Two big Newcastle surfing contests on the one weekend

CHARGING: Merewether's Ryan Callinan at Newcastle Beach on Saturday. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers.
CHARGING: Merewether's Ryan Callinan at Newcastle Beach on Saturday. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers.
FANTASTIC VENUE: Surfing Australia boss Andrew Stark at the Australian Boardriders Battle at Newcastle Beach.

FANTASTIC VENUE: Surfing Australia boss Andrew Stark at the Australian Boardriders Battle at Newcastle Beach.

AN estimated audience of 250,000 took in the action at Newcastle Beach over the weekend as dozens of Australia’s best surfers took part in the final of the nudie Australian Boardriders Battle.

“Have fun, do good, do battle,” was the motto for the event, which pitted surfers from 24 boardriders’ clubs in a range of formats.  A slick and sophisticated affair, the boardriders’ battle was broadcast live on Fox Sports and streamed online, giving Newcastle the sort of international exposure that sponsors, including the state government’s Destination NSW, crave from such events.

THE VETERAN: Surfest contest director Warren Smith, at Merewether on Sunday, says he is looking after his sponsors.

THE VETERAN: Surfest contest director Warren Smith, at Merewether on Sunday, says he is looking after his sponsors.

As exciting as it was, the Boardriders Battle was not the only boardriding competition in Newcastle at the weekend.

Now in its 33rd year, the month-long Surfest festival had the international trials of the main event – the Maitland and Port Stephens Toyota Pro, which starts on Monday – on at Merewether Beach.

Although the two events are sharing the same market – surfers, and people who like watching surfing – there was no sign of any Surfest advertising at Newcastle Beach, and nothing I could see at Merewether promoting the Australian Boardriders Battle. Surfest director Warren Smith said there was no bad blood between the two events. But at Newcastle, Surfing Australia chief executive Andrew Stark said he had offered to run free advertisements for Surfest during the boardriders’ battle, and to stick Surfest’s promotional flags in the Newcastle sand.

“I asked him myself, we didn’t hear anything back,” Stark said.

At Merewether, Smith said he did not have any spare flags to send to Newcastle, before going on to say that “exclusivity” restrictions on sponsorship effectively ruled out any cross-advertising between events. He described the Australian Boardriders Battle as part of Surfest, but it does not appear in the official program being handed out at Merewether on Sunday.

Stark was enthusiastic in his praise of Newcastle, saying the beach was one of the best natural ampitheatres for a surf contest imaginable, right in the middle of a city. The elimination rounds of the contest began in September and the budget for the weekend’s finals ran to more than $1 million.

He said there were 10 World Surfing League ranked surfers – the highest level – in town for the boardriders’ battle, and many of them would stay for Surfest.

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