Tweed longboard surf event wiped out
AN international surfing event on the Tweed Coast is facing a major wipeout and it has nothing to do with the coronavirus.
The Australian Longboard Surfing Open, held at Kingscliff, is facing a financial crisis with an application for funding from Destination NSW being ineligible.
Event director Sean McKeown said the championship, which was recognised by the World Surfing League, had been held annually at Kingscliff since 2008 but last year due to a changeover with key staff at the NSW Government body, funding prevented the event from going ahead.
"Last year, I accepted that Destination NSW changed hands and new people meant that the applications were delayed and we couldn't go ahead, but this year I filled out my form properly and what I thought was in the appropriate time frame," McKeown said.
"However, I was told that I wouldn't be eligible for funding because the Tweed wasn't in a bushfire zone which was where their funding priorities were.
"I know they need to help those areas but as a tourism body, I can't understand why Destination NSW don't see that we also need help here on the Tweed, which has also been hit indirectly by the fires and then the rain - and now coronavirus.
"I have been successful in the past, securing funding through event development but that run out in 2018.
"There was no mention from the NSW Government about changes in funding, particularly for the regions so now I don't know where to turn.
"It costs about $80,000 to run the five-day festival but the benefits it brings to Kingscliff and the Tweed are much greater than that."
McKeown said the event attracted surfers from around the country and internationally and many spectators from the regional drive market who came to see what was happening.
"We have done surveys from competitors and spectators and the real value of something like this is that a large percentage have said they want to return to Kingscliff and the Tweed at another time of the year," he said.
"We are providing an event which has international exposure and raising the profile of the area and attracting visitors who intended to return.
"We need to rally support for this event, especially this year because we have commitments from (broadcaster) Kayo, who have told us they want to livestream the surfing, and also from Fox who would like to make a one-hour special on the Open.
"Exposure like that is worth far more than $80,000."
Event announcer Jason Weeks, from Perth, who has been involved with the Australian Longboard Surfing Open for nine years, said the event was instrumental in keeping longboard surfing alive.
"There aren't a lot of longboard comps in Australia, especially which have so many categories open to surfers of all standards and Kingscliff is the perfect place to hold it," he said.
"An event like this is very family friendly and we see generations of surfers taking part - fathers and sons and even a few grandads - it would be a tragedy to see it go."
Cronulla longboarder Michael Cottier agreed that the Tweed contest offered young surfers the opportunity to taste competition, many for the first time.
"The popularity of longboarding is growing and not just among older surfers," he said.
"It brings people together in a relaxed environment and doesn't have the same intensity that shortboard contests have.
"Being part of the WSL, it also offers promising longboarders a chance to follow a path onto the world circuit."
McKeown said he was planning on pushing this year's event back to June to provide something for Kingscliff in what was normally a quieter tourist time of the year.
"We have support from the Tweed Shire Council but what I would really like to hear is from local businesses and corporates who can see the value of this going ahead and coming on board as sponsors," he said.
Sean McKeown can be contacted at email@example.com.