From Sunday 25 May to Friday 30 May, the iconic Bells Beach in Victoria will again see dozens of Aboriginal surfers flock to its waters to compete in the Australian Indigenous Surfing Titles (AIST).
The event, which is run in collaboration with Surfing Victoria and Surfing Australia with support from the local Wathaurong Aboriginal Co-operative, aims to showcase the iconic location of Bells Beach and ensure that AIST becomes an annual event on the Surfing Victoria calendar.
Riding in the wake of last year’s success, the event will house more than 50 surfers in three divisions, who have travelled from all over the country to compete. Indigenous Aquatics Officer at Surfing Victoria, Anthony Hume explains that the event is a way to get the mob together.
“It’s our way of expressing ourselves and our way of doing our major community gathering; it’s our modern way of song and dance – getting together and expressing that to all the other mobs around… they think the same, which is good,” Anthony told radio show Deadly Sounds®.
“There’s a lot of passion involved, and when it’s over you can’t wait for next year.”
The titles have so far attracted much praise and enthusiasm from the surfers and local community members alike, after being re-born in 2012 after a 16-year hiatus.
The 2013 Australian Indigenous Surfing Titles
“This is our third year after the long hiatus we had with the event that used to be held at Fingal Beach. As the young one, I used to go to them and I really missed them so it’s really exciting to be a major part of it and be a competitor as well,” he says.
Indigenous Aquatics Manager, Steve Parker admits that he was “hassling” his CEO to get the event up and running again, and it’s a good thing he did because the community were keen to become involved.
“At our opening ceremony last year 100–200 people turned up – Indigenous and non-Indigenous, which was great. We had a lot of local people come down and watch the ceremony,” Steve told Deadly Sounds®.
“Especially with the Rip Curl Pro as well, we have the Indigenous content within that and a lot of the fans dig the ceremony we do at the end.
“I think it’s highlighting the real Australian culture and we’re showcasing it to the world at some of these events. I think it’s a good thing.”
Steve, who is also an artist, has been surfing since he was 13 years old and says that it’s events just like this that get kids interested in the sport.
“We’re seeing a lot more young kids. There’s a lot more opportunity than there was back then I suppose,” he says.
“There are more kids trying the sport of surfing and it’s a lot more accessible than it used to be.”
The official Opening Ceremony will take place Sunday 25 May at Bells Beach, followed by a function at the Surf World Museum to welcome competitors to the region. For more information, check out ‘Events’ at Surfing Victoria.
• The biggest wave ever surfed was 30m (100ft) by Garret McNamara in Nazaré, Portugal, in 2013, although he may be in for some competition when the Billabong XXL Committee announce the winner of the Biggest Wave Award this month.
• The longest time spent surfing a wave in open water was 3hrs 55mins by Gary Saavedra (Panama) surfing the Panama Canal in Panama City.
• The largest surfboard, made by Nev Hyman, was 12m long, 3m wide and 30cm thick. It was launched at Snapper Rocks, Qld, on 5 March 2005.
• The record for the most surfers riding a single surfboard is 47 people. They simultaneously rode the world’s largest surfboard made by Nev Hyman.
• The record for the most surfers riding the same wave is 110 people, at Muizenberg Beach, Cape Town, South Africa, on 4 October 2009.