After leaving the Alley Fish Fry, I hit the aptly named Sunshine Highway and was finally on my way to the destination I’ve craved since landing in Australia – Noosa Heads, for the Noosa Festival of Surfing.
My love for Noosa – despite never having actually been there before – is founded on photos and tales of epic point breaks, perfect for longboarding and with the backdrop of the national park and a quaint little town.
Plus I was going to catch up with shaper and Drift’s wooden wander Tom Wegener, who resides here and has been kind enough to offer me a place to crash!
I’d checked the internet last night and there were already images coming through of 3-foot, perfectly peeling, hollow swell and it was expected to last most of the week. I won’t lie – I just wanted to get there asap!
After arriving mid-afternoon (a day earlier than planned, due to the weather) I headed to First Point (after the now routine fight for a parking space!) to catch up with Tom and shoot his finless exhibition on the beach. Strolling along the white sands and mid-way through drooling over the peeling rights that were being carved apart by the surf competitors, I bumped into Tom’s apprentice Matt – I’d last seen him in sunny Cornwall, so he was rather puzzled to find me turning up, like the proverbial bad penny, in his hometown!
Tom soom rustled up his trusty crew of alaia riders for a team shot before they all hit the water for a demo heat, including a 14-foot traditional log!
Shooting from the rocks and watching the sets has made me fall in love with Noosa all over again. It’s everything I expected, and then some.
The now-familiar stoke that Tom showed during his shaping sessions back at Newquay cam over the tannoy during the finless demo. He has so much passion; it’s no wonder he’s managed to (excuse the pun) carve his way into the shaping scene.
Some people shape for money.
Some people shape for fun.
Tom obviously shapes because he loves it.
The various shapes, styles and types of finless board in the water took full advantage of the perfect conditions, sliding and spinning across perfect Noosa faces with Tom’s stoke rippling through the crowd.
After the heat came the festival’s opening ceremony, something I was keen to witness. First off was some traditional didging by a local ripper, then came the mixing of water.
A bowl was produced and in front of the crowd people poured in water from their local breaks. By the end of the ceremony the bowl contained water from all corners of Oz, as well as further afield – Jersey, Japan, Brazil, Canada, the US and Chile.
This was truly an international event. I only wish I’d brought some of North Devon’s finest brine to add to the pot!
Next was the paddle out, and everyone who had access to a board headed for the water and got into the line-up. This was followed by the traditional Hawaiian joining of hands and Ocean Prayer. I opted to photograph it rather than participate, and it looked perfect in the setting evening sun.
As the surfers splashed water over their heads the festival was officially on.
…Roll on the next few days 🙂