"County Recurrent" is pleased to present Mike Murphy's reflections on the recent Wieland Shield Competition in Victoria, Australia. So here goes...
(Map Source: Google & http://wwp.greenwichmeantime.com/time-zone/australia/_derived/_txt_australia-map.gif)
"After saying adios to Finley and her mom nearly 2 weeks ago, I left the Gold Coast of Queensland for the surf coast outside of Melbourne in the state of Victoria.
Arriving in Victoria (VIC) was a welcome change of pace. From balancing training, catching up with friends, and ensuring a good trip for the fam, the VIC part of the trip was all about training lightly, and resting/prepping for the weekends Wieland Shield competition.
Our team was composed of very talented athletes who would probably not be available to race for future California teams in this event. Age, and other personal pursuits made this squad a one time deal. The team included a few world class athletes, some good athletes, and me. All were fairly exceptional characters. Friday, Jan. 9th served as a the first time all of us would be together. It was surreal for me after 5 months of fund raising, recruiting, and stressing over the event to actually see all the team members together in Victoria. That first sight of our team together made me feel like a dehydrated, half dead man in the Sahara seeing a mirage on the horizon, but this crew was the real deal.
The men's team consisted of swimmer Jeff Barrett (Calif. State), swimmer Pat Jacobson (LACo), board paddler Shane Scoggins (LACo), ski paddler Danny Ching (LACo), and ironmen Brian Murphy and Micah Carlson of LACo. Our women's team was as good as ever if not the best crew of 4 girls ever put together. Micha Burden is an insanely fast swimmer from Huntington Beach, Maggie Hogan is a ski paddler from San Diego who trains full time at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Chula Vista, Renee Locarnini is from LACo and came to ski paddle and swim, and Alison Riddle is an absolute 1 yr wonder on a board. She has literally 9 months experience board paddling, and kills it. She also would be available to swim. Jay Butki did a sick job managing and making life as easy as possible for those of us racing. Charlotte Graham and San Diego lifeguard Rich Hidalgo helped tremendously as well. Jamie Orr (official California Ambassador to Australia) was the last of the entourage of support.
(editor's note: How do I get in on this "boondoggle" next time they compete in Australia? They are certainly going to need an Official Team Blogger!...)
Our first weekend was spent racing in some events on Saturday and Sunday. Both events served as a chance to see what sort of shape we were in compared to our Victorian counterparts. Our guys faired well that weekend and our girls went even better. Pat Jacobson actually won beach flags amid a very competitive field of Aussies (too bad flags was not a part of the Shield comp). Our team was optimistic that evening when we met to talk about what we learned and what we needed to do for the upcoming week. Considering it was mid winter for our contingent, we were generally satisfied with how things went at that carnival at Anglesea .
(Photo of Anglesea beach above, with Anglesea SLSC building in foreground overlooking beach below. Source: www.angleseaaccomodation.com.au)
The week leading up to the Wieland Shield comp was full of positive experiences. Our entire team had the chance to sit with a South African professional ski paddler for an impromptu surf ski clinic. Dawid Mocke had a couple days in Victoria prior to the years first world cup race in Perth. He was even more stoked to meet our team and hear what we were all about (he went on to win the Perth race, and only wanted to ask about how our sqaud did that same weekend). I also had a private swimming lesson from a multi-time Olympic medalist. I am a very (below!) average swimmer and appreciated a lot of feedback from the Olympic champ and friend of our teammate Micha Burden.
(Photo shows Anglesea SLSC Logo, circa 1986. Courtesy of Will Maguire.)
The best part of the week was the incredible hospitality we were the recipients of. We had multiple surf clubs offering to host. Our initial club home, Anglesea SLSC (http://www.angleseaslsc.org.au), sponsored breakfast and coffee for our entire crew of 15 for the 5 days we stayed. Expecting stale bagels, cold cereal, and leftover pizza, we were universally blown away to find that brekkie would include omelettes, chorizo breakfast burritos, steak and eggs, etc...totally legit breakfast. Coffee was espresso, cappuccino, latte's, etc. I am missing it like hell now that i am writing about it here. The week ended well, with the crew on the same page, and all of us amazed at the hospitality of our Victorian hosts and opponents. Even the guys and girls we would be racing were going out of their way to get us quality gear to race on. I was double checking everything for loose cables, drilled pinholes, and other strategies of sabotage, and again only found true genuine hospitality. They were way too kind, and obviously had no clue how intent we were on competing. Considering the California teams record in Vic is something like 0 and 11, I don't think they were too concerned about us.
The wait for the Shield comp to start felt like pregnancy all over again...something that is all sorts of effort, and eventually comes to feel like a permanent state, and suddenly ends with one of life's most exciting days. We were amping when the day of racing finally came, and our crew performed well. After 7 events on the first day at Bancoora Beach, a couple surprise finishes had our crew in a great spot, and only a few points back of the Victorian team for the events point lead (27 to 31). Highlights included Brian's win of the surf teams swim race, his second place iron man finish, Maggie's victory on the ski, and a solid team effort to win the days last relay event.
