Local lad Jon Capilli has just won the Senior Men’s National Bodyboard title in Kiama recently and finished top 3 on the Aussie pro dropknee tour. We catch up with him for a chat about his career highlights to date and his aspirations.
So, tell us a little bit about how you fell in love with the sport and first knew you wanted to be a bodyboarder?
I first fell in love with the ocean back in 1981. I followed my two older brothers into the water – we were riding surf mats, nipper boards … anything we could ride, really. I was also heavily involved in the surf club back then as well. It taught me a lot about ocean safety. I remember riding the little nipper boards. I ultimately stayed with the bodyboards, because my older brother did.
Growing up with the sport, you would have seen it evolve over the years?
Definitely. The sport has come a long way as far as even athletic manoeuvers and the athleticism of the guys right at the top. There once were only 3 or four board companies, and now there are heaps. Back then, only the pros could get custom boards, and now anyone can get whatever they like … the competition, the money, the whole lot.
You have cleaned up the NSW titles for the past three years, the Australia titles was obviously the next step, how have you gone?
I didn’t actually care too much about pursuing a national title until a couple of years ago. Then after getting three state titles and an Aussie pro tour title last year, it’s made me realise that I have to keep going a little for my daughter, so that it justifies my time away from her and in the water. The nationals are a great event to watch how the other guys are riding. It’s not as big as surfing; we are still a tight knit group. Also, I’ve just won the Senior Men’s National title at Kiama.
Port Macquarie is known as the bodyboarding capital of Australia. What is it about Port, and why do we keep producing world class athletes?
A lot of guys say that there is something in the water (laughs). It’s just the history here, with having Michael Eppelstun our first world champion from right here in Port and Damian King with his two world titles; it’s basically that the younger guys coming though have just had those guys to look up to, and the competitive rivalry has always been there out in the water. Everyone pushes themselves in this town and if you’re a standout here, you are pretty much a standout wherever you go.
You’ve been bodyboarding for a while, so have you ever got yourself in any serious situations?
Yes, almost broke my back in the late ‘90s. I got thrown up on the end of our breakwall here, and that put me out for a couple of months. I was basically staring at the ceiling for 6 weeks, before I could dolly step around the house and slowly walk. I then started swimming 5 km everyday to build my back up again. I was pretty close to a wheelchair that time.
In your career so far, whether it’s the waves or winning comps, what have been some of the highlights?
Friends I have made through the sport; everybody is really genuine and really nice. Also, the opportunity I’ve had to visit some amazing beaches. To be able to go to a beach with friends that we have never surfed before and it’s like a subtropical rainforest on the beach; those experiences are second to none. Also, being able to take my daughter to all these places and go camping and feed the kangaroos right on the beach; it’s a privilege.
Tell us a bit about the Port Macquarie bodyboarding club?
Founded by Mr Eppelstun back in about ‘86/’87; he passed away about a year or so ago. The club has always been run well by guys who have that passion, and their kids may be involved in the sport. We have full support from the community and media. It’s great; it helps bring the new kids through, nurture them through as people and as athletes.
So are there any young up and coming riders that you think have potential to make it on the big stage?
Yes, there are quite a few, actually. Jones Russell is doing very well on the world and Australian tour. Sam Bennett and Chase O’Leary are the next two on the rung. Then we have the younger guys like Jake Chellman, who has just had his first interview with an online mag and Alex Lincon, Blake Mckenzie – all the guys who have cleaned up in the state titles this year in the open division.
What’s the future hold for you?
Well, staying in the water for a start. Keep my fitness levels up, so I can keep up with these younger guys. As you know, each generation just gets better and better.
Basically, for me it is just trying to provide for my daughter, have some of fun surfing, hopefully win another Aussie title – that would be good.
And if someone wants to throw me a $100,000 contract, I’ll go on the world tour and have some fun doing it. That would be cool. In this regard, I’d also like to thank my sponsors: Emerald Surf City, Dunes Wetsuits, Turbo Bodyboards & Kalray Menezes Massage Therapy.