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Surfers, Cheese and Big Waves
by Derek Rielly
Magazine Issue: AUS/NZ Issue One

King Island? Think cheese, freshly slaughtered meats and a world-first surfing contest...

Cheese, what a succulent dairy bauble you are. I pay my money and like a harlot at work, you shed that waxy skin and spread for me. The fungus on your shanks sparkles on my tongue and the sight of your veins and stench of your wild aroma has me drooling and desperate to bite.

King Island cheese, it'll fill your gut, clog all four arteries leading to the heart and jam your colon for good measure. But what a joyful way to live and die, with the white flesh of Phoques Cove Camembert dribbling down your face, with cheeks full of sweet and nutty Black Label Cloth Matured Cheddar. With a colon working night and day to neutralise a kilo of Cape Wickham Double Brie. Oh Lord, how can something this deadly taste so good?

In October, twelve of the world's best big-wave surfers waited on King Island, just off north-west Tassie, for three weeks for the first-ever tow-in surfing contest to start. Not much point going into the specifics of the Red Bull Reef Seekers except to say the surfers were to be towed into waves by jetskis instead of paddling. More turns, less take-off histrionics, you see. Grunt provided by Yamaha, not mama nature.

The waves scratched the five-metre minimum wave height requirement on a couple of days but, generally, hung around the three-metre mark. "We pledged we wouldn't run this event unless the surf was a consistent 15-foot-plus," event manager Chris Mater said.

Six two-man teams from Australia, Brazil, Tahiti, Hawaii and the USA plus a world team spent three weeks waiting for the contest to begin. And what a festival of love and freedom it was. All that testosterone. All that soon-to-be-fulfilled desire.

The red wine flowed, legs were akimbo, cows' udders were pumped dry, and the ocean bed around the island was vacuumed clean of shellfish to feed the Men Who Ride Big Waves.

"You guys are welcome here, just don't fuck my wife," requested one local upon the surfers' arrival. Among the surfing celebrities who stuck out the waiting period were Hawaiians Darrick Doerner and Noah Johnson, Australians Ross Clarke-Jones, Tony Ray and Cheyne Horan and Californians Peter Mel and Flea Virostko.

And what did the surfers think of hanging around for nearly a month waiting for an event that never happened? "It was the best contest of my life," said Brazilian Carlos Burle, a champion anyway with his grueling daily schedule of four bottles of Tassie red, a block of KI Admiralty Blue and a whole subspecies of abalone.

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