The bronze, silver and gold wax thunderbolts

Cockatoo Island is not only the largest isle in Sydney Harbour; it has one of the most colourful histories. Prior to being home to the first ever SbA Pro/Am Grand Final it was an imperial prison, an industrial school, a reformatory, a jail and was the site of one of Australia’s largest boat building docks. Cockatoo is also closely aligned with the legend of bushranger Captain Thunderbolt, who was one of two prisoners to ever escape the island. Their escape was aided by Thunder’s lover Mary Ann Bugg who swam through the harbours shark-infested waters to save them. Thunderbolt was given his name whilst on the job: during one of his robberies he knocked on a door as a clap of thunder and lightening ignited the skies. The victim asked who was at the door to which he replied: “Thunderbolt”. Of course prior to the intervention of colonialism Cockatoo was no doubt a sacred stomping ground for indigenous tribes and possibly the odd cockatoo.

Words: Morgan Campbell (SbA head judge)
Photos: Dave Adair (unless noted otherwise)
Video: Matt Hooker (at base of page)


Joel McIlroy has the overcrook on lock (Matt Hooker photo)


During event lead up there were several trips out to the island. My first trip was with Cuzz and we were in charge of surface checks on the heritage-listed ground. After a serious run in with an egg-guarding screech-burger of a sea gull, and several heated discussions regarding the logistical problems of holding a comp on the island, we thought we would calm our nerves with a beverage. Whilst ordering the edge was taking off by a gruff but jovial chinless wonder of a Hungarian tuck-shop manager. He was the kind of odd character you would find in an old Bond film. His vibe somehow smoothed the situation and mid bev we ran back over to the site and finally sussed how the course could work.

Over the months of prep that followed it was no doubt that Logistics Manager Steve Murphy went through the most trials and tribulations. At one point he was heard ordering some fluorescent inflatable tower lights over the phone: “So how big are they mate?“… (pause)… “Oh so about as big as a fat person?” The attention to detail was phenomenal. So how do you get a skate course built on an island you ask? Every element had to come by barge: 24 of them! The course design and construction was a combination of efforts between SbA, Convic and Shane Serena’s Revolution crews. The course housed elements such as the bank to ledge to bank, the out rail (based on Perth’s swing out bar), the doorstop slappy kickers, the wheel chair ramp and the Sydney Harbour Bridge China Bank.



Jack Crook stomps a switch biggie heel


Come December the 10th the stage was set and it sure was a doozy. The Island was held in the last days of the Outpost Project street art festival. I pretended that the isle was decorated just for us. The dilapidated industrial beauty was punctuated with giant rusted swinging soy sauce fishes, a cockatoo mural made out of plastic cups, a life size replica of Kid Zoom’s house, Lister-painted balloons, ceramic washing machines and murals n pieces galore. Of course the skating was next level. Everyone goes on about the level. But you can kind of understand when the level is on this plain. I mean the technical proficiency of the current pros and top ams is light years beyond where we thought people could ever take their coordination. The top guys in Oz are all on par with (and make up some of) the top internationals, and nothing highlighted it more than The Island. The 35 peoples who were invited to the comp included some vets, some freshies and some of the world’s top shredders.



Marty Girotto glides a frontside hurricane through to fakie


The top 20 read like a who’s who of contemporary Australian roller boarding. Everyone who placed anywhere between 1st and 8th got paid, but many (oh so many) ripped below that point. Here are some highlights: On the practice day Sammy Winter gleamed the course with his relaxed steelo. Unfortunately his involvement with The Island was cut short with a hectic leg cut indeced by a run in with a hubba. Lewis Marnell nollie tre’d down and frontside flipped up the gap. Ryan Wilson boardslid across and down the high round rail from flat. Adam Dawes back noseblunted the bump to round rail. Barry Mansfield backside flipped the wheelchair ramp. Scott Standley flowed through tough yet flawless switch lines. Jackson Pilz did crook to fakie’s and 5-0 to switch crooks’ on the Sydney Harbour Bridge and nailed a nosegrind pop in on the bank to ledge. Jack Crook frontside flipped the wheel chair ramp and cruised through some of the more tech lines of the day. Pat Dandy frontside flipped the channel in the SHB (Sydney Harbour Bridge). Gabbers kickflip 50/50’d a round handrail on a stangers board. Bjorn Johnston executed a textbook switch front blunt the down rail. Marty Girotto shone all weekend with his usual effortless steeze: frontside tailslides and 5-0 to fakies over the SHB, a lengthy noseblunt slide over the bank to ledge, a blunt kickflip on the bank to ledge and frontside hurricanes to fakie on the handrail. Sam Giles did the biggest 360 flip you have ever seen off the doorstop into the bank that lay beneath.

