Thursday in the rain at the Gold Coast’s Superbank!
Youth leadership panel discussion at the Global Wave Conference 2020 at Southern Cross University's Gold Coast Campus. Pic: Peter Sturm
14 February 20
"It's not so much apathy on the part of older surfers, as they're living the dream without looking around and realising the dream is at risk here. They're so caught up in living the dream, while the younger generation say 'hang on - do we get to live the dream too?'.”
The conference, an international ocean conservation event that made its Australian debut this week at Southern Cross University's Gold Coast Campus, served as a rally call to the wider surfing community to step up and join the international fight to protect our oceans.
Surfboard shaper and Firewire founder turned sustainable housing trailblazer Nev Hyman said surfing and conservation were inextricably linked.
"We as surfers are advocates for the ocean and the environment," he told delegates.
Gold Coast World Surfing Reserve patron and former world champion surfer and tour official Wayne Rabbit Bartholomew said the 2020 conference was a rally call to surfers to be more proactive about ocean conservation.
Rabbit, who delivered the conference's closing address, said the research, data and findings presented at the conference would now be shared with a wider audience. "There's been an agreement at the conference to disseminate a lot of the research data and measured findings for people _ particularly for our youth, because young people are hooked into it.
"The kids have got their own thing going now. They are proactive and they care and they are not going away."
He said a new generation of surfers were showing up many of their older counterparts when it came to ocean conservation.
"It's not so much apathy (on the part of older surfers) as they're living the dream without looking around and realising the dream is at risk here," he said.
"They're so caught up in living the dream, while the younger generation say 'hang on - do we get to live the dream too?'.
"This is not the result of a campaign of fear. It's more an awareness that the last 50 years has been quite a ruthless time on the planet and they (young people) see it.
"I call it the second youth revolution." Rabbit said the conference had shown young, environmentally conscious surfers the range of career paths now open to them.
"That was a huge point for me. The presentations at the conference showed all these fields that are open to young surfers now and they weren't there 15 years ago," he said.
Conference chair Andrew McKinnon, a former world longboard champion and chairman of the Gold Coast World Surfing Reserve, said he was bowled over by the extent of the support the conference had received from the many international groups trying to make a difference.
"The threat to our oceans and surfing environment is a global problem that needs to be addressed," he said. "Organisations and individuals from all over the world are working to help find ways to fix the problems. I've been impressed by how both the academic field and conservation groups are working closely together."
While Thursday morning's planned symbolic paddle out at Greenmount as part of the conference was cancelled in the wake of wild conditions whipped up by Tropical Cyclone Uesi, up to 100 of the conference's almost 400 delegates have been surfing the Coast's famed breaks every day.
With 70km of beaches and four epic point breaks, the Gold Coast is not only home to some of the best surfing breaks in the world - it's also produced some of surfing's most revered world champion boardriders.
This week, those breaks were pumping as delighted delegates arrived in time for the first big swell of the year.
"It's great that they've come to the Gold Coast from around the world and it's pumping," Rabbit said.
"Some of them have been trying to get themselves to the conference the surf has been so good.
"Kirra is a punishing wave, as lots of them have found out. Some of them have told me they got humbled - but were very happy to be."
While the three-day conference ended on Thursday, the real work will begin on Friday for many of the event's guest speakers and associated stakeholder groups.
Like-minded ocean conservation groups will meet at the SCU's Gold Coast campus on Friday to discuss their strategies and approaches to dealing with the issues and concerns facing the future of the surfing environment.
The City of Gold Coast will also host its annual World Surfing Reserve local Stewardship Committee meeting in an historic workshop with Save the Waves and fellow World Surfing Reserves. The local committee will outline Council's Surf Management Plan, Ocean Beaches strategies, artificial reefs and coastal infrastructure projects and discuss how Council manages the Gold Coast World Surfing Reserve.
Surfrider Foundation USA CEO Chad Nelsen and Surfrider Foundation Australia chair Susie Crick will also convene a special international AGM Surfrider Foundation meeting on Friday and the International Association for Surfing Researchers (Surfing Academics) will also hold its third annual meeting.
The Save the Waves Coalition, the governing body of World Surfing Reserves, and the Vision Council will vote on the 12th World Surfing Reserve when they meet on Friday. The results of the ballot will remain top secret until the official announcement in coming months.
The Gold Coast's 16km stretch of coastline from Burleigh to Snapper Rocks was declared the 8th World Surfing Reserve in March 2016. Other past inductees include Malibu, Ericeira and Todos Santos. Noosa, on the Sunshine Coast, will officially be declared the 10th World Surfing Reserve on February 21.
The Global Wave Conference 2020 opened a landmark year for surfing that will see the sport debut on the Olympic Games program in Tokyo.
2020 is also sure to be a game-changing year for the sport in Australia as the World Surf League's new exclusive broadcast partnership with the Seven Network takes the sport to a wider audience.
The deal will see all things WSL, including live contests and highlights, broadcast in Australia across the Seven Network's free to air TV channel and its online streaming platform 7plus.
The WSL Noosa Longboard Open, from February 22 - 25, will be the first WSL event to be broadcast live on 7plus.
The first WSL Challenger Series event, the Sydney Surf Pro, will commence on March 8.
The elite Championship Tour will kick off at the Corona Open Gold Coast on March 26.
- REPORT FROM SUZANNE SIMONOT FOR GWC 2020