On a Majura Road property, just down from IKEA, with planes taking off from the airport across the way, James Scott is keeping alive a tradition of the bush.
He sweeps two stock whips back and forth, faster and faster, literally creating the crack of a sonic boom against the big blue sky.
James, who turns 22 on Friday, was on Monday crowned the Australian whip cracking competition at Sydney Royal Easter Show.
In a show of true sportsmanship, as soon as James finished his section and was declared the winner, he sought out second-placed Daniel Wicks, a multiple Australian champion from Gunnedah, watching in the stands, to shake his hand. It was a powerful moment.
"We both congratulated each other," James said. "It was a great day."
As he was competing, James, a former Daramalan College student, was thinking of his late grandfather Frank Scott who died in 2010 and who started farming in the Majura Valley on their Molonglo Park property more than 40 years ago. Both Frank and James' grandmother Sue were whip cracking competitors and passed on the traditional bush skill to the younger generations.
"All of pop's old friends have all called me and people he taught have messaged me and said, 'Congratulations, your pop would be so proud of you'," James said.
"All I could think on the day was how proud he would be....I just wish he was there to see what I've done."
The national championship was hosted by the Australian Whipcrackers and Plaiters Association. James' parents Frank jnr and Tracey were in the stands to watch the win, overwhelmed with emotion.
"Was I crying? Yes," Frank said.
"I can't thank my parents enough for what they've taught me and done for me," James said.
James said when his grandfather died, the family stopped whip-cracking and the bullock team was sold. It was only in 2017 that he decided to enter his first competition, in Tasmania. He won the novice event, aged just 17. The skill was in his blood and he wanted to honour his grandfather's legacy.
"Pretty much since I was born, I've had a whip in my hand," James said.
This week's national title was judged on accuracy - James hit nine of 10 targets; 10 routines with two stock whips and one minute of freestyle. Technical prowess, flow and the volume of the crack are all taken into account as is personal presentation.
James, a former bartender at the Yowani Golf Club, was thrilled to win for Canberra, using whips made by his "second grandfather", Russell Schultz, from Ngunnawal.
"When people ask me where I'm from and I say, 'Canberra' and they say, 'But you do whip cracking?'. It's like, 'Yes!'. Nobody sees Canberra for what it really is, they just see politicians," he said.
"Canberra was a farming community before it was all of this."
And James is still cracking the whip - off to defend his Victorian men's championship in Seymour on Saturday, going for his third consecutive title. His girlfriend Emiliqua East was was last year's Australian ladies' whipcracking champion and missed out this week on retaining her title by one point. "Bugger is right," she said. She is also heading to Victoria to defend her state title there.
Three generations of the Scott family live on the Majura Valley property, one of many heritage properties now operating on month-to-month leases since the ACT Government has refused to renew their leases.
"I think it's one of the best parts of Canberra. There's really no other part of Canberra like it," James said.
"Surprisingly, you have a valley full of farms, 10 minutes from Canberra, it's unheard of."
Australian Whipcracking Association president Steve Wicks said James was a worthy winner.
"James certainly deserved his victory," Mr Wicks said.
Mr Wicks said the crack of the stockwhip was caused by the tip of the whip travelling at more than 1100km/hour and breaking the sound barrier to create a sonic boom.
He said the stockwhip was traditionally used to create a sound in one direction so the herd would move in the opposite direction.
"It was never to hit the animals. You didn't want to hurt your stock," he said.
Mr Wicks said a big part of the association was promoting "humble winners, not show ponies". James more than fit the bill.
"I feel Frank would be so proud of James as an ambassador of the sport," Mr Wicks said.
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