Some of the world’s biggest ‘hellmen’ chargers went from the hell of the classroom to the heaven of the ocean today. As the international cast continued their gathering at Currumbin on Australia’s Gold Coast, the Billabong Odyssey camp delegates took to the water on their jet ski chariots. Though the ocean offered little more than a ripple for these ultimate challengers hunting for the fabled 100’ wave over the next three years, the day was well spent further honing safety skills and jet ski techniques under the tutelage of Hawaiian legend Brian Keaulana.

Locals must have thought there was a surf club regatta taking place as eight high powered craft raced in and out from the beach for most of the day. Instruction centred mainly on pick-up skills, so intricate and paramount to the safe conduct of the Odyssey mission, where jet ski drivers must whisk into gnarly 50’+ boiling open sea lineups to scoop up their partners after they have completed massive drops or been swatted by same. Team work is absolutely and literally life saving.

Patient and partner simulation came from using three large inflatable silver balls, difficult to grasp and secure, floating in the lineup, just like an exhausted or unconscious surfer or swimmer. Each two man team progressively alternated driver and patient roles as Keaulana’s exhaustive schedule unfolded throughout the day under absolutely clear skies and a warm sea, albeit somewhat ruffled in the afternoon by a moderate NE onshore breeze. Tuition also included mechanical and driving peculiarities, such as maintaining direction and speed with broken steering, achieved of course by weight distribution and dragging.

Conditions in the morning, outright balmy at around 22 degrees, with little or no wind, produced perfect Gold Coast light for a large press and media gathering who descended upon Currumbin from afar as France for an international press conference on the beach. Hosted by Tracks magazine Associate Editor Matthew Griggs, ten personalities from the mission lineup charismatically answered questions and gave insights into the character, skills and commitment that are needed to survive in the treacherous conditions that these warriors will hunt as the Billabong Odyssey mission unfolds.

Poetically, certainly amusingly, those three big inflatable silver balls sitting together on the beach seemed to sum up this entirely special gathering. The players are surfers, dedicated in the extreme to the ocean and its challenges, as well as to their partners, fundamentally spiritual in their quest. Beyond the spirit and commitment though is the very obvious factor of bravery, and that’s why those three silver balls seemed so apt there on Currumbin beach. Most of us have two – these blokes must have three! Story by Sarge

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