Young indigenous Coolangatta local, Dale Richards rocked the surfing world when he won the Quiksilver Pro Trials in 2007. In doing so , he became the first ever aboriginal surfer to compete in a WCT event..
Below is an interview / story I wrote for Gold Coast Surf magazine not long after his victory.
I recieved quite a lot of positive remarks and comments about this story . So I thought I would revive it and post it here….
It’s a late autumn afternoon in the year 2000… I’m sitting on the rocks on Greenmount headland. The superbank is yet to make its grand entrance into surfing folklore and Greenmount, Kirra and Snapper are still 3 completely different breaks. In front of me perfect tiny waves peel flawlessly along the rocks for 30 metres before finishing on the beach down near the surf club. It’s micro-grom heaven… My ten year old son is amongst the flock of local kids bobbing around like seabirds just beyond the break. They’re all having a blast after school, hooting and yelling at each other and occasionally one of them catches a wave and rides it right through to the sand…
Amongst them is an indigenous kid who’s dominating and getting all the best ones that come through.
He’s been here every day that I have in the last few months and his rate of improvement has been rapid, much faster than the rest of them.
The biggest set of the afternoon looms and of course he’s onto it. Its a huge ‘one footer’ easily head high for the grom, but none the less he handles the steep drop with ease lays into a bottom turn and then completely floors me by effortlessly pulling off a 360 right in front of me before continuing on down the line… then its top to bottom turns all the way to the beach!
I’m so impressed I have to stop him as he runs past.
It’s getting late and he’s itching to get back out there, but I manage to get a few words from him.
His “name is Dale Richards”, He’s “just turned 12” and “yeah”, he’s “pulled a 360 off once before at Duranbah last week”……………………….
FAST FORWARD to February 2007
The Super bank is in full swing, the Quiksilver Pro is in town and Snapper headland looks more like a shopping mall than a hill with a Surf club on it.
Dale Richards is being chaired up the beach through a crowd of well wishers.
He’s just won the Quiksilver Pro Trials in perfect 4-5 ft waves at his local break. From a star-studded cast that included reigning ASP World Junior Champion Jordy Smith (ZAF), former WCT competitor Kirk Flintoff (AUS) and Tahitian powerhouse Michel Bourez (PYF).
“It’s all a bit too much for me right now – I guess it really hasn’t set it yet, I couldn’t hear the scores or anything out there, just my mates hooting every time I took off. I’m really stoked. I’m frothing so hard to be in the main event right now, I don’t even care who I draw.”
At just eighteen years of age Dale has written his name in the history books by becoming the first Aborigine to advance to the main round of a world championship tour event. Not only that, he’s drawn Andy Irons first up! And if he doesn’t get through that heat he’s up against Slater! All of a sudden he is big news and the media are on his case. For a week he becomes a rock star. Everyone wants a piece of him, he’s hounded for interviews, His photo is in all the papers and it even turns up alongside Paris Hilton’s photo in Who magazine!!
It all becomes too much for Dale and so he changes his phone number.
SKIP TO NOW………. even though I’ve known Dale for a long time catching up with him was like trying to track down the Phantom! Everyone I talked to had “just seen him’ or “saw him this morning”…but nobody had his number. One guy told me he had seen him playing pool with Elvis and a bloke called Jim Morrison at the Sands Hotel.
Long story short, I finally pried the phone number from Dave Veral of Diverse surfboards clenched fingers (Diverse is Dales long time board sponsor)
And finally managed to get a few words from him about what it was like to surf in a WCT event against Kelly Slater and Andy Irons
Dan: Congratulations on the trials mate big win!
Dale: Thanks, yeah my biggest and only win. (Laughs)
Dan: So tell me did you do much preparation for the Trials?
Dale yeah I knew it was going to be at Snapper so I just surfed there as much as I could every day for a month before.
Dan: So how was it in your first heat with Andy and Greg Emslie…did you scope them out?, try and get into their heads and watch their tactics…did you notice what they were doing at all?
Dale: (laughs) No not really, they were doing exactly what I was doing…just waiting for the right waves and Greg Emslie got the only good waves that came through and then Andy was sort of stuck hunting for waves
Dan: What about, sitting out the back at your local …perfect snapper with only one other guy out and that guys Kelly Slater?
Dale: It was a bit daunting at first…. There were so many people on the beach, even the trials were a bit scary and then when the main event started it was just crazy! Its real hard to surf and focus in front of a lot of people like that.
Dan: So in the WCT heats with Andy and then Slater were you talking to them?
Dale: Nuh! Strictly business. Kelly did come up to me after the heat and wish me luck for the future.
Dan: So in the heat with Slater did you hear his first score? (Kelly scored an 8.33 in the first 30 seconds)
Dale: (sighing) Yeeeees! I did.
I had priority though, and I knew that if I got the right wave I could maybe get a score, but I was too nervous and just went weak at the knees. I didn’t hear his second score but it was apparently pretty good. His first wave though..He managed to get a barrel some how…dead high tide Snapper, fat, small. (Dale slowly shakes his head) incredible
Dan: So after that wave did you try and psych him out by saying something like “that wasn’t a bad one ay Kelly?”
Dale: (laughing)…naaah ..Didn’t even look at him, I just kept my eyes on the horizon just waiting for a wave. (Much laughter)
Dan: So what’s next?
Dale: Could be off to Mexico, if that comes together it would be sick!!
Dan: What about competition?
Dale: Just got back from a Pro junior in New Zealand…. there’s one at Burleigh soon and I’ve got a little break now.
Dan: How do you feel about the tag ‘first aboriginal surfer to surf in a CT event’?
Dale: awesome its great.
Strangely Dales phone was then cut off and I couldnt contact him and havent been able to since .
Since then Ive heard rumours about where he might be………….. camping at Double island point with some bloke named Jim Hendrix. Apparently its been going off in that last easterly swell.
Dave Veral of Diverse surfboards has sponsored Dale and shaped his boards since he was 12 or 13. He has this to say about Dale.
Dale has a casual style; he looks relaxed…. so when he’s in an every day contest with other juniors his age…maybe it doesn’t look like he’s trying hard enough. But when he’s up against the worlds best in the WCT event or in the Trials …they all look smooth and casual because their professionals .So that kind of put him at the level with them.
I think he’s got the skills to mix it with those guys.
If he’s determined and got his head in the right space he can do it
These days you can be a free surfer and have a good career in surfing..That might even be the path for him.