The top eight all busted on multiple obstacles and their prowess was highlighted throughout the following moves:

8th Joel McIlroy
After coming up through the SbA Am Series earlier in the year Joel McIlroy has had an epicly productive year on both comp and coverage fronts. He was as ludicrously consistent and poppy as always and managed nose grind 180s and over crooks’ on the outrail, kickflip front crooks pop over on the bump to rail and manualed up gap across the entire island centrepiece.

7th Alex Campbell

Alex blitzed the course with his lanky ninja-steeze: his style and pop always breathes new light onto the classics. He fakie 5-0’d the hubba, skidded back lips to fakie down the door stop and frontside 180’d over the wheel chair ramp from flat down into the bank.

6th Reece Warren

Like Joel, Reece has also had a massive year. He won the Am Series and put out a simply ‘gnar-bottoms’ video part for Hoon. Whilst on the island he 5-0 backside 180-ed the bank to ledge, did the longest no comply tailside we’ve ever seen, and 50/50’d across and down the wheelchair ramp from flat (ejecting early to get bank time).



Chima owns the backside 360 ollie


5th Jake Duncombe

One aspect of The Island that warmed the hearts of the fans was seeing Jake Duncombe clearly on point and back from consecutive injuries. Like Crook, Jake also drew endless lines on the course. He front feebled and front board-shuved the outrail, back tailed over the bridge, frontblunted to fakie the width of the bank to ledge, and kickflip back tailed and backside noseblunted the bump to ledge.

4th Jack Kirk

Jack Kirk is one of the newest ‘greats’. His causal flow and mastery of all terrains always transfixes the onlookers and the smile he holds through every line is well infectious. He blunt 270’d the length of the bank to ledge and frontside 5-0’d to fakie (the hard way) over the bridge.



Jack Fardell bonelesses across the Sydney Harbour Bridge


3rd Jack Fardell

In third was the fastest man on the course: Jack Fardell. He blazed noseblunt slides both to forwards and to fakie over the bank to ledge. The ease with which he tackled the SHB was definitely unparalleled: boneless ones, backside bluntslides, frontside nose grinds and massive ollies both ways occasionally throwing a feisty tail tap in if he felt it necessary.

2nd Tommy Fynn

Tommy is no stranger to landing tricks. He lands most of them. His fresh feet took care of wheel chair ramp kickflips and 360 flips; backside flip fakie nose grind reverts on the bank to ledge and both backside noseblunt slides and kickflip front noseslides down the rail.



Chima somehow effortlessly switch heels UP the gap

1st Chima Ferguson

Chima barely skated practice and then came out guns blazing in the qualification round. His run was in the second heat of the final round and it simply melted onloookers. Over the day he heelflipped and switch heeled up the gap, pounced back lips and front board 270s on the gnar-burger out rail and blazed fakie back lips down the down rail. Where he won though was through his absolute domination of the doorstop ledges. This airtime assault included 360 backside ollies, nollie flips, varial heels and even well over head high backside nollie flip.



The top three: Fardell 3rd, Fynn 2nd and Chima in 1st.


MC Glenn Scott, Cuzza and Chima


The atmosphere under the lengthy marquee was pure electric. The crowd went bizerko during the final and gone are the days of the winning melon grabbing comp barney. These guys were as ‘street’ as it gets and are respected by skate purists internationally. Once the dust settled and the grandstands chilled, the other judges (Mike Martin, Darren Kahne and Trent Evans) handed in their sheets to me and totals were tallied. It was of course Chima who came out on top (his performance was undeniable) but it was Tommy Fynn who won the tour. His City Squared 2nd placing, his Shocklands 1st and now this 2nd made him the untouchable leader in the 2011 SbA pro am tour. Tommy Fynn is the Australian Champion.



Australian Champion Tommy Fynn and Island winner Chima Ferguson


The day after The Island was a relaxing one: crowds still flocked in to see the art on the last day of the Outpost Project, however there was a cloud of relaxation over our crew. Aside from Sammy Winter receiving a massive leg cut during practice, the comp was a complete success. The only person who wasn’t chilling on the Sunday was my chinless wonder of a Bulgarian mate who was arrested for allegedly embezzling thousands of dollars worth of funds from the tuck shop. Ah how have the tables had turned: back in the day you would get arrested and taken to the island and now you get arrested and escorted off it. If only it was this simple for Captain Thunderbolt. Thanks to everyone who made the Island happen, especially the Australian Sports Commsion and The Sydney Harbour Federation Trust. Stay tuned for the details for the 2012 Pro/Am Tour: yep we are ready to do it all again.



The Bay was stoked (Matt Hooker photo)




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