THE Australian Longboard Surfing Open is set to thrive in the spotlight after securing a new event schedule for 2018.
Approval to run the Kingscliff-based event from February 28 to March 4 next year will see the Open avoid schedule clashes with the World Surf League's Snapper Rocks' based Quiksilver Pro, which hampered this year's event.
Open organiser Sean McKeown said the clear schedule would allow more exposure for the WSL Longboard Qualifying Series event.
"By running two world class events so close to each other at the same time, we found that we did lose some visitors,” McKeown said.
"With the Quiksilver Pro running from the middle to the end of March again, we didn't want it (Longboard Open) then. We were also conscious of the Commonwealth Games in April, so by getting these dates, we should be able to get a lot more focus on our event.”
A celebration of surfing, the event attracts the best male and female longboarders from across the globe.
Although entries are not yet open, a number of world-class competitors, including defending champion Natsumi Taoka, former world champion Rachael Tilley and France's Edouard Delpero have signalled their intention to return in 2018.
"Competitors have contacted us to say they'll be here, and we've contacted others we hope will be back,” McKeown said.
"Still five months out, it's huge that it's on their minds and they've already committed.”
The LQS pro-division will also benefit from the new schedule, after a clash with another WSL event in Papua New Guinea in 2017 limited it to one day of competition.
"It'll now run over five days, so hopefully the professionals will be around for longer periods,” McKeown said.
The Open also attracts Australia's best amateur longboarders in masters, loggers, juniors, 8ft and retro divisions, and Juraki Surf Culture will bring an indigenous component to next year's event with a traditional welcome, surfing, history and cultural activities bolstering the expanded program.
"I reached out to them (Juraki) to see if they wanted to be involved and they jumped at it,” McKeown said.
"They've got a dance troup for the opening, there'll be cultural events, and they'll be able to promote what they do.
"We just want to engage with the community and as we grow stronger, it can grow into something that's vital for the community.”
New activities have been added including the Kingscliff Lantern Markets where visitors can feast in the international food precinct, shop and enjoy live entertainment.
Organisers are searching for naming rights and general sponsors, and volunteers for the event. For entries and information, visit Australian Longboard Open online.