Fickle but a whole lot of fun – The 2018 Burleigh Single Fin Festival

Burleigh Heads was quickly pulled out of its post new years stupor with the beginning of the Burleigh Single Fin festival. The contest is a nostalgic journey through Australian surf history and has been an ongoing part of Gold Coast culture for the past 21 years. The event continues to get bigger and better with surfers setting aside their modern shortboards and competing on pre-1985 single fin surfboards. Since its inception, it has grown into a weekend-long festival as well as a fundraiser to help the clubs junior development program.

The way this contest works proves how integral board riders clubs are in bringing Australian surf communities together. Ed Lindores, former president of the Boardriders club was stoked to see how the contest has grown into what it is today. “When everyone comes down, you can feel a good vibe that keeps growing and growing, it brings all the local clubs and the community together. It’s all about the mateship down here and it really does feel like a festival.”

Single fin contestant Mark ‘Occy’ Occhilupo helped explain why the comp is so special “This contest is so suited to Burleigh, it’s so grassroots here and it works so well, just like the way they used to have single fin comps here back in the seventies. The headland at Burleigh creates a perfect natural amphitheater as well making it a great contest to watch.”

The 21st edition of the contest kicked off with a luncheon at Club Burleigh. Guests were treated to an ice cold Vonu on entry, the afternoon continued full of laughs as old and new friends shared stories from past contests. The highlight of the afternoon came when 2012 surfing world champion and past single fin champ Joel Parkinson along with Taj Burrow took the stage to sit down with Surfing World editor Vaughn Blakey and finally revealed the real reason why Parko infamously missed his heat in Fiji. Unfortunately, Parko swore all 300 people in attendance to secrecy, so if you want to hear it you’ll have to ask him yourself.

The waves on offer for the first day of the contest weren’t exactly the type of waves Burleigh is famous for, but the sun was out, the water was warm, the Vonus were cold and the contest got off to a fun start. The surfers had to change their tactics to suit the smaller conditions and a sense of novelty and improvisation quickly spread throughout the lineup. Mates were sharing waves and hang 5 grab rails became the go-to move. The headland at Burleigh started to fill up as the day progressed with the boys from the Vonu tent providing the refreshments. As the contest wrapped up for the day, the Fallen Broken Street tour bus rolled in with the one-man band Mount Warning, and the afternoon adopted a more festive vibe with the action moving from the ocean to the land.

The surf on finals day of the Burleigh single fin festival was still small, providing tricky yet playful conditions. As the tide filled in and the wind picked up the surfers moved further down the point and began the infamous rock hop dance along the shallow inside rock shelf. Providing the perfect viewing area under the shade, the Vonu tent started attracting a small crowd of curious passers-by interested in knowing more about the brand and the beer. We also saw the return of those that have had their taste buds teased and are keen to try a few more. The trickier conditions proved hazardous through the quarterfinals with a few body slams onto the submerged rocks and a borrowed board getting snapped in half.

The final included big names like Taj Burrow, Mitch Crews, and Brent Dorrington as well as local lords Tim Mcdonald, Jack Lewis and Adam Klink. Tapping into his years of experience on the world tour, Taj quickly swooped on a set allowing him to get a few good turns in. While the other boys got some good waves Taj waited patiently and got another set to put him out in front. After the final, the boys paddled in not knowing who had taken the win.

As was the hot tip of the weekend, Taj claimed his first Single fin victory. Post preso he told the crowd that how stoked he was to be a part of the festival “Even though it wasn’t all-time Burleigh I still had so much fun! I can’t wait to come back next year!”  In the true spirit of a festival, everyone hung around and enjoyed each others company as well as some frosty Vonus and celebrated the end of an epic weekend.

There are some waves that deserve a certain amount of respect, due to the role they’ve played in shaping surfing and surf culture, Burleigh Heads is one of them. By dusting off the old single fins, the competitors are paying homage to the shapers and surfers that helped pioneer the wave. The way the entire community came together and welcomed visitors from all over Australia proves why this festival is the best weekend of the year.

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