SURFING n boss Andrew Stark says Newcastle is “absolutely on the radar” to host then Boardriders Battle (ABB) national final again next year.
ON DEBUT: The n Boardriders Battle crowd at Newcastle. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers
And Surfest chief Warren Smith sees no problem with the contest sharing the spotlight again with his carnival – the premier surfing event in Newcastle since 1985.
Surfest’s 6000-point World Surf League qualifying series eventswrapped up at Merewether on Sunday, capping a memorable month of surfing in the region, including for the first time the ABB decider from February 17-19 at Newcastle Beach.
In big swell, Avoca won the ABB, which was shown live on Fox Sports and featured 10 championship tour surfers among the 24 clubs.The ABB final was held at Cronullla for its first three years before the switch and there hadbeen speculation Newcastle’s popular amphitheatre will get at least thesame run, and maybe longer after the initial success.
Stark, though,said “we wanted to come to Newcastle as a test for one year and we will make a decision on next year in the coming months”, but he made it clear the debut was a hit.
“We certainly enjoyed being in Newcastle,” Stark said.
“It was a great location and it’s certainly on the cards to come back.Newcastle worked for us.There was a lot of good feedback from the surfers, especially the WSL surfers, about the venue, the vibe in the town, the waves, the set-up and the accommodation.”
However, scheduling clashes with Surfest were a talking point. Surfest’spro junior contests were traditionally held the weekend before the main events started but theywere moved a week earlier this year to avoid the ABB. The ABB still clashed with Surfest’s internationaltrials, which featured the likes ofMerewether’s Morgan Cibilic.Stark, though, said Surfing had worked with the WSL about the scheduling, adding thatonly three surfers were affected by the clash and there“wasn’t a lot of impact”.
Asked if the trials clash was an issue for Surfest, Smith said: “No. I didn’t see a problem with that at all.”
DECIDER: Surfest on Sunday at Merewether. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers
Stark did not think the two schedules would need to be changed in 2018 if the ABB returned. Smith saidhe had spoken to Stark and “we’ll have to work together and see what we can do tomake sure it all works for everyone.
“Wewant to work inwith them and with anyone.There’s another couple of events I’d like to bring to Newcastle down the trackthat I’m talking to, so if we can bring them and make them all part of the festival, that’s what I want to do.”
He didn’t believe the ABB hurt Surfest’s momentum.
FINALE: The Surfest site at Merewether on Sunday. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers
“I think that it complemented it in the long run,” he said.“That was all good and we worked through that.”
“We attract these events to Newcastle. We attracted the bowl-riding championships, and we worked with them to make sure there is something for everyone.We try to make it a festival and that’s the best thing about it.
“They do their thing and we do ours.Everyone has got their own identity and it all adds to it.”
Stark believed having the ABB finals in Newcastle the weekend before Surfest were a win-win for the two events.
“I think that really worked for them,” Stark said. “Running it on the weekend before the six-stars events on the Monday, it allowed a lotthe ABB surfers just to stay in Newcastle to compete in the QS.
“And for us, holding our event before the opening weekend of the big WQS events was an advantage from the athletes’ perspective.
“It was very good to celebrate Aussie club surfing right before the first big WQS event of the year.”
Smith was equally happy with the 2017 edition of Surfest, which finished with little-known Brazilian Yago Dora and French world No.5 Johanne Defay winning the main events. A healthy crowd watched the deciders despite heavy rain hitting in the morning and the headline acts of both events bowingout before the semi-final stage.
“Even though we didn’t have our top seeds, people were still there in their masses,” Smith said.
“It proved that people come.What you see is that legends are born here, with Yago,history is made here and you always see excellent surfing.
“It doesn’t matter who because thelevel is so high now. I’m over the moon with it all.
“That was a crowd-clearing shower that we had on Sunday morning and I thought‘we’re gone here, we’re going to lose everyone’, but everyone came back. It was just unreal.”
Smith has spoken in past years about lifting Surfest’s main events to 10,000-point prime QS status but said of 2018 that“we just makesure we do what we do well. Those budgets are out of our realm at the moment.”