Winter 2011, and Avoca’s fun beachbreak peaks have escalated into serious, double-overhead right-handers breaking top-to-bottom down a sandbank as a long-period groundswell rolls in from the Pacific. It's a day Wade Carmichael remembers well.
“That day at the Shark Tower… that’s one of the best days that I’ve ever surfed at Avoca,” he recalls, from the Gold Coast. “It was pretty crazy. The bank was perfect and no one was out. It was really windy and [a lot of] people went to places where it wasn’t that big. But I didn’t mind [laughs]”.
Check out footage from the session in the clip below:
Born nearby in Gosford on the NSW Central Coast, Avoca has been 19 year-old Carmichael's home break and competitive training ground since his parents upped stumps and moved from Saratoga, several kilometers inland, when he was five. Since then the region’s mix of waves have seen him evolve into one of the main contenders on the 2012 Junior Series.
“I don’t know why they moved to the beach, but it was definitely a good move,” says Wade. “It’s pretty good at home. It’s a good place to grow up for quality waves. It’s not just one point or whatever; there are beachies and all kinds of waves. It’s a good place to develop your surfing.”
His surfing developed quickly and he was soon travelling to Grom events around the country with his Dad. But finding his competitive footing took some time.
“I didn’t really have the best years in the groms [but] when that finished I decided I really wanted to stick with it. When I hit juniors it all stared to come together.”
A string of good results including runner-up in the under-18s Australian Title at Coolum and a third place at the Bells Beach Pro Junior, saw Carmichael finish 14th overall in his first year as a Junior in 2009. He followed up in 2010, with a win in the Keramas Pro Junior in Bali and several other good results to finish ranked 8th. Last year, he bettered that, finishing 7th overall.
Now into his last year on the Junior Series, 2012 is crunch time for Carmichael.
“I’m just going to try and get in the top four in Australian so I can do all the World Juniors. Then, if you’re in the top four you get a wildcard into the WQS…”
In preparation, he’s been putting in the time at Surfing Australia’s High Performance Centre at Cabarita where he’s been training with Jeremy Sheppard. “It’s been going really well… It’s surfing-specific training, so it’s all about stability and mobility – it’s different from what I’ve been doing before but it seems to be working really well… There are about 20 of the juniors that train with Jeremy now.”
Between training and surfing as much as possible, he’s also been working with Annesley surfboards at Mona Vale to refine his equipment.
“I’ve been working pretty hard on putting together a good quiver. I’ve been riding this year. I dropped my standard board about an inch and made it a bit wider just so it’s good in up to six foot conditions and easy to travel with. It’s working out really well.”
With three straight victories to start the year, it’s a fair call.
After taking out the Australasian Pro Junior at Bells Beach, he backed up a win in the VonZipper trials for the Billabong Worlds at Burleigh Heads by taking out the main event.
“I wanted to have a big year and this is unbelievable,” said Carmichael in an ASP press release at the time. “I wasn’t nervous that whole heat, even though I was sitting waiting for that second wave for a long time.” In fact, he’d spent the majority of the 30-minute final with just one wave on the scorecard, waiting until the dying minutes for a wave that could give him a winning score – a calculated move from such a young competitor.
“He’s different from most juniors,” says ex-world champ Barton Lynch. “He knows how to win. He is a quiet guy with a great focus and control of his emotions to achieve the result. Not only is he a great surfer but he is a very smart competitor.”
"That was the first World Juniors that I’ve surfed,” says Wade. “I was just excited to surf against a whole lot of new people. I only found out a week before that I got into it [but] I’ve surfed Burleigh a fair bit before. The bank was really good at Rockies and everything ended up pretty good.”
After a few laps of Junior circuit, familiarity with the breaks is certainly a competitive advantage, but his success this year rests as much his well rounded approach according to Barton, who describes him as one of the most powerful surfer of his generation and someone who can “do all the airs and rips in both small waves and big”.
Carmichael’s win at Bells in early January is a case in point. After a few year of poor surf, the finals ran in solid conditions perfectly suited to his powerful style.
“The last day was at Bells at the Bowl, probably about four to five foot. I’ve been going down there since I was about 12. The waves suit my surfing… and you get used to water temperature.”
With the Junior Series finishing around July, the tail end of the year offers a chance to hang at home and focus on photo and video projects, between work a lifeguard at Avoca to subsidise travel costs.
“I started lifeguarding last year to get me by so I can do the series this year. I did Nippers when I was little but I finished when I was 12 or 13. It’s pretty busy. I’ve done a few rescues, but I haven’t had to do anything too intense yet.”
Last year he headed to the Goldy midyear then jetted to Bali to add to his collection of footage from home. The video clip produced from the footage made it through to the last round of Innersection. This year, they’re heading further along the archipelago in search of waves.
“We’re trying to plan a trip to Sumbawa in the middle of this year to get some waves and some footage,” says Wade. “I’ve been to Bali a few times, but I haven’t been over there, so it should be sick…I’ll probably start training for Hawaii toward the end of the year. I’ve never been there before so I’m pretty excited about that.”
Find out more about Wade at www.wadecarmichael.com
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