Byron Bay Surf Festival 2018
Words by Stephanie Schechter Photos by Dave Thew
At the start of this year’s Byron Bay Surf Festival, it seemed as though Mother Nature was not exactly on our side, but by the final day of the event, the sun was shining and there were small yet rideable waves at Wategos. Surfers from all corners of the earth with all types of boards gathered for the Freestyle and Stoke sessions and the prestigious McTavish Trim. The morning kicked off with a bodysurfing heat, followed by a wooden board exhibition, and sessions featuring finless boards and foamies!
Next up was the log invitational, which featured some of the world’s best male and female traditional longboarders. Many of the participants in the logging heat also were personally invited by legendary shaper Bob McTavish to his annual Trim competition. The opening round heats of the Trim were mixed intermittently between the Freestyle & Stoke sessions, and also featured an all star co-ed lineup of shredders. For the Trim, surfers are required to ride a board over 12 feet. Instead of the usual method of judging maneuvers and wave selection, the surfers’ length of ride is the sole criteria for determining the winner of the event. Californian Alex Knost ended up taking out this years Mctavish Trim, with his longest ride recorded at 347 meters.
Some of the two highlight heats of the day were the Mermaids and the Ying / Yang sessions. Originally, the Mermaids heat had about 12 surfers signed up, but by the time the boards hit the water, there were at least 24 lady sliders in attendance! Filled with party waves and laughter, this session was a huge hit with the crowd. Although more and more women around the globe are taking up the previously male-dominated sport of surfing every year, Byron Bay has an especially strong female presence in the water, and it is incredibly meaningful for the Byron Bay Surf Festival to acknowledge this revolution. Directly after the Mermaids danced through the water, another very special heat commenced: the Ying / Yang. This division consisted of several teams of two, and the partners were to only catch waves together (as opposed to riding waves solo). There were board swaps, crossovers, and tandem rides, with some pretty innovative moves by the teams!
Of course, the Byron Bay Surf Festival would not be complete without the Party Wave. It became clear that this was no ordinary ver 30 surfers lined up and raced to a specific spot in the lineup. No one was to catch a wave until everyone had arrived to this point, and then, the participants had to catch a wave to the beach. The first surfer to hit the beach and run past the finish line not only won pride and street cred, but also a nice little tip of $2000. This year, local legend Bryce Young was the champion, just narrowly stopping Alex Knost from taking two titles that day. This wrapped up the on-the-beach festivities, so the attendees headed over to the Beach Hotel for a beer, a boogie, and a performance by The Beautiful Girls.
Overall, from the art shows, the discussion panels, and the films to the actual surfing portions of the weekend, there is an emphasis on the fact that surfing is just plain old fun. The festival is a genuine embodiment of Byron Bay’s beautiful and rich surfing culture, and each year, the BBSF gets better and better!