The Northern Star/David Neilsen

Wipe-out for Rip Curl at Lennox Head

SURF brand giant Rip Curl has postponed plans to host a one-off professional surfing event off Lennox Head next year.

But business owner Gene Torchia says the delay will only help the controversial event gain more local support.

It was not known yesterday why Rip Curl had delayed its plans, but Ballina Shire Council General Manager Paul Hickey confirmed Rip Curl had instead earmarked the region for a 2010 or 2011 event.

Mr Torchia, who owns a takeaway food shop and is a surfer, said such an event would give local tourism operators a much-needed boost after last summer's downturn in business, due to factors such as bad weather.

"There is no question it will bring economic benefits, and the kids will love it," he said.

"It's likely there will be more people in support of it in the future, as the demographic changes with new people moving to Lennox Head.

"My motivation has always been that it would be crazy to ban events like this altogether when they could be of benefit to the community."

A formal application for a 2009 event was never lodged. However, Rip Curl's International Marketing and Advertising Chairman, Neil Ridgeway, originally indicated the company would target 2009.

The announcement of the brand's plans to host its Association of Surfing Professionals 'Pro Search' tour event at Lennox had a mixed reaction, with some surfers and environmentalists voicing strong opposition.

Correspondence to the council reads: "Rip Curl will endeavour to gain approval from Ballina Shire Council to host the event in the region in 2010 or 2011."

"They were advised they had to put in a DA (development application) for one part of the event and an application in accordance with our special events policy," Mr Hickey said. "From our perspective, I would encourage them to put in an application as early as possible to allow us to thoroughly assess any proposal and provide time for appropriate community consultation."

A Rip Curl spokesperson yesterday was unable to say why the plans were postponed, but said Rip Curl was also looking at a number of other venues.

Meanwhile Ed Standfield, of North East Surfers' Alliance, said the group was happy to hear the event would not be going ahead next year.

"But this is not the last we will hear of it," Mr Standfield said. "So we're going to keep making sure it doesn't happen and, if anything, step it up a bit...The issue is using a public area for private use."

A survey on the Lennox-Ballina (Le-Ba) Boardriders' website yesterday showed 54 per cent of respondents were in favour of holding the event at Lennox Point, 44 against and one per cent undecided.

The Le-Ba Boardriders could not be contacted yesterday.

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