Stu Kennedy is set to surf in the World Surf League Champion Tour - Rip Curl Rottnest Search presented by Corona 2021 from May 16 to 26.
From 1978 to mid 2000’s Aloha Surfboards were the preferred choice for Australia’s elite surfers.
During this time in surfing history Sydney was the epicentre of Australia’s professional surfing talent pool with more world champions per capita than any region globally.
The Aloha Surfboard factory under the direction of Greg Clough was located in Brookvale on Sydney’s Northern Beaches.
During this period Aloha was perfectly placed at the centre of arguably the most successful two decades in Australia's professional surfing history. World champions Barton Lynch, Pam Burridge and Damien Hardman were at the cornerstone of the Aloha team and paved the way for the next generation of Aloha team riders Luke Egan, Brett Warner, Beau Emerton, Nathan Hedge, Chris Davidson, Mark Mathews, Dayyan Neve and Richie Lovett.
‘When I was a grom all I wanted was to have a big A logo on my boards, to have that opportunity and be part of the team was definitely a career highlight’
After a 16 year hiatus Aloha is stoked to be under the feet of a surfer on the World Championship Tour.
Stu’s long anticipated return to surfings elite ranks is in part due to the support of long time friend and Aloha Surfboard shaper James Wood.
James Wood is no stranger to competitive surfing having won 2 x World Junior Championships, the Lennox Head local is still surfing at an elite level and on any given day is a standout on the long right hand walls of Lennox Point. The DNA of Wood’s surfing knowledge at the highest level is embedded into his designs.
How far back does your friendship go with Stu?
We came across each other when we first started surfing the shories in front of the Lennox Pub, I am three or four years older than Stu so I would have been about 13 and he was about 8 or 9 years old and he was just this little blond ferret. He slowly picked up surfing and then started shooting with MB who was the local film-maker and from there he started improveing really really quickly!
Any funny stories from back in the day?
Ha Stu was just this super blond little psychopath, I dont really have the words to describe him as a grom. He was just a full little ferret. He would never really shut-up and was just a complete little smart arse!
When he was 18 he missed his heat at Straddie so we tied him up, sorry he must have been 16, so we tied him up and put him in the bush out the back of the place where we were staying with no clothes on and I cracked an egg in his arse crack and left him in the sun for a couple of hours which didn't really go down to well with anyone, so we got in a bit of trouble for that.
How long have you been shaping Aloha surfboards for Stu?
We have been working developing his boards since the start of this year really, prior to him signing to the Aloha team I had made him a few boards but it wasn't until he tried the B-A and Twin-D models designed for Aloha that he really started to show interest in working closely together on board design.
Its very easy working on board development with Stu because we both surf the same volume and ride similar dimensions, shapes that I like he generally also likes. It's exciting to get the opportunity to work really closely with him and see where we can take these boards.
Yourself and Stu surf the same size boards does that help or hinder the design process?
Surfing the same dimensions helps because we can both ride the same boards, he can ride boards that I designed for myself and he can then have his input on rocker, outline and volume distribution. Yeah there is no hinderance unless he just comes and steals boards out of my garage which he does on occasion ha! Stu is super easy to work with!
You guys have spent a long time surfing together, what is the funnest surf you have shared?
Ahh good question! Probably thinking back to when we were both on the QS travelling together, we had some really good waves on the Europe leg, France, Portugal around Ericira theres some amazing waves in that region. Other highlights have been Durban where they have the Mr Price Pro and up a little further from there. Hawaii was always really fun as well, its hard to pinpoint one session but probably some of the sessions in France around Hossogor are the standouts for sure!
What have you put in the board bag for Stu for the Rip Curl Rottnest Search presented by Corona?
The boards that I have setup Stu for this event are a 6’4 Step It Up, 6’2 Step It Up, 5’11 Step It Up and then he has two new shortboard models in a rounded square called the YWV5. The name derives from code that I have used during the development of my latest model and it has stuck. In the YWV5 rounded square he has a 5’9 and 5’10, he has also taken his current go-to board which is a round tail YWV5. Thats the board he has been riding the most around home during the latest few runs of swell and it has been looking good under his feet, so I am assuming he will ride that one in his first heat.
Along with the YWV5 shorties he has a couple of B-A’s which is the model that we worked on when we first started working together developing his current quiver. The B-A is a wider squash tail designed for surfing everyday conditions with a performance focus. Stu surfs the B-A in all conditions and he prefers a wider outline in beach breaks and sub standard waves. He also has a Twin-D and B-A in XEPSII which are really well suited to smaller days which we may not see come out of the bag during the event but you never know what the ocean will throw at you during any event!
Advice for Stu going up against the Brazilian storm?
You always need to surf to your strengths, whatever your strengths are be it power, tight transitions in the pocket or going to the air you just have to surf as good as you can to your strengths and apply as much pressure as you can to your opponent. If you apply as much pressure as you can by sticking to your game then they will make mistakes or potentially have a bad heat.
Stu has beaten most of those guys before and has history surfing against most of the guys on tour, so if he gets a bit of confidence and stays loose I think he can do really well especially on his backhand which his style and approach could fit nicely with the shape of the waves on Rotto! Fingers crossed he gets on a bit of a roll!
Thoughts on the waves at Rotto and Stu’s approach?
I think the waves over there could suit him well, Stu loves his backhand and he surfs really well on his backhand. He stays tight in the pocket, he has great timing, throws alot of water and has a fair amount of variety on his backhand. Ultimately if he is in a good mindset and has the right board under his feet he could make some heats and do really well and Im really looking forward to seeing him back in the water competing against the worlds best!
Surfline Forecaster Katie Jackson outlines the island’s ideal conditions:
“Rottnest Island, with its close proximity to the continental shelf, is a magnet for Indian Ocean swells. Surf is undeniably consistent for the island as there is always at least a little energy coming from somewhere in the Indian Ocean; whether it is from far distance storm or a local windswell. When Perth breaks are minimal, a couple feet (if not more) of swell can be found within a short boat trip off the coast.
“Strickland Bay, or ‘Stricko’s’, is a standout rocky reef break located on the southwest of the island and able to work under a variety of swell conditions. Long period swells wrap in from W to S swell angles and can even get the mid to short period waves breaking on the reef. The right often bends in on itself for a fast section on small to mid sized swell conditions. The left is able to hold more size and longer length of ride, with large walls favouring longer period or deepwater groundswell energy that can barrel at times.
“A key component to a good day at Stricko’s is the weather and right wind conditions. With the wide open exposure of Rottnest, it is common for weather systems or even the prevalent southwest winds that can hamper surf conditions. A calm morning or northerly wind regime is ideal. Even easterlies can allow the lefts to hold up good form.
“Ideally, light NE winds would be sought after during a mid to long period SW groundswell around couple feet overhead. The northerlies can come in two common forms though: a high pressure positioned to the south or a cold front approaching from to the west. A stable high pressure system set up over the bight would be perfect set up and common during the autumn months leading up to the competition time. Otherwise, a cold front shift of NE to NW winds is more common during a winter storm, but less ideal as winds tend NW and add texture. However, a cold front normally precedes a large scale swell event which could bring in solid wave heights for the competition.”