Organisers defend surf festival over backlash
THERE is simmering discontent amongst surfers and residents in Cabarita over the repeated use of Cabarita Beach for the annual Australian Surf Festival.
Hardcore local surfers with deep roots in the area are known to be vexed with the situation, while residents have expressed disquiet after the Australian Longboard Titles lingered at Cabarita for almost seven days last week.
The Australian Surf Festival opened on August 10 and will finish up more than two weeks later on August 27, with most of the activity taking place at Cabarita.
But while some locals say the competition is an impost, others believe it puts Cabarita "on the map” and is a boon for local business.
In a Letter to the Editor in Wednesday's Tweed Daily News, one concerned resident questioned the event's handling, asserting "organisers set-up on Caba hill day-after-day and claim the beach for competitors, forcing those who have invested in the area and feel connected to it from the water.”
The letter suggested organisers "move the competition to various locations every few days to lessen the burden on any one group of people and/or town as a way to show some respect to the locals”, lest "locals resent (the festival) instead of celebrate it.”
However Australian Surf Festival contest director Glen Elliot says the competition "wants to work with the community” and is trying to tread as lightly as possible.
"We work very closely with the local community and particularly with local boardriders clubs and council,” Mr Elliot said.
"We certainly try our best not to wear out our welcome.”
Mr Elliot said the feedback the festival was receiving from the general community and surf community was "generally positive”.
"The economic impacts of this event are huge,” he said.
"The bottom-line is everyone really wins.
"We have competitors from around Australia come to this beautiful part of the country injecting thousands and thousands of dollars into the local community.”
Meanwhile, local surfer Josh White can see both sides of the argument.
"The competition certainly puts a dent in accessing the beach and having that freedom to come and go,” Mr White said.
"But it's only short-term. We welcome anybody and everybody. I think overall most of the locals wouldn't be 100 per cent for it. There would be differences of opinion between surfers and business operators.”
Mr White, however, did have some advice for organisers, saying there needs to be more consultation before hosting large-scale events.
"Communication is a start,” he said.
"Communicating with the community and getting a consensus about running these kinds of big tournaments here.”
Dane Prossor, a surfer from Banora Point, said he also finds the contest a bit of a nuisance - but certainly not an unmanageable one.
"On a personal level it's a little annoying,” Mr Prossor said.
"But I just go find somewhere else along the coast. You have to host these contests somewhere.
"I'm not against it. It puts the community on the map and is good for the economy.”
A West Australian surfer who competed in the Australian Longboard Titles, who did not wished to be named, said there were, lamentably, many non-competitors surfing during the event anyway.
"It's really very rare for a surfing comp to have free surfers, but you just have to roll with it,” the competitor said.
"They get in your way and affect your wave. You've travelled from across Australia and I think you should get a clear canvas.”