Single fins make a comeback

The laid-back days of the 1970s will be back in the new year when Burleigh Boardriders host the 17th annual Burleigh Single Fin Festival. Taking place 10 – 12 January, the event kicks off with a charity luncheon on Friday evening, with the weekend seeing the action turning to Burleigh Point for the Single Fin Classic.  Terry “Tappa” Teece gives us the low-down and talks to some of the event’s stalwarts.

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The Single Fin Classic is a unique surfing contest, where all surfers compete on single fin surfboards made before 1985. This means every board that is surfed in the event is an antique and a unique part of surfing history. It is like a surfing museum over the contest weekend, all the boards there for one and all to see, and thousands gather on Burleigh Point to watch the event.

The 2014 event is a special one for many of those that surf Burleigh Point, held in memory of “AB”, Allan Byrne, who passed away after an accident in August. Allan was a true craftsman and innovator of surfboard design, and the first ever Kiwi to be accepted by the Burleigh Boys in the mid 1970’s. Allan’s channel bottom single fins are a prized craft, and they are “the” board to surf on in this event.

The event has a special spirit to it as well. Six man heats, and a really mellow attitude from all the competitors in the water, where hassling is at a minimum, and cheering on your fellow competitor as they surf the wave is mandatory. 2013 winner, Dave Rastovich, embodies the spirit of the single fin. Cool, relaxed, and surfing with that bit of style and class. Dave grew up surfing at Burleigh Point, before embarking on his journey of being a soul surfer, and championing environmental causes.

Last year Rasta won a handcrafted single fin made by local legend Dirk Van Straalen and to say he was happy with the win would be an understatement. This year first prize will be a handshaped Alan Byrne replica single fin.

Whether you are competing or watching from the headland, it is the vibe that is the single fin, which Rasta says draws him to the event;

“It’s such a wonderful thing to be able to come down and pull out these old relics and have a lot of fun on the Point,” he said

There also is an under 18 division, and the young grommets really impressed Rastovich.

“I grew up in the area and moved away about ten or twelve years ago and I really miss the headland and the community. To come back and see the amount of grommets here – that semi final and final display from the groms were amazing. It’s so great and it’s important to have events like this and to keep inspiring them to do what they’re doing,”

This year Rastovich will be back to compete, and even though good mate and music legend Ash Grunwald will not be performing at the contest like last year, he will be competing, and is keen to get into the spirit of the event again. The whole thing is about surfing for surfing’s sake, remembering lost friends, and for the Burleigh Boardriders it is their major fundraiser for the year.

The Single Fin Classic is the first event of the surfing calendar for 2014, and Burleigh Point will once again be crowded with people from the Gold Coast and beyond to check out classic surfing on classic surfboards.

The level of surfing at the event is incredible, Joel Parkinson, Mick Fanning, Occy, Luke Egan, are just some of the big name surfers to have competed in the event in the past. Occy, Rasta, and Luke Egan look set to compete again in 2014, along with World Professional Junior Champion Jack Freestone. All will be competing against a field of local Burleigh rippers, plus red hot surfers from the Gold Coast and beyond. It is a prestigious title to win; it is all about the glory, the title and the fun.

With money raised from the event, Burleigh Boardriders support local charities, and invest in their Burleigh Boardriders Junior Development program. Three times single fin Champion and Burleigh Boardriders head coach, Kyle “Dvex” Robinson sums up Burleigh Boardriders Junior Development plan quite well.

“We have a squad of juniors who train once a week, and we are hoping one day that they can follow the lead of surfers like Jay “Bottle” Thompson, and qualify for the World Championship Tour, and maybe even have a world champion in the club one day. Overall though, we are developing the kids to be better surfers, with improving results at State and National level for the last few years.”

Grommets as young as ten years old compete in the single fin, and seeing them surf on a board that is three times as old, and three times as big as them is a great sight – one of the most entertaining parts of the Single Fin Classic according to most spectators.

The Single Fin Festival Classic takes place 11 – 12 January at Burleigh Point or Jellurgal as the ancients from the Koomberri Tribe named it from their dreaming stories. Tickets for the charity luncheon on Friday 10 January are limited, cost $100 and can be purchased from Burleigh Bears Leagues Club.

The annual charity luncheon will be hosted by funny-man and former jockey Allan “Robbo” Robinson, Rash Ryder is the comedian, and the main guest speaker will be the man who single-handedly (sorry about the pun) was responsible for the demise of the single fin; yes the man credited with the invention of the “Thruster”, Simon Anderson.

Once you have checked out the Single Fin Festival once, like many others you will be back every year.

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