Malibu classic begins at Wategos

By PHILROXBURGH

THE 25th Annual Byron Bay Malibu Classic kicked off, or rather paddled out, at Wategos Beach yesterday, into fun half to 1 metre surf. The early morning downpour failed to dampen spirits and by mid-morning glorious sunshine and slight offshore winds fanned the waves.

Making a big surfari to this year's event, are contingents from both Hawaii and New Zealand, along with surfers from along the eastern seaboard making up the 200 competitors.

There were few upsets on day one, as the seeded surfers used their experience to find the longer waves breaking right across the bay. Ballina's Steve Mills and Yamba's Hayden Swan top-scored in the Over 35s, with Byron's Sput Keevers and Evans Head's Ross Cribb among the standouts in the Over 45s, while former Australian champions, Coolangatta's Robbye Deane and Ballina's Eric Walker are still masters of the Over 50s. Hawaii's Carlton Handley and Tweed's Jeff Arnold had a fine heat in the Over 55s.

With the blue ribbon Open 9 division set to hit the waves today and the possibility of a slight rise in swell as it switches to the east, the stage will be set for some inspiring longboarding from the seasoned professionals from the Australian Longboard Circuit.

Emerald Beach's Harley Ingleby, Sandy Beach surfer, Michael Bellamy, Coolum's Seb Wilson and Evans Head's Ruben Roxburgh, all in the ALC top 10 will lead the charge, with Hawaii's eighteen year old whiz kid Koa, Byron locals Robbie Ferguson, Michael Black and Lennox Head's Scott Channon providing a keen challenge.

Surfing begins each day at 7am, with the Open 9 heats from 9am. The Over 35s, 45s, 50s and 55s divisions all continue with round 2 today, while the Womens, Juniors, Big Boys and Nose Rider events are a feature of Friday. All finals will be Saturday morning.



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