By Phil Jarratt
Surf coach and world longboard tour competitor Kirra Molnar might look relaxed but she’s the busiest girl on the beach.
The Noosa resident and University of Sunshine Coast graduate had planned to be travelling the world on the World Surf League Pro Longboard Tour this year, but Covid-19 put paid to that, and she finds herself juggling commitments as a high performance surf coach, a fitness trainer at Pro Movement Studios, helping out in the surf shop for her sponsors, Classic Malibu, appearing and hosting on the popular Oz Longboarding podcast, and working on the stewardship committee of the Noosa World Surfing Reserve.
“Yeah, it’s busy,” says the 27-year-old, “but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Almost everything I do is centred on surfing, so how good is that!”
Like a lot of talented surfers who grow up in Noosa, Kirra was conflicted about whether to follow the longboard or shortboard path. Her dad, former Noosa hotelier Steve Molnar, got her out on a foamie from the age of six, and she soon graduated into shortboards. The deal was nearly sealed when the family moved to Fiji when she was 13 while Steve worked at the Sheraton Denerau. With easy access to some of the world’s best reef waves surrounding Namotu and Tavarua Islands, her surfing ability progressed quickly, surfing the legendary Cloudbreak at more than twice her height before she’d turned 14.
But on their return to Noosa, Kirra found she didn’t really enjoy competing on a shortboard, while she loved the family feeling of the longboard community. She says: “It started out with just dragging the longboard out to compete with all my schoolmates in the Noosa Festival of Surfing, and kind of developed from there. But it’s only been in the past four years or so that longboarding took over.”
After graduating from St Andrews, Kirra took a double degree in sports and exercise science and business management at USC, spending part of her last semester doing work experience with Tropicsurf surf travel company, where she got to know surf legend Dean Brady and former Brisbane Lion Jarryd Bates, who were just setting up the Pro Movement training studio. On graduation she began splitting her time between fitness coaching at pro Movement and surf coaching for Merrick Davis at Noosa Learn To Surf.
“I guess I was always on track from there to set up my own coaching business,” she says, “but then I had a chance to become a pro surfer and I grabbed it.”
After getting a sponsorship from Classic Malibu and some real performance longboards under her feet, and encouraged by longboarding mum Kim, she competed on the WSL qualifying series in 2018, winning the women’s logger event at the Whalebone Classic at Cottesloe, WA, and qualified for the expanded four-stop 2019 tour.
Kirra is the first to admit it was never going to be easy. “I did Noosa, followed by Spain and then New York. I missed out by one spot on the finals in Taiwan but I got super lucky and got a wildcard. In Noosa I came equal 17th, then in Spain I won my round one heat and then got put in a heat with world champions Kelia Moniz and Honolua Blomfield and got knocked out. In New York I got knocked out in the first round and in Taiwan in the second. I finished my first year on tour in 25th , so I suppose you could say it was character-building. But I gave to my best shot, and I loved it.”
She also dismisses the idea that the women’s tour is somewhat bitchy. “You might see a bit of that in Noosa, when you have six girls in a heat trying to surf the point, but on the tour it’s never more than three in a heat, we’re all hanging out together and it’s like family.”
Kirra surfed the season-opener for this year in Noosa in February, and was all set to go around again when Covid hit. Would she consider 2021? “Oh, I’d love to give it another crack, but I’d also like to do a master’s degree in high performance sport. And I’m really enjoying my coaching.”
Kirra set up her own coaching business this year with a permit to operate between Sunshine Beach and Peregian, where she conducts school classes for St Andrews and elite small squad coaching for some of the region’s hottest young surfing prospects, like young Lucy Bowen. “Lucy is possibly the best prospect I have,” she says. “But like me, she just has to decide between longboards and shortboards.”
Kirra’s working day begins and ends at the beach, but she still relishes the chance to take a holiday and … surf! “I love to go somewhere like Mexico with my partner and just chase surf. That’s my happy place. Whatever happens, I’ll be a beach bum for the rest of my life.”