverse attempt that just didn’t come off.
In the last minute, needing a 9.25, finally a speedy ramp appeared and Tanner gave it all he had with a projected invert, landing heavily in the flats and cracking his head hard on his board in the process while still managing to hang on to complete the move, yet it wasn’t enough.
Tristan through to the final.
Semi 2 was an all French affair with Amaury going up against Maxime. Once again, Amaury locked in a 10 point ride in the very first minute of the heat for another long, draining 8 foot pit. Is it overscored? Probably, but on the scale the judges have been applying all day they have to give it.
Maxime’s first barrel on the left netted him a 6.75, before Moz ramped up the pressure with a second score of 7.25 with a spin into the barrel, backflip out combo. Tech and tidy.
A barrel to roll combo for an 8.5 on the left put Max in striking distance, but Moz answered back almost immediately with a better barrel, a backflip out of the bowl and finished off with a roll for an 8.9 score.
Amaury vs Tristan are booked into the final.
Almost unbelievably, for the third heat in a row, Amaury opened his scoring account with another 10 point ride for another long piping pit, this one undeniably better than all others ridden on the day.
We pause here to reflect on Tristan’s opening 10 in his Quarter Final and contrast it with Amaury’s 10 in the Final, and why the judging needs a spotlight shined on it. Nobody is denying that the waves ridden weren’t epic, that the riders were not operating at the highest level of bodyboarding during finals day, or that the two best riders of the contest didn’t meet in the final.
The issue is that by going so high with scores so early, both in individual heats and overall, the judges left themselves nowhere to go once the performance bar was raised and raised again as the contest progressed.
Moz’s first 10 in the Final was a good 2 to 3 points better than Tristan’s Quarters 10, yet both received a perfect score, despite not being equal. That’s a problem.
Anyway, we digress…
Tristan blasts a huge invert attempt on a heavy, heavy right hand section, but is buried in an avalanche of whitewater as he lands. Ballsy.
As Tristan fails to nail a spin into the barrel on his next right, Amaury almost nails the contest win closed with a deep barrel to big roll on the left for a 9. With his back against the wall Tristan once again goes to the rights with a lofty air reverse attempt that, once again, would have been a huge score, but again fails to complete.
As he emerges from the whitewater, Amaury is taking off on another long left. He’s traveling, he’s traveling, he’s backdooring sections…it’s better than his first wave of the heat, it’s better than any other wave of the contest, so once again he’s awarded a 10!
With half the heat remaining Amaury is sitting on a perfect heat score, while Tristan has a 3 and a 3.5 in the bank. Not content to sit and soak up the victory, Amaury keeps picking off waves and racking up scores. His six wave scores in the final consisted of a 10, 7.25, 9, 10, 8.6, and an 8.85. That's six waves with five of them in the excellent range. Quite extraordinary.
In the last five minutes Tristan is able to get on a little roll, threading an inside tube and adding another barrel to backflip combo on a second wave for scores of 7.75 and a 9.9 to make the final seem closer than it was, but make no mistake, this was a master class by Amaury.
// DAN DOBBIN