It?s Easter, and the surf?s up at Byron Bay

By JANN BURMESTER SOME of Australia's best amateur surfers will converge on Byron Bay tomorrow for one of Australia's most popular and longest running amateur surfing contests, the Ben King Memorial Contest.

Now in its 32nd year, the contest, formerly known as the Ocean and Earth Easter Surf Classic, was changed last year in honour of the late president of the Byron Bay Boardriders Club, Ben King (BK), who died suddenly in March 2006.

King had dedicated years to the club, and his wife Jen is now vice-president.

Ben and Jeni's children, Kurtis, Maddison and Paris, are all club members, and Kurtis and Maddison will compete in the contest this year.

More than 200 competitors in nine divisions will compete for $15,000 in cash and prizes as well as a surf trip to some of Indonesia's most famous surf breaks, donated by Pugsley's Boat Charters of Uluwatu, Bali.

The nine divisions are fleas, cadets, juniors, opens, senior mens, masters, junior girls, open women and a special invitational masters (friends of Ben King division).

Major sponsors for 2007 are Ocean and Earth, Smith Sunglasses and Skullcandy headphones, the Hotel Great Northern, KKL Shaping Machines, Reef, Rip Curl, Starlet Girls Gear, Canon and The Byron Kodak shop, Quiksilver and the Byron Bay Services Club.

Surfboards from Town and Country, Maddog, Nirvana, Ed Sinnott shapes, Gunther Rohn and Stealth boards will be up for grabs.

Club spokeswoman Sally Miller said the most hotly contested division was the opens where competitors had a chance to win $1000 cash with $500 for second place.

Surfers to watch out for are former WCT surfer Kieren Perrow from Suffolk Park who has taken out first place in the Easter Classic twice before,' she said.

Kieren is a formidable competitor on the World Qualifying Tour and will be keen to take home the cash and trophy.

Others to keep a close watch on are last year's winner Yerrin Brown as well as Jarrad Sullivan, Mark Richardson, Shane Wehner, Rama McCabe and Byron Bay Boardriders open champion Luke Stickley.

Ellis Ericsson is also another surfer to watch for and he will also surf in the opens.'

Juniors will compete for $500 cash donated by Ocean and Earth and a surfboard from Maddog.

Miller said this would be a 'who's who' of Australian junior surfing with the likes of Garrett Parkes.

Other frothing juniors are locals Kurt King, Torren Martyn, Nic Colbey, Brad King and Tom Salverson from the South Coast,' she said.

The contest will open with a heat draw at the Byron Bay Services Club tonight at 7 o'clock.

Surfers will meet at The Wreck carpark at 7am every day and will then be directed to where the contest is being held.

The contest runs until Sunday and the presentation will be at the Byron Bay Services Club from 6pm.

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