(L2R above: Brian Murphy, Mike Murphy, Alison Riddle, Danny Ching, Patrick Jacobson, Jamie Orr, Micah Carlson, Jeff Barrett, Micha Shaw, Jay Butki, Renee Locarnini, Shane Scoggins. Photo by & Copyright Kari Lyman 2010. All Rights Reserved. Used here with permission. Photo shows Team USA on Day One of Shield Competition at Bancoora Beach in Victoria, Australia.)
X-Ref; Re: Bancoora Beach:
The next day would favor our teams strong swimmers and hopefully put us back in the mix to win. After a sunny day, with small waves on Saturday, Sunday brought showers, 20 knot side shore winds, and some solid surf which made racing conditions brutally challenging but fun. A seesaw day of racing had multiple lead changes. At days end, we needed our guys and girls to win the run swim run event to have a shot to win. Our girls crushed it as anticipated, and our guys had to have absolutely heroic swims in CRAZY 25+ knot gusts and psycho rain in order to come out ahead in the event. We were down going into the run swim run, and as the guys hit the water the heavens just unloaded with the rain and the wind jumped almost 1O knots. It was a weird feeling on the beach as all hell broke loose trying to tie down tents, gear blowing everywhere, children freaking out like it was a summer afternoon on Amity Island...and despite it all we were (read:"I was") completely focused on where our guys were at and where they would finish. Our team had to throw Brian and Micah into the run swim run. Neither planned on doing the swim races, but as the event unfolded it became clear that those two guys gave us the best shot to win. I've known Micah since he was as scrawny as I am now at age 16, and obviously known Brian for far far far too long. Seeing the two of them resurrect our hopes and finish strongly in first and second place was a huge lift to our whole squad and pretty emotional for me. I was fully clothed getting drenched in the sand screaming at them as they finished ahead of the savvy local Victorians. Their performance was flipping macho beyond belief considering the conditions and that neither had planned on swimming those events the day prior. Their efforts on the last day absolutely carried our crew. We would go into the final races, the mens and womens Taplin's, at a tie. We had to win both races to win the event, and needed to win one to finish at a tie.
In 40 plus years since the start of the Wieland Shield, the Californian squad had never won in Victoria. Our team was pumped to be in the position we were in and extraordinarily focused on finishing what we set out to do. Our women raced insanely well and intelligently to win the Women's Taplin. The story of the event was the performance of our girls, and no one was surprised when they demoed the Victorians in the Taplin relay (ski-swim-board-run). All four of them contributed hugely, and it was cool to see them bond among themselves going into their final contest. The guys began with a tie guaranteed, but needed to win to make history. After a couple solid ski legs, we made a mistake in the swim leg that took us out of the race, and we were collectively devastated when the Vics won the race, and the 21st Wieland Shield concluded in a draw (62 to 62). We split event wins (5 to 5), and team event wins (3 to 3), and had no other tie breaker system in place. The event had never finished in a draw previously. The Victorians appeared relieved, and our crew was collectively gut wrenched with ambivalence. The truth is, we were a lot closer to winning than we were to losing, and we all felt like we let the Vics escape defeat. After many hugs, some tears, some head scratching, and plenty of beer, we were all laughing, and universally stoked on the best finish of any California squad in Victoria. The crew of athletes that came to VIC trained exceptionally hard, and made many sacrifices in coming together as a team of 11.
The Victorian crew was blown away by our efforts, and the ultimate camaraderie among both sides is difficult to describe. The first day of racing was ridiculously awkward for me, wanting to compete against and beat guys I genuinely liked so much. Every Victorian who had been involved with past teams wanted to ask about my daughter, and was sincerely concerned with the happenings of my life and family. This event is built upon an incredible tradition between lifeguards on opposite sides of the world. Coming home with an historic finish validated the time away from the kiddo.
The roots of this event are inextricably linked to some incredible watermen and lifeguards from the late 50's and 60's. Walking in their footsteps is a bit spooky and a tremendous honor. Whether you get caught up in the mystique of all the legends prior, or just enjoy the heckling and late night shenanigans among peers and competitors, the Wieland Shield is a truly unique event. I hope more California lifeguards and agencies find ways to get involved and enjoy the friendships that develop through the Shield."
("Wieland Shield 2010...Win, Lose, or Draw?" is Copyright Mike Murphy 2010. All Rights Reserved. Used here with permission).
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*** Many Thanks to Mike Murphy for sharing his remarks regarding this year's Wieland Shield Competition held earlier this month in the state of Victoria in the land down under, Australia. Thanks as well to Kari Lyman for allowing us to use her photo of Team USA. ***
Until next time.....
Will Maguire, Editor
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