The year gone has been a watershed for Australian surfing with Steph Gilmore winning her seventh world title, the retirements of Mick Fanning and Joel Parkinson, and for locals the news that 23-year-old Sufflolk Park lad Soli Bailey qualified for the World Championship Tour.
Bailey has joined a distinguished list of born-and-bred local surfers who have championed the area in the world of competitive surfing that includes: Gary Timperley, Mark ‘Mono’ Stewart, Noel Graham, Jeremy Byles, Brendan Margieson, Jenny Boggis, Danny Wills, Julie Morris, Crystal Vail, and WSL Commissioner Kieren Perrow.
The Byron area has also attracted amazing surfers who now call the region their home such as Rusty Miller and Bob McTavish, while more recently Pauline Menczer, Jim Banks, Jodie Cooper, Dave Rastovich, and Matt Wilkinson have become ‘locals’.
They have all contributed significantly towards the high level of surfing talent, enthusiasm, and the diverse surfing lifestyle that gives the area a special place in the surf universe.
Other local highlights this year included: Pauline Menczer being inducted into the Australian Surfing Hall of Fame; five-year-old Leihani Kaloha Zoric (Byron Bay) winning against much older competitors; Rusty Miller wining the O/70s division at The Noosa Festival of Surfing; Nyxie Ryan (Lennox Head) winning her third National Gromsearch title in a row; Mikey McDonagh (Lennox Head) surfing his first WCT event at Bells Beach up against Mick Fanning after winning the trials.
Jack Entwistle (Byron Bay) also won the two premier divisions at the 2018 Byron Bay Malibu Classic held at Wategos Beach while longboarder Ben Dickens (Lennox Head) repeated his double victory in 2017 at the 2018 Australian Surf Festival.
And don’t forget Neil ‘Freddo’ Cameron won yet another amateur title when he became the 2018 O/60s NSW champion at Boomerang Beach. and Byron Shire surfers Pauline Menczer, Jodie Cooper and Gary Elkerton finished in equal third, equal fifth and equal fifth respectively at the invitational Azores Airlines World Masters Championship.
On the disappointing side Byron Bay’s Matt Wilkinson didn’t qualify for the WCT and announced he will contest the QS next year in a bid to return to the CT in 2020.