August 28, 2023

Wave of local support

From personal wellbeing to quality family time, Kate Sullivan has been soaking up the benefits of longboarding for more than 30 years. Next week, the Aireys Inlet surfer’s beloved sport will be on a global stage from one of the Surf Coast’s most iconic spots — Bells Beach.

The World Surf League Bells Beach Longboard Classic from 30 August to 2 September is a welcome addition to the Surf Coast Events calendar.

“This is the best thing to happen for longboarding in Victoria and Australia,” said Kate, the over 60 women’s longboard state titleholder.

“The competition provides a fantastic opportunity to showcase the talent we have in Victoria, along with our amazing coastline and Bells as a world-class break. The Bells events in the 1960s were longboarding, so it’s great to see a return to what it once was.”

The Surfing Victoria board member and Surf Coast Shire Council employee is excited to watch the classic with her daughter, Sam.

“There is nothing better than sharing our surfing passion. I admire her enormously and wish I could surf as well as her. We’ve been surfing together for at least 25 years, starting when she was four on her boogie board,” Kate said.

“Now we have family surf trips. I love watching Sam’s partner John take my grandson Kalau out on his back for a surf. I treasure these moments and can’t wait until we have three generations in the water, surfing together.”

Kate has seen the rise of women in longboarding, particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It was one of the only sports that people could do, so the local surf industry experienced a boom with everyone wanting boards and wetsuits,” she said. “Many people took to longboards, as they’re easier to surf.

“The number of women longboarding has significantly increased. Longboarding is graceful and matches the style of surfing that women want to do. It’s quite common these days at longboard breaks along our coast to have a majority of female surfers in the line-up. It’s awesome to see this shift.”

Surfing Victoria is playing its part, thanks to Surf Her Way — an initiative making surfing more accessible and inclusive.

“Traditionally surfing is a male-dominated sport and through Surfing Victoria we have been actively trying to encourage more women to get into it, through Surf Her Way,” Kate said. “We’re starting to see the benefits of this, as well as increased general interest — whether it be mums giving it a crack after school drop-off, or a group of friends deciding to try something new.

“Longboards are especially great to watch when someone knows how to surf them well. It’s exactly what will spectators will witness at the Bells Longboard Classic.”

More Bells Beach Longboard Classic event info here.

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