The 25th anniversary Noosa Festival of Surfing unofficially kicks off today, Thursday 3 March with a demonstration on the art of riding the Caballito at 11am by some of Peru’s finest surfers who are guests of the Noosa National Surfing Reserve Committee. The great surfing at Noosa’s First Point by competitors from around the globe, and the free entertainment on the beach and at venues around town from now until 12 March, bring a great vibe to Noosa.
Festival director Sam Smith (pictured) has lived and breathed the Noosa Festival of Surfing for over a decade. Noosa-based Luxe Fitness Escapes recently caught up with Sam to ask how the Noosa Festival of Surfing has evolved and to find out about some of her best memories. Here we reprint some of the interview with kind permission from Luxe Fitness Escapes.
How have you seen it evolve over the years?
The Festival has seen many changes over the last 25 years. From the early days of the Noosa Classic, to the 1999 Breaka Festival of Surfing which saw the introduction of large numbers of international competitors, to 2008 the year that USM Events took over the management and introduced music concerts in the Lions Park, to where we are today, the world's largest surfing event. This year will be the 13th Festival I have been involved in. It has taken some time, but I believe the current event template is the perfect fit. Keeping everything on the beach, free entertainment open to the public and celebrating not just longboarding, but the whole beach lifestyle.
When did you first get involved with the Festival?
The first event I worked on was in 1998 which was the first year the Festival aspect was introduced to the surfing event. I was working for my family publishing business at the time and we were the major sponsors of the event. It was always a lot of hard work, but we had such a great time.
What is your favourite memory of the festival?
There are so many, but the first that springs to mind is a proud mummy moment. A couple of years ago my boys entered the Family Challenge for the first time. My eldest surfed with his poppy Phil Jarratt and my youngest surfed with my husband. The day of their round 1 heats saw some pretty challenging surf conditions. Probably 4 foot and consistent with a big sweep. My eldest didn't do too badly – held his own and managed to catch a wave or two. My youngest who was just 7 at the time and couldn't even carry his own board yet, struggled to get out. After many agonising minutes of watching him battle against the sweep, a competitor in the next heat (and family friend), towed him out just in time for him to catch one wave of the day. As a mum, I was so excited to see my kids out there, and as an event organiser it epitomised what the Festival was all about: from Under 15s to Over 70s, surfers from all over the world coming together to celebrate this amazing lifestyle.
Why is the Festival of Surfing a great time to book a trip to Noosa?
March is normally a quiet time for Noosa, just after the Christmas holidays and before the Easter break. However, Hastings Street comes alive in Festival week. There is always a buzz of excitement in the air. Not to mention March is in the middle of cyclone season and the ideal month for swell on the points. Whether you're competing or just spectating, there is something for everyone at the Festival. Being able to see some of the world's best surfers on display at First Point during the day and then enjoy a cold drink on the sand and enjoy live music each evening. Why wouldn't you want to come to Noosa during the Festival of Surfing?
What local and international surfing talent can we expect to see in this year's event?
In 2016 we have some amazing talent attending the Festival, both young and old, local and international. Rachel Tilly, the current women's World Longboard Champ will be travelling from USA; Piccolo Clemente, the current men's World Longboard Champ all the way from Peru; Layne Beachley, 7 x World Champ (pictured at top); Felipe Pomar, the 1965 World Champ and still an exceptional waterman at age 72; local legends Josh Constable and Harrison Roach; and World Adaptive Surfing Champ Mark 'Mono' Stewart, just to name a few.
Are there any new events being added to the schedule for this year?
We try to add something new every year, whether it be a new discipline or just a variation of an event we are already running. In 2016 we will be hosting the McTavish Trim for the very first time. This is an invitational event in which top traditional longboarders will be competing in a distance trial, to see who can get the longest ride from point to beach. Devised by surfing legend and Festival patron Bob McTavish, the Trim will test the ability of surfers to stay on the wave no matter what.
Dog surfing is one of the most popular spectator events at the Noosa Festival of Surfing.
What has been the most popular event for entertainment value?
In the last few years nothing has topped the VetshopAustralia Surfing Dogs. We have thousands of people standing on Noosa Main Beach on Sunday afternoon to catch a glimpse of the surfing hounds. It's a lot of fun and people go crazy over it.
Who is in the line-up of entertainers for this year’s event?
We have a fantastic line-up this year thanks to the hard work of our Entertainment Manager, Ellie Jarratt. All entertainment is free to the public and open all ages. It is held in the XXXX Summer Beach Bar which is a not-for-profit bar with all profit going to charity. For this reason, we always have a very small budget for entertainment. However, it always surprises me how many musicians are willing to donate their time or play for a very small fee just to be part of the event. Mason Rack Band, Band of Frequencies, Sons of the East and Z Star Delta all the way from the UK are just a few of the amazing acts we have scheduled for the week.
Why is Noosa the perfect place for a surfing holiday?
With 5 perfect point breaks, the beautiful Noosa National Park, Hastings Street with its amazing eateries and 5-star accommodation, I couldn't think of a better place to visit.
To find out more about the event, see the Noosa Festival of Surfing website or follow the festival on social media for all the latest news: