A celebration of surfing and kastom in the Pacific
The Vanuatu Surfing Association is holding its very first Surf festival this Easter weekend with over 90 athletes from local surf clubs, New Caledonia and Australia competing for over VT450,000 in cash prize money.
The “Leimalo Surf Festival” is so named after the Pango female deity who was called upon by surfers to send good waves through an old kastom song often chanted by children waiting for waves off Pango’s beautiful shoreline.
VSA President Stephanie Mahuk said that the organisation had for the past two years focused on intensive outreach programs in the villages of Pele, Eratap, Nguna, Efalias, Tanna and Maewo.
“Our outreach programs saw the distribution of donated boards, training in surfing, water safety, coaching and competition organization,
judging, surf tourism, environmental awareness and spreading of important social messages particularly the equal treatment and inclusion of girls and women,” she said.
“In 2016, we established the Solwata Sista branch which was geared to expand the girls surfing network in Vanuatu and empower women and girls through surf.”
An intense 4 day competition—with forecasts of decent swell thanks to Cyclone Cook—will have three Pango breaks, Fatfar, Narawa and Breakas, providing amazing waves for international surfing competition.
“We made the decision last year to host an international surfing event in 2017 as we were confident that with our board drives, outreach programs, and existing prowess on the regional surf scene, our local surfers could go toe to toe with international surfers to deliver high performance competition on home waves,” said Ms Mahuk.
The event has extended beyond the realm of competitive surfing with VSA and Fondation Suzanne Bastien collaborating to kick off the month long Leimalo Art Exhibition commencing on the Surf Festival opening night with artwork oriented around the sea and surf by talented artists, most of whom are surfers.
“The surfing festival is the culmination of years of outreach programs bringing together surfers from all the villages we have infiltrated with the sport to compete and get exposure to international surfing standards,” Ms Mahuk said.
“We have also teamed up with Fondation SuzanneBastien to launch a month long art exhibition revolving around surf art and surfer artists the VSA is grateful and very fortunate for the stunning photography produced by Peter Carroll of surfers at local breaks, his prints are on display at the gallery as are the works of art from Marie St-Hilaire, Dereki Narsong, Gideon Arudali, Simon Pettiford,Arlene Bax and Charlotte Vaughn.”
The VSA has always been committed to community development through surf and have teamed up with Wan Smol Bag and Vanuatu Society for People with Disabilities to host a ‘Surfability’ program on Easter Monday to introduce the joy of surfing to people with disabilities.
There are over 90 contestants from Pango, Efalias, Eratap. Pele, Nguna, Tanna, Australia and New Caledonia. Volunteer judges, beach marshalls and assistants from the surfing community.
“We are grateful for the support of our sponsors of the Leimalo Surf Festival: : Law Partners (Platinum), Pacific Advisory (Gold), Au Bon Marche, Lattitude Property, iCount, Billabong, Rip curl, Azure Pure
Water, Pango Wave, Pango Green Force, Pango Village community and Pro Medical,” Ms Mahuk said.
“We anticipate a competition of this level will encourage more kids to surf promoting healthy lifestyle. We expect that the competition will bring out their best surfing and drive them to perform better in the future.”
“The Olympics now have surfing included and we firmly believe that Vanuatu has a good chance to compete given the exceptional level that currently exists can only get better.”