Toes in the sand for Noosa Festival of Surfing

Toes in the sand for Noosa Festival of Surfing

Sue Mikkelsen


Surfing legends, old guys, gals, tandem surfers and even dogs have made Noosa beach their home this week for the Noosa Festival of Surfing. It’s referred to as “8 days of pure stoke”, “a party on the beach” and “a celebration of the spirit of surfing”, and these sum up pretty well why the Noosa Festival of Surfing holds such a special spot in the hearts of surfers.

The event, now the world’s biggest surf festival, brings more than 600 competitors and their families to Noosa from around Australia, USA, France, Brazil, NZ, Portugal, Japan, China, Vanuatu and other countries to surf Noosa’s perfect small point breaks – very small so far which has meant some competition has been moved further along the beach, although we’ve been promised the swell will pick up in the next day or two.

The small swell on opening day suited some events, with tandem surfing and the popular dog surfing providing plenty of fun for spectators – and with competitors including #TeamPatches and #TeamHugsley, there’s no shortage of cute Noosa dog surfing photos around (you might also like this blog from The Wandering Lens). Also on opening day, the Magoo Memorial Paddle Out, in honour of the late “father of the festival” Barry ‘Magoo’ McGuigan, and the traditional blessing of waters beautifully represented the spirit of the surfing culture.

The focus for action out of the waves is festival village, right on Noosa’s Main Beach which has a fun vibe, with toes in the sand as you watch the competition, look through the surf expo, and in the afternoons grab a cool drink from the Beach Bar, then listen to free live music and watch surf movies as the sun goes down.

You’re likely to bump into 7-times world surfing champion Layne Beachley, 4-times world champion Mark Richards, current world longboard champ Harley Ingleby, legendary surfboard designer Bob McTavish or Ironman Matt Poole among the crowds who are in Noosa to take part and soak up the surf vibe. The Legends Exhibition on Saturday afternoon, 14 March is sure to be a stunning display of skill.

A longboarding event at its heart, the festival started in 1998, growing from the Noosa Malibu Classic and retains its spirit of camaraderie among competitors, many of whom return year after year with their families. The Family Challenge which started with mums or dads and their kids competing now has several teams which include grandchildren.

The program includes amateur and professional events for juniors through to over 70s, and has been expanded over the years to include events such as the Womp Comp, teams and tandem, stand-up paddling, a wave dog master class, and new this year is the Waterman Weekend which pits former rivals, “clubbies” and “surfies” against each other in a celebration of all forms of wave riding.

Still to come in the water this week are the logger pro final, nose rider, Joel Tudor’s Invitational, old mal rounds, teams challenge, junior longboarders, and always a colourful spectacle, the Little Humid Costume Party on 13 March (pictured left).

Out of the water, there’s live music and movie screenings on the beach including Behind the Tide; the premiere of 8 Days of Pure Stoke, a documentary about the Noosa Festival of Surfing and the history of surfing in Noosa, filmed by Panga Productions and presented by Layne Beachley; and a movie night with Thomas Campbell and Joel Tudor.

I’m looking forward to the screening on Wednesday evening, 11 March of a trailer for a new movie, Beyond Sight, about blind Brazilian surfer Derek Rabelo’s journey to fulfil his dream to surf Pipeline in Hawaii. Derek will give a display of his amazing skills in Noosa at 5.30pm and will talk about the movie.

The festival is also raising money for the Make a Wish Foundation which helps grant wishes for children with life-threatening medical conditions.

The Noosa Festival of Surfing is celebrating the dedication of the Noosa National Surfing Reserve, giving all beach users a voice in protecting this natural wonder for the future. Noosa is the 19th reserve to be dedicated and was described by National Surfing Reserve co-founder Brad Farmer as the “jewel in the crown”. The reserve takes in all surf breaks from the Noosa River mouth to the northern end of Sunshine Beach, including the famous point breaks in and around Noosa National Park – a beautiful part of Australia’s coastline well worth appreciating and preserving.

The Noosa Festival of Surfing has surfing action and live music every day until Saturday 14 March and there’s live music at Cafe Le Monde, including the Surf Stomp closing party.

See Surf Shots Noosa for more great photos from the festival.

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