Unknown South. Words by Ben Hay
My life as a professional fisherman has been anything but ordinary; working strange hours of the day, working around the elements and making the most of opportunity has pretty well resulted in a life of randomness. Often living life from one day to the next. Having to step up and seize the opportunity when it presents itself has been something ive had to live by. Last week i received a phone call from fellow NACCOS skater and good buddy Ryan Nicholls. He and Simon Duber were planning to drive to Melbourne for the first ever Yarra Ranges Longboard Festival. The offer of a spot in the car to help share the expenses and an angry ocean forecast had me turning my back on responsibility. An opportunity was falling into place and it was too good to turn down. So at the last minute i found myself late registering, packing my bags and hitting the road with them. But not before a quick chat with fellow team mate Jackson Shapiera. Jacko has recently started racing again after being out for a while due to injury, the discussion resulted in jacko signing up to get the last rego spot and booked himself some late flights. We were to pick jacko up on the Saturday night before the race from Melbourne airport, this pretty well became our deadline as we left on Friday morning. As myself, pickles and little Simy Duber took to the road a plan was hatched to drive through the Victorian alps on our way to Melbourne. I have traveled and visited most parts of Australia in my time but one area that had always eluded me was the mountainous area that runs from the N.S.W / Victorian border toward the southwest finishing in the Yarra Ranges. With this area in our sights and a limited amount of time i had plotted a route toward Mt beauty deviating off the usual way to enable us to check the most hills possible.
After making good time on the road we arrived at Mt beauty about 4pm, we quickly checked in to a local cabin and headed off for a session on the local haunts close to town. We skated Tawonga gap road and Mt beauty until dark then we retired to our cabin for the night for a beer and a tasty meal. (Note: Check out Jacko's Blog from his trip through the VIC Alps with ASRA President Haggy Strom)
. My initial plan was to go to this area to stoke the boys out on some falls creek butter, although the rest of the state was cooking in high 30 degree temperatures we were in the alps and the weather does its own thing out there. Saturday morning came and we awoke to a bit of a dull day with high hopes of scoring falls before we had to head for Melbourne We awoke early and headed off up into the mountains destined for falls creek .We were soon disappointed when we made it half way up the mountain to be greeted by heavy rain. A quick group meeting in the car and a change in strategy was needed: we decided to bail out of the alps early and use our day to drive another crazy alternate route through to the yarra ranges. Anyone that knows me knows that i love an adventure and this day was to be no different. What we found was certainly surprising, simple answer is that there were long epic hills everywhere. After the day of skating a few really long hills our legs were spent and our time was fading, continuing on our way toward the Yarra Ranges a longer alternate route was taken and we adopted the 'stop at top and bomb' approach. The hills were too long to drive back up and there was no time for turning around so we were just bailing out of the car and bombing down hills with no idea what was awaiting us. Some of the hills were epic and it was painful to drive away.
We timed our run into the Yarra Ranges perfect, we found a motel and had time for a feed and made it to pick up Jacko. After picking him up and heading back out to the ranges, a quick tech session was had over a few beers and we crashed out hard from 2 previously big days. We were awakened in the morning by a bit of rain, arriving at the race hill confirmed a wet track. Local lad Hamish was waking up all the neighbours with a leaf blower in an attempt to dry the trickiest part of the track. His hard efforts coupled with rays of sunshine soon dried the track and racing began.
Firstly it was the groms to square off with Local young gun Mikey Mifsud taking the win closely followed by Early team rider Julian Forde. In the opens it was a battle for speed and draft, after 3 rounds for points a top 16 elimination draw commenced. In the final it was Myself, Simon Duber, Jacko and local shredder Juan Diego Milones. I got off to a good start in the final with a reasonable lead, Juan got tangled up a bit and dropped back out of it while Jacko and duber where hunting my draft. The big boys both passed me just before the line with Jacko taking the win ahead of Duber in second leaving myself in third and Juan in 4th. After the downhill race the hill was sectioned off, the option for the groms to freeride the hill while those wanting to have a crack at the slalom gathered on a short course set by Johnny McGrath and Bernie. This ended up being one of my favourite parts of the day as everyone ditched freeriding to either participate in or watch the slalom. This also drew a big crowd as spectators lined up shoulder to shoulder along the short course to watch the epic racing going down.
Huge congrats to the moss crew and Matt cassar for putting a great event together and it really came off as a great show for the local people. After a big day at the longboard festival we had a few beverages and decided to stay in Melbourne for the sunday night and proceed to drive home on monday morning. We awoke early for a big days driving but in typical Benbro fashion it had to be via some unexplored mountain area. Again we bombed 2 or 3 great hills on our long and alternate route toward the border.
photos: Ryan Nichols, James Leen
After this recent trip i am totally convinced that Victoria has just stamped itself in my mind as one of the premier downhill locations in our country, we found so much rad stuff to skate from suburban technical runs throughout the ranges to extremely long mountain bombs. From playing navigator for the weekend and constantly studying the maps there are many hills i found but didn't skate due to time restraints and also many epic runs located on maps but yet to be checked. I really cant wait to get back down there and skate some of these roads again and get to some of the others i know that are down there laying dormant waiting for the next car load of skaters to shred.