Open season at Byron Bay Malibu Classic
A STRONG field will contest the open nine foot division at the annual Byron Bay Malibu Classic this week.
Gold Coast surfer Joel Tilley is at the top of the pile along with Jack Entwistle and Dane Pioli.
Lennox Head surfer Scott Channon will look to recapture the form that saw him win it in 2014 while last year's winner Heath Norrish has not entered.
"I haven't heard from Heath at this stage but we might be able to squeeze him if he decides to come," event organiser Ron Hughes said.
"We have a few places left in most divisions but we're at the pointy end of organising it now.
"The finals in each division will be hotly contested, especially in the open men's."
The three-day competition starts Friday with 150 surfers expected to hit the water at Wategos Beach.
The event is now in its 36th year and is believed to be the longest running single-fin longboard competition in Australia.
"That's what we promote it as and no one has come forward to dispute it," Hughes said.
"We've got people that surfed here in their teens who have moved back to the area and are now competing in the over-40 divisions.
"It's great to see some of our life members who are still involved after all these years."
Byron Bay surfer Paula Mantalbeti is 70 and still competing while the youngest entrant this year is 10 years old.
However, numbers in the open women's and other female divisions are down this year.
"A lot of women surf longboards in Byron Bay but we just can't seem to get them in the competition," Hughes said.
"I think it's something we'll have to look at and try to the build the numbers up for next year.
"We still get a group of five from New Zealand who come over ever year.
"There are some nice banks at the moment and with a bit of swell we should be able to have a really good weekend."
The event raises money for local charities and is run by the Byron Bay Malibu Club.
The presentation will be held at the Byron Bay Bowling Club at 3pm on Sunday.