The Mattara Surf Classic taps into the spirit of Newcastle

One of the most enduring images we have of Newcastle is surfers walking through the Hunter Street mall with surfboards under their arms.

Many times we’ve seen barefoot, boardshort-wearing and bikini-clad surfers, still dripping wet, with sand around their ankles, doing that archetypal surfer walk.

When you’re walking in the mall in office gear in the middle of summer, all you can do is look on with envy at the freedom of the surfing life.

But you can also look at this kind of scene as testament to Newcastle’s authenticity as a surfing town.

We’ve been that way for a long time. Just take a look at this old picture of cars at Merewether Beach loaded up with boards, ready for a trip to Catherine Hill Bay for a surf competition in 1965. 

This surfing spirit continues every day off our coast, as wave-chasers seek the perfect swell.

Even in bad surf, sometimes you’ll see surfers paddling out just to get wet and feel the ocean, feeding a deep desire to escape land for a little while.

And while some stick with the soul-surfing mentality, others need the thrill and energy of competition.

Which is why Topics is glad to hear that things went well at the Mattara Surf Classic at Bar Beach last weekend.

The contest has history. It’s been going for 56 years. Mattara was one of the revered surfing crowns in Australia from the 1960s to the 1990s. Five world champions have won the competition.

The event is being revived, leading up to its 60th anniversary. Topics likes a good revival story.

Greg Keegan, who has been contest director for 19 Mattara Surf Classics, said: “We want to make Mattara great again”. 

The contest received a big boost this year, when local construction firm Michilis came on board as a naming rights sponsor.

Michilis, which is run by cousins Mark and Tom Michilis, kicked in $5000.

Mark Michilis and family at the Mattara Surf Classic.

Mark Michilis and family at the Mattara Surf Classic.

Even when they’re working, they like to be close to the coast.

The firm has worked on projects including Bathers Way, the Merewether Baths restoration and South Newcastle beach sea wall.

Topics hears Mark even entered himself in the classic’s open men’s event.

He’s a keen surfer, but not a professional – so it was a brave move.

Just to prove there’s no funny business or favouritism, he didn’t make it past his first heat – but he endeared himself to a lot of people by having a crack. 

Mark said surfing was “100 per cent embedded in Newcastle – just like us”.

Newy, Newie or Newks?

As you can see, we used the word Newy in the headline. 

The natives get restless over the perennial Newy-Newie debate.

The natives get restless over the perennial Newy-Newie debate.

The truth of the matter is, we were struggling to find a good headline and deadline was approaching like a freight train. 

It’s also true that we used this word to deliberately annoy people. You may not realise it, but we’re helping you out. We’re helping you get a bit of that deep-seated anger out of your system. Giving you an outlet, as such. No need for thanks. It’s part of our service.

We noticed Newcastle lord mayor Nuatali Nelmes raised the old Newy-Newie chestnut recently.

“Following a recent council meeting, a bit of casual banter between councillor Carol Duncan and deputy lord mayor Declan Clausen about the correct spelling of an abbreviation of Newcastle as 'Newy' or 'Newie' led me to test it out on Facebook,” Nua said.

"The post certainly sparked a passionate debate with over 1800 comments responding to the question. For the record, I'm firmly in the 'Newy' camp!”

Nua also pointed out that Mikey Robins, a born and bred Novocastrian, used to refer to Newcastle as 'Newks' on Triple J.