PHILLIP Island looks set to host two major surfing events in 2016/17, with the local surfing industry and economy set to reap the benefits.
First off the block is the Australian Junior Surfing Titles – an eight-day ‘festival of surfing’ which will take place from November 28 next year.
Run by Surfing Australia, it’s regarded as the pinnacle event for the country’s best junior surfers aged 13 to 19.
Last week, Bass Coast Shire councillors agreed to throw $20,000 in sponsorship cash at the event, ensuring Phillip Island is locked in as the championships’ next location.
Surf devotee Cr Phil Wright said he was thrilled council officers worked so fast to put together a sponsorship proposal.
“It’s a great event and so many local kids will be able to watch some of the best young surfers in Australia compete,” he said.
“December is usually a quiet time on the Island, so there are many positives to it.”
He added that there had been “a few” locals who may be upset their favourite beaches will be taken over for a week.
“Those people will have to walk a little further down the beach for a month,” he said.
With around 200 young surfers expected to compete – plus hundreds of visiting spectators – it’s anticipated that around $300,000 will be injected into the local economy when the event takes place.
As if the Junior Titles announcement wasn’t big enough, the council went a step further and agreed to support plans to introduce yet another professional event – the Bass Coast World Surf series.
Managed by the World Surf League (WSL), this qualifying competition would feature both national and international adult and junior surfers.
Councillors agreed that Bass Coast should be the main sponsor of this event, which came with a commitment to spend $200,000 over five years.
Whilst that is a big chunk of ratepayers’ change, the event has the potential to inject $500,000 per annum back into the local economy.
Cr Brad Drew said it was a fantastic opportunity to “put Phillip Island on the world stage”.
Cr Wright said that while council officers continue to work on developing a project proposal for a WSL event, there will be an emphasis on creating greater equality when it comes to prize money.
“Normally in these events, women receive half the amount of prize money men receive,” he explained.
“In our preliminary discussions we are saying ‘no’ – let’s stand up and give women the same amount of prize money.”
Both the Australian Junior Surfing Titles and yet-to-be-formalised Bass Coast World Surf League series are expected to be rotated around the island’s four National Surfing Reserve locations: Cape Woolamai, Smiths Beach/Express Point, Summerlands and Cat Bay.