The Coodjinburra Dancers celebrate culture at Fingal Beach last year.
The Coodjinburra Dancers celebrate culture at Fingal Beach last year. Contributed

'Modern corroboree' at sea

THE third annual Juraki Surf Invitational kicks off in Fingal Head this week, with some of the top indigenous surfers set to test the waters.

Event organiser Joel Slabb, from the respected Fingal indigenous surf family, said the event was named in honour of Juraki, the son of one of the original kings of Fingal, Gumoi, who instructed Juraki to watch over swimmers in trouble from Greenmount Hill.

DEADLY: Last year's open men's champ Joe Haddon will be back this weekend to defend his Juraki Surf Invitational title.
DEADLY: Last year's open men's champ Joe Haddon will be back this weekend to defend his Juraki Surf Invitational title. Contributed

He was awarded a bravery medal for his lifesaving feats in 1910.

Joel's family have always lived next to the beach, listening to the roar of the waves. Their dad Kevin organised the first Billabong indigenous event at Fingal back in 1996.

"I always enjoyed the Billabong indigenous surf events that were run back in the 90s as well other indigenous surf events that run in other communities,” Joel said.

"It's always been great to see the mob come together for something good.”

The three-day Juraki Surf Culture kicks off this Friday and runs through to Sunday's finals, and includes markets, food, art and dancing.

After a break from a successful competition career, Joel was motivated to organise a new event by watching the next generation, including his four kids, follow in his dad's footsteps.

"I wanted to do something and give them the same experiences I had from taking part in these events,” he said.

"So I got a team together with my wife Mary and it went from there.”

According to Joel, the Juraki event is more of a cultural gathering.

"It's like a modern day corroboree,” he said.

"Tribes from all over, coming together to share surf and culture.

"This happened many years ago, in the Bunya Mountains and other parts of Australia, we simply added surfing to it.”

The 2018 Air Asia Juraki Surf Culture is seen as giving back to the community and encouraging a sense of belonging and family connection.

"With some of the highest suicide rates and drug and alcohol issues within our communities, we see a need to come together more and more and support each other,” Joel said.

"In doing this, the next generation can see something different and have hopes and dreams. This also gives the platform for young indigenous surfers that may want to pursue a career in the surfing industry.”

This year's Juraki is shaping up to be one of the biggest events so far.

"We have added a groms under-12s mixed division which filled up in two days and there's a teams challenge between Australia and New Zealand,” Joel said.

This year's event has attracted National Indigenous Champions Russ Molony and Joey Haddon and legendary champs like Ty Arnold and Ken Dann are making a comeback.

Some of the new young champions like 14-year-old Taj Simon and 16-year-old Rhonin Henry-Micale will give the champs a run for their money.

- The Juraki Surf Invitational 2018 runs from August 10-12 with registration from 7am Friday followed by mixing of the waters at 8.30am.



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