Durbidge sets sights on Olympic surf glory
TWENTY months ago, champion surfer Bede Durbidge was in the fight of his life, battling to stay alive after fracturing his pelvis in a near-fatal wipe-out at the Pipeline Masters in Hawaii.
Today, he is embarking upon another battle - that for Olympic glory - after being appointed as Surfing Australia's elite program manager for the upcoming 2020 Olympic Games.
He will take up the role in early 2018, when he officially retires from competitive surfing at the end of the Australian leg of the World Surf League tour at Margaret River.
Announcing his retirement at Snapper Rocks today, Durbidge said he was stoked to take on the new role with Surfing Australia, albeit earlier than he had initially planned.
"I thought I would stay on tour for a few more years but this opportunity arose and I had to go for it,” Durbidge told reporters.
"It is a perfect transition for me to retire and move into that role.”
It may be a bit earlier than the 34-year-old expected to retire, but Durbidge is the first to admit he is lucky to be alive after the horrific wipeout in December 2015.
"I was lucky they had so much water security there to help me get to the beach because I was bleeding out so bad, I had an open pelvic fracture,” he said.
"They torniqued me straight away which stopped the bleeding which was super lucky. If I was in a remote place I would have died.
"It was the worst wipe-out by far but it was just part of my journey, I wouldn't change it for the world. So many good things have come out of such a bad situation.”
While working on his own recovery after the accident, Durbidge coached Hawaiian John John Florence to his world title in 2016, before returning to the tour himself this year, where he is currently ranked 20th alongside surfing great Kelly Slater.
While he is looking forward to seeing out the year on tour, Durbidge said he was "super excited” about his new role, and was keen to make some waves when surfing makes its Olympic debut in Tokyo.
"In short (my new role) is getting the Australian team ready for Tokyo in 2020,” he said.
"And building a squad and working with their coaches and getting everyone in one room and building that culture to try and win gold medals.
"Right now on the Men's and the Women's tour, Australian athletes are leading. If you looked at the ratings you would say Australia has the best hope of winning gold. It is still a long way off - two years - but everyone will be chomping at the bit.”
While it was still unknown if the surfing event will be carried out in the ocean off Japan or in a wave pool, Durbidge said he was hoping the issue would be resolved within the next six months to allow athletes time to prepare.
Good friend and fellow tour mate, three time Men's World Champion Mick Fanning, said Durbidge would play a critical role in the Australia Olympic dream.
"Knowing Bede on a professional and personal level I think he's the perfect person for the job,” Fanning said.
"He's been one of the most dedicated athletes on tour and an amazing tactician so he'll be able to help out in so many different areas. Bede is very willing to do the hard yards and will cover all bases when it comes to planning all programs for our athletes. He's a man I respect immensely for many different reasons and I think Australian Surfing will feel the benefits of having him on-board.”
Surfing Australia CEO Andrew Stark said someone with Durbidge's credentials and personality were perfectly suited to the newly created role.
"This is a critical role that will be instrumental towards our Olympic campaign. Bede is an amazing athlete and coach and has immense credibility and respect by all the Australian World Tour surfers and their respective coaches and will be an amazing asset to our high-performance team. Bede will be the key and constant communicator with our Olympic Squad to ensure that our Australian team athletes are at their absolute best in Japan in the moment of the first ever Olympic surfing Gold Medals,” said Stark.