Thirty-two years and going strong, the history of Surfest reads like a who’s who of world surfing, but it’s the grassroots focus that has ensured longevity.
The event has been a magnet for the stars over the years with genuine prestige attached.
Consider, for example, a young Mick Fanning (pictured) ringing his mum shortly after taking out the 2000 Surfest title. It was a homespun moment for the 18-year-old, his best result to date in the event thus far, and a springboard for future world titles.
Read through the list of champions over the years – from Tom Curren, Mark Occhilupo, Tom Carroll, Damien Hardman, Barton Lynch, Joel Parkinson and the incomparable Kelly Slater.
It speaks volumes to the calibre of world class surfers who have graced Newcastle shores over the years and what it means to them to win.
But it isn’t just about the world champions, and the international glamour.
Surfest has long featured a range of secondary competitions supporting the main event that reinforce the fabric of competitive grassroots surfing which have ensured the longevity of this iconic community event.
That tradition continues in 2017, with Surfest literally the longest running surfing event in the world, kicking off on January 21 with the Maitland and Port Stephens Toyota Wildcard Trials at Birubi Point, and due to conclude February 26 with the Maitland and Port Stephens Toyota Pro and Anditi Women's Pro at Merewether.
Between those dates the Hunter will have feasted on a smorgasbord of surfing including the Lake Mac Festival of Surfing held at Redhead Beach (January 28-29), the ORICA Surfboard Club Team Challenge at Stockton Beach (February 4-5), the nib Pro Junior at Merewether Beach, the Sanbah Cadet Cup boys and Dalton Lawyers girls presented by arcbuild at South Bar Beach (Feb 11-12), and the Maitland and Port Stephens Toyota High School Teams Challenge at Merewether Beach (Feb 14-15).
The Wandiyali ATSI Indigenous Classic is scheduled to run February 16-17 at Merewether Beach and the Maitland and Port Stephens Toyota international trials from February 18-19, with the SurfAid Cup to be held at Dixon Park on February 24.
Approximately 370 surfers from 28 countries have entered the men's and women's contests, which is the largest ever field seeking a start at Surfest's main events.
There are few contests in the world that have enjoyed the longevity that Surfest has, and it's clear the event enjoys a special place in the social and sporting fabric of the community.
"Every year we are blown away when terrific surfers show an interest in the event, but 2017 is shaping up as something special,” Surfest organiser Warren Smith said.