Pro surfing tour bid for Lennox Head
By ADAM HICKS
SURF giant Rip Curl wants to bring the world's best surfers to compete at Lennox Head in a one-off Professional World Tour event.
The brand's international advertising and marketing chairman, Neil Ridgway, this week confirmed he had approached Ballina Shire Council about hosting superstars Mick Fanning, Kelly Slater and the world's top 45 surfers off Lennox Point in the Rip Curl Pro Search.
The council's general manager, Paul Hickey, confirmed he had met with Ridgway last Friday, but declined to reveal any details or comment on the matter until he had received a written proposal.
Ridgway said he could not reveal a time for the event, sources suggest the target is next year.
"We are still in the initial consultation, and it is quite a detailed process because we want to lay the right foundations and make all of the groups happy," he said.
"We need to consider environmental groups and convince them that an event of this size will not be detrimental to the area, and in fact we'll improve things when we're gone."
The Rip Curl Pro Search is the only event on the ASP World Tour that changes location each year.
It has previously been held off Reunion Island off the coast of Madagascar, in Mexico, and Chile.
A surf contest of this size would attract thousands of visitors and pump millions of dollars into the local economy during the12-day contest.
And Lennox Head underwater cinematographer Stephen Shearer said that was why residents should protest against the plans he believes will exploit the local environment.
"For two weeks there will be massive infrastructure set up at Lennox Point, including large, semi-permanent buildings, sponsor buoys in the water, food vendors etc," he said.
"For two weeks, if the contest is approved, Rip Curl can control who enters and surfs the point, excluding recreational surfers by such means as cops on jet skis patrolling the water.
"For two weeks, hordes of people will trample all over the point, littering and eroding the tracks. Traffic will be a nightmare.
"There's a very good reason Lennox Point has never hosted a professional surf contest: People come here to surf away from the hostility, aggro, and crowded vibe which professional competition engenders."
Shearer also said he doubted that it would be a one-off event.
"There has been strong community worry it would open the door for Lennox to become a professional surf venue," he said. "The surf at Lennox Point belongs to all and should not be allowed to become the exclusive domain of the elite few." But Ridgway said he had no desire to milk the local environment or change the surfing climate for the benefit of Rip Curl's business.
"We want to work with local surfers, environmental groups and shire to put on a world-class surfing event that everyone can enjoy," he said.
"I grew up in Maclean. I know the area well. I know the surfers well, and we're always looking for world-class waves with the right type of people who would be open to a world-class event."
Ridgway said Rip Curl was still working on a proposal for Ballina Council and would submit it as soon as possible.
"We're really excited about the potential. We just want it to be a really positive thing for the region."