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.
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.
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.
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