Waves wrapped steadily into First Point at dawn this morning, promises of a swell rising through the week on the lips of competitors and festival organisers alike.
As the free Grill’d Noosa Beach Yoga class saluted the sun on Main Beach, the first heat of the 2018 festival took to the water for the Garage Handplanes Body Bash.
While waves presented a perfect canvas for longboarders, the bodysurfers’ fitness was tested, with the gentle waves providing little push. Little wonder that current world champion, Dave Ford blitzed the first heat, but perennial visitor, Jae Marr was hot on his heals.
With the legendary Mark Cunningham commentating on proceedings, onlookers were offered an expert insight into the art of bodysurfing. Russel Pollard, another festival regular, stood out in round three, though outshone by Adam Lees who took the win, one of the few competitors surfing without the added assistance of a handplane.
For the first time, the Noosa Festival proudly presented an all-ladies division of the Garage Handplanes Body Bash, Queenslander Renee Dawkings and Loz Williams all the way from WA taking heat wins and progressing into tomorrow’s final.
The afternoon brought a host of entertainment, from surfing world champions and legends, to tandem surfers, wooden toothpick surfboards and of course, the beloved dogs.
With the sun shining bright, the inaugural Warbrick Surfing Foundation paddled out, adding another half-decade to the breadth of the festival’s age categories. Doug ‘Claw’ Warbrick, co-founder of illustrious surf brand Rip Curl, paddled out to host the event, men over 75 years of age and women over 55 invited for a fun expression session.
In honour of the late, great Bill Wallace, to whom the afternoon’s paddle-out would be dedicated, wooden surfboard aficionado Tom Wegener headed out to the First Point line-up, with fellow Noosarian Peter Biden, on an original Wallace toothpick. The heavy, hollow, finless timber craft marked the birth of surfing in Australia, and it was remarkable to see Wegener pilot the heavy wooden board to shore.
The tandem exhibition was a display of balletic grace and exceptional surfing prowess, five teams performing stunning feats of gymnastics on the perfect waves reeling into the bay. With his wife absent, former world champion Fred Branger was joined by a new partner, Eglantine, hosted a collection of tandem friends in a display that resounded with the aloha and love for all things surf that the Noosa Festival epitomises each year.
And then came the greatest show on Noosa shores; the VetShop Australia Surfing Dog Championship – and what a show it was. Eagerly anticipated by locals and guests alike, crowds flocked to Main Beach to witness our beloved hydro hounds. With Chris de Aboitiz, the dog whisperer himself, leading the paddle-out, a fleet of surfing pups took to First Point. The enthusiasm for the dog surfing grows with each passing year, and hoots and hollers achoed around the point with hydro-hounds Rama, Hugsley, Pork Chops the British Bulldog and many more performing spectacularly. Switching his four-legged sidekick Rama for a new, more diminutive surfing buddy, de Aboitiz took his new friend, a little Jack Russel Terrier for a gravity-defying spin on a hydrofoil board.
While looking much like a regular stand-up paddleboard, the hydrofoil has a large wing-keel bolted to the underside, lifting the board and its passengers into the air as it gains speed. Truly stunning to watch and hugely appreciated by the hundreds and hundreds of spectators.
The traditional ho’okupu opening ceremony marked the official launch of the festival in the bright sunshine of the afternoon, with the traditional paddle-out dedicated to the late, great surfing pioneer and Noosa local, Bill Wallace, who sadly passed away earlier in the year. Bill’s influence on Australian surfing and the gravity of his inspiration to the sport will be remembered for many years, but this afternoon provided the opportunity to bid adieu to a true surfing legend and great friend.
The First Nation Gubbi Gubbi people joined us once more to welcome us all to country, offering inspiring words and traditional dance of the region’s indigenous people.
Ceremony over, the opening night party began, with festival presenting sponsor, Laguna Real Estate, hosting a very special VIP evening, and for the public, a bar on the beach, the best view in Noosa and superb live music from bands Gold Member and the Swamps.
A jam-packed day, to be sure, and only the very first of our ‘8 Days of Pure Stoke’.