Surfing to save the reef
The Byron Surf Festival is now 11 years old. Like any seasoned surfer it has survived some gnarly conditions. Right now it’s about negotiating an event during COVID-19, something organisers have embraced with a mix of low-key outdoor and indoor events across the three-day festival. Glen Casey is the brand ambassador for Pure Scot Whiskey, one of the major sponsors for 2021.
So how does whiskey mix with surf? ‘They are a do-good company’ answers Glen, and says it’s imperative to the brand to align with people ‘who have a social conscience around the environment and want to do meaningful business’. The story goes, ‘the founder of Pure Scot bought a distillery in Scotland called the Bladnoch – which is over 200 years old. He and his father drank a lot of whiskey – but he set up this Prior Foundation, which is the philanthropic arm of their business and they gave over $1million to foundations and .orgs who are trying to do good.’
Glen is no stranger to brands stepping into the positive change market. He brought Patagonia (who are also a festival sponsor) to Australia in 2008 and set up the Byron store. While he no longer works with Patagonia, the ethos of building great products, causing the least harm, and using business to inspire and implement solutions during environmental crisis is what underwrites such partnerships and their endeavours.
For Glen, The Byron Surf Festival is a great fit because ‘the main focus is not to make a lot of money – it’about the environment, art, culture, surfing and people and how people are moving through their lives, within film, images and all that sort of stuff’ he says. ‘It gets me motivated each year.’
And Byron Bay has something to add as well.
‘I think this region touches on the full spectrum of highly creative, evolved like minded group of people who are deeply immersed in their art. It is a creative epicentre – some important channels often come from these regions. It’s become important in the eyes of some of the companies – they come here to create content, find the right people’ says Glen.
This year Pure Scot have got behind environmentalist, free surfer and musician Dave Rastovich to focus on The Great Barrier Reef.
‘At the festival one of the big drawcards is the small film we are showing on the opening night, of Dave Rastovich and myself, when we went up to the Reef and went on a big boat with five or six Great Barrier Reef scientists and researchers. We were a couple of surfy no goods, we did about 20 dives – you document what you see as part of the Great Reef census. That is, anyone cruising around can take ten shots over 100 metres of a reef and then log it back into the census program on their website. It’s the first time anyone globally has come up with a plan to let humans interacting with the reef be the scientists. A lot can get lost – the census is a not for profit charity.’
The aim is to raise $100k to survey 100 reefs. Other programs at the Byron Bay Surf Festival include: Street to Reef – where participants are encouraged to go the length of Jonson Street picking up bottles and cartons and cans and taking them to the Cavanbah Recycling Centre, claiming 10c for every barcode which will then be donated toward reef research at the end of the clean up.
Opening night is a great place to touch base with what is happening at the reef; featuring conversations with Glen Casey, Dave Rastovich, James McMillan and CEO of citizens of the Great Barrier Reef, Andy Ridley.
Opening Night is Friday 26 Feb. The Festival runs until Sunday 28 Feb. Go to byronbaysurffestival.com.au.