By Phil Jarratt
Well, it was a different surfing festival opening weekend from our perspective, I have to say, the first in more than a dozen years that our family wasn’t directly responsible for, and hadn’t gone through the anguish of hourly consulting swell and weather maps, and even more frequently running the calculator over the costs blowout while praying that the rashies, the tee shirts, the water bottles, even the tents and the grog would arrive on time.
Anyone who has ever run an event, big or small, whether it’s a school fete or an international festival, knows the feeling, the slight nausea when you make a list of all the stuff you haven’t done, the sleepless, sweaty nights as you try to balance the budget in your head, the long, mind-numbing days on the sand with a crumpled site map, trying to appease the latest bellicose resort manager who thinks he owns a public beach… the list goes on.
And even though I took a step back in 2015, and played more of a figurehead role while my daughters ran the show, it was still the family business, and we all shared the sweat and the buzz, in about equal measure, until last year when we called a halt, for all the right reasons. Which doesn’t make it any easier to sever the emotional ties you have to something that has absorbed more than 20 years of a life (in my case) and been something they grew up with and loved (in the case of our daughters).
So yeah, there was a tear in a few eyes as we watched a new era begin last weekend, but only because this festival has meant so much to us over so long, for me a quarter century since we put up a few bucks and our publishing company became a sponsor of the fledgling Noosa Longboard Classic, and 21 years since we turned it into a festival and took over its administration.
But under somewhat difficult post-TC Oma circumstances, while blessed with waves, the festival lives on, and I enjoyed leading the traditional paddle-out with Mayor Tony Wellington, festival director John Finlay, Noosa Mal Club president Craig Johnson and a host of hot-to-trot competitors, locals and stoked groms. As I said when we formed the circle beyond the break on Saturday evening, it’s always so good to feel the pulse of a new swell under your board when we perform this ritual. You know that even better waves are on the way.
Another great aspect to opening weekend was the performance on Saturday night at the beach stage of festival long-time regulars Band of Frequencies, and on Sunday afternoon of Mat McHugh and his trio. Apart from being the surfiest band around, Shannon, OJ and the boys have been part of the furniture at the Noosa surf fest forever, and way back in 2010, they played support to The Beautiful Girls at our mega-concert at Lions Park. So how cool was it that Girls founder Mat McHugh made it back to the festival this year, with tour band drummer Bobby Alu and bassist Paulie B, who helped us produce our Wood & Foam soundtrack album with the Freaks a couple of years ago.
So, beers all round, happy days, and booking person, thank you for making my weekend.
The kids are alright
It’s a great song by The Who (or reprised by Eddie Vedder if you’re merely middle-aged) but it sprang to mind as I watched the beautiful classic longboarding of the junior longboard finals last weekend.
Although sometimes I wonder if the appeal of longboarding can continue to resonate with our youngest surfers in this Insta-driven world, a display like I saw last weekend can do the heart a lot of good. While there are a lot of great young Noosa longboarders – and the Lethbridges, Bowreys, Brewers, Gowers, Grohs and Cairns all performed admirably – the internationals won the day, with some elegant surfing beyond their years.
Of course, we’ve seen the powerful young waterman Kaniela Stewart coming for a couple of years now, but in his final junior year, the Hawaiian has really stepped up in size, power and style. Watch out world. Likewise, California’s Avalon Gall has shown promise for a couple of years and now seems to have truly blossomed.
In the under 15 grom ranks, Waikiki super slider Kelis Kalepaa was just sensational in the girls, while Californian prodigy Tommy Coleman, who didn’t even know the rules last year, showed that he’s all over the game now.
Good one, groms. Loved your style.