AFTER starting a third World Surf League event, Surfest chief Warren Smith said the focus now for Australia’s biggest surfing carnival was making the events “better and better”.
Surfest, held for the first time in 1985, this year added the James Bros. Longboard Classic at Merewether to its schedule, which started with the Lake Mac Festival of Surfing at Redhead on January 20-21 and ends with the main events – the Burton Automotive Pro and Grandstand Sports Clinic Women's Pro – on February 19-25.
The James Bros. event is part of the longboard tour and joins the nib Pro Junior and the 6000-point qualifying series senior competitions as WSL-sanctioned contests as part of Surfest.
Smith said Surfest, now with 12 events, would not look to create more contests after starting the longboard competition.
He said the focus now would turn to growing the Lake Mac Festival of Surfing, first held in 2015, at Redhead and the Port Stephens Wildcard Trials at Birubi Point.
“This is it,” Smith said.
“Now we’ve developed the events we want to in the three LGAs [local government areas], and now we’ve proven they can be successful. Now it’s about making them with all their own identity within the Surfest umbrella and taking them to national and international levels.”
Smith said planning for Surfest 2019 to 2021 had begun and the aim was to bring the Lake Mac Festival of Surfing and the Port Stephens trials to a national-event level within that period. The goal then would be to lift them to international standard.
“We’re always striving to be better,” Smith said. “We’ve got a very good young team now. Our sponsorship event managing group is taking more positions within it all and sees a direction for us.”
Surfest’s regional economic benefit to the Hunter has been estimated at $60 million since its inception.
In 2017, 14,000 nights of accommodation were created. More than 850 students have gained work experience through the event’s partnership with Callaghan College.
This year, 463 surfers from 25 countries will compete in Surfest’s WSL events and more than 850 will test themselves across the 12 contests.
In 2017, the Surfest webcast was viewed 308,000 times – up from 192,000 in 2016). Time Warner Cable also aired the webcast as a TV broadcast to more than 250,000 digital households.
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