Waveski Adventurers – out of the barrel meet Mel and Steve Farthing
It’s not often that one comes across a couple who complement each other in their domestic, work and sporting lives and when they do, you grab the opportunity to take a peak into what makes them tick. Welcome to the world of Mel and Steve Farthing who gave freely of their busy lives on a warm and humid saturday morning to chew the fat and share what it takes to become sporting champions.
Mel and Steve are each successful in their own right so let’s take you back to their journey(s), starting with Mel.
Melissa, more usually known as Mel, has been waveski surfing since around 2000 after conceding that her days as a national frisbee representative were coming quickly to an end due to ongoing knee issues. She was introduced to waveski surfing by a colleague from work – Steve Farthing – who saw Mel’s natural talent and, under his guidance and mentorship, she picked up those critical surfing skills, but I’m getting ahead of myself here.
Mel as a champion frisbee player
Mel didn’t grow up near the beach, living on a farm on the south coast of New South Wales in Kangaroo Valley to be exact, and therefore many miles from the surf. She was the youngest of three children with two much older brothers. Most of her time was spent enjoying the world of farm life and horse riding, plus everything else you can think of including success on the hockey field, and with gymnastics and athletics.
It was evident at a young age that Mel was also good with the ‘books’ and hit the ground running achieving a very high matriculation score in her final year of school at Chevalier College. A leaning towards science based subjects has seen Mel’s career move into her current job in clinical research.
Oh yes, nearly forgot that in amongst everything that Mel does she has recently completed a Masters in Epidemiology graduating with a Distinction; how cool is that! Not to mention she is an accomplished cook. I’ve had the privilege of experiencing Mel’s cooking and it was definitely worth flying over from Perth to the Sunshine Coast for her roast pork and to die for deserts!
As I mentioned before, Mel was introduced to waveski surfing by her now husband Steve. It has taken many years to get to where she is today – ranked no. 2 in the world open women’s division.
Mel has numerous waveski titles to her name but the one that has eluded her is winning the open womens division world waveski titles. Her preparation for the 2020 worlds has seen a two year intensive program including daily gym work with a trainer, surfing on most days of the week, meditation and reflection.
Mel winning the women’s 2008 AWWP series 2 tour alongside Rees Duncan winner of the open men’s.
Unlike some sports, waveski surfing doesn’t attract sufficient support to be self sustaining for athletes. Hence a juggle to fit everything in including a full time job. I was nearly worn out hearing what her daily routine looks like.
Mel knows how to win and this has been evidenced by her podium finish in 2008 winning the AWWP (Association of World Waveski Professionals) tour – a result that remains the most cherished and most fulfilling.
While I was able to get a small window into her heat preparation it was essentially off limits and she doesn’t give anything away – rats!
What I do know having surfed against and with Mel both in competitions and free surfing is she’s is able to pick out the best waves and is not afraid of taking the drop! Her recent trip to the Mentawais showed Mel surfing on some pretty big bombs that had her male counterparts struggling to comprehend how she does what she does.
Mel in Mentawais last year
So 2020 might just be her year and if her preparation and mindset is any indication she could well do it.
Let’s turn our attention to the ‘bloke’ – Steve Farthing who’s been surfing since the dawn of time. He was pretty much born to surf with his athletic parents and older sister taking Steve down to the beach every day and getting in those essential water ‘yards’.
Steve grew up as a quintessential Aussie kid who rode bikes, stayed out till sunset (you could back then) and joined the ‘nippers’ surfing club on the Sunshine Coast. He was a vibrant talented kid who came under the notice of his high school teacher Jim Woodriff who introduced Steve to waveski surfing. This was back in the early 80’s at a time when waveski surfing was just getting off the ground.
One of the very first photos of Steve farthing on a waveski
During the course of the last 40 years – gosh this seems such a long time – Steve has gone from strength to strength both as an accomplished Industrial chemist to developing drugs to keep away the nasties and a world champion waveski surfer. He is currently the world grand masters champion and was crowned the 2011 world waveski masters champion. This guy is pretty dynamic as a water man for in 2009 he won the world surf kayak masters division and finished runner up in the open division in 2013.
Steve’s everyday preparation is not too dissimilar to Mel’s. He has recently taken up middle to long distance running and you could be forgiven for thinking that Steve is in the wrong sport with his tall, lean frame.
Outwardly Steve is a very cool cat and his heat strategy is to get out there amongst it, pick off the best waves and of course win – no argument or debate with this one. Similar to Mel he has experienced the highs and lows of our sport going from a sponsored rider with the Softec waveski brand in the early days to juggling work and family.
Steve in Portugal Worlds 2011
His injuries are a patch work quilt with surfers ear (yep he’s on his 2nd operation), dislocated shoulder, numerous reef cuts – ah the baptism of being a top level surfer plus the mental anguish of not getting the right waves at the pointy end of a competition.
While Steve’s waveski journey has spanned well over 40 years, the sun is still shining very brightly and I don’t think we will be seeing him fade out into the sunset anytime soon.
Both Mel and Steve are passionate photographers and they can be often seen with camera in hand lugging a ginormous lens to many of their waveski junkets.