Dolphins, sunburn, bikinis … and a big ‘mutha’ of a rope swing

“We’re putting on a rope swing event for the public” I was told over the phone. “Do you want to photograph it?”

“Hell yeah” I thought. “There’s gonna be carnage” and I was right!

Tangalooma Island Resort off Southern Queensland’s Moreton Island coast was the host for this comedic event and this meant crystal clear cerulean waters lapping against perfect white sand beaches and rusting shipwrecks, a mecca for local scuba divers.

However the peace would soon be shattered with divers of a more aerial nature… and wanna-be gymnasts, and generally anybody who enjoys hurtling through the air, trying as many backflips as possible before slapping down into what hopefully will be a slightly cushioned landing (“depending on the angle you hit the water” cliff diver Joey Zuber informed me with a grin)

Rather than the serious business of extreme sports in exotic locations, for this project Red Bull Australia decided just to ‘have some fun’ … and that they did.

I admit I was dubious at first, “a few guys with board shorts hurling themselves into the water… hmmm???” but my attitude quickly changed.

Event day dawned to a perfect QLD cloudless day and soon the temperature skyrocketed to perfect ‘launching’ weather.

The first ferry of the day offloaded a mixed crew of petite bikini clad and face-painted  lasses, brash ‘lads’ in costume and amazingly enough, some professional gymnasts and high divers, albeit some were clad in dinner suits… they were all psyched to just see what they could pull off on this makeshift human catapult.

Floating 100 meters offshore a barge sat with a long crane arm protruding into the cloudless QLD sky. suspended from the end of the crane arm was a single spiderweb like strand of rope, designed purely to hurl anybody bold enough to hang on, as far as they liked out over the azure waters of the tropical Eastern Australian coast.

With ‘smack-downs’ aplenty as competitors warmed up, emergency crews were amazed to treat only minor injuries instead of severely winded competitors who really should have emerged from some of the belly-whackers witnessed.

As the day progressed, so did the skills of some of those competing, and the wipeouts of others.

A triple backflip was thrown down while advanced free, straight, pike, tuck and spins were attempted – and landed; But on the other hand, spectators were also witness to a 40ft back slap and a 30ft face plant.

Aboard the beach and barge, music blared and crowds danced and hyped one another up for bigger and bolder moves.

As the sun sank lower, teams were whittled down to just a final few and just before the local dolphins came into shore at sunset, final awards were anounced as beachside bonfire was laid.

Swing-a-Long – the best aerial acrobatics
WINNER: Dope Ropers – Phillip Kismartoni, Luke Campbell & Joel Pocklington

Swing-a-Bomb – the most water dispersed by an individual
WINNER: Bloody Frogman – Victoria Camilieri-Asch

Swing-a-Bloop – the biggest blooper where things went pear shaped
WINNER: Red Bellies – Elsa Lilford & Liana Lilford

Create-a-Swing – the most creative performance
WINNER: Bumbles of Fun – Clare Hambridge, Renee Kubala, Madeline Franklin & Marianne Whittenburg

And the coveted title of:
King of the Swing – best overall performance
WINNER: Double Pock – Dion Pocklington & Ben Pocklington

And so the story ends… with a bonfire and beachside party, a perfect sunset, dolphins in the shallows and an empty rope, silhouetted against the mainland backdrop of the sunshine coasts mountains on the horizon.

… oh yeah and one sunburnt ‘happy snapper’ – And I even managed a quick moment to throw my own version of a backflip, with an accidental half twist – I think maybe next year I will enter.

Pix are below and Milkmoney Films were on hand to capture video of all the action at Red Bull Rope Swing… worth a watch for a good laugh.





About inciteimages

A magazine recently profiled my life and pretty much hit the nail on the head: Australian adventure photographer (and occasional journalist) Mark Watson is a liar. He suggests his job is “not so glamorous,” but drop him an email and his ‘out of office auto response’ will inform he’s heli-skiing New Zealand or trekking Patagonia. In downtime he surfs and mountain bikes Sydney’s Northern Beaches or can be spied drinking café latte’s on the beachfront when he should be editing photos. He’s a Nikon Ambassador and Red Bull Australia’s No.1 photographer, and after a few Corona’s, admits, “I photograph cool people, in cool places, doing cool things!” Quickly followed by the disclaimer “It’s not always exciting…” But always said with a mischievous grin. View all posts by inciteimages

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