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September 29, 2022

Interview with James McMillan, Byron Bay Surf Festival founder

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James McMillan

The Byron Bay Surf Festival makes its very much anticipated return this weekend with events throughout Byron’s venues and surf beaches. Seven caught up with festival founder James McMillan for a chat about the event.

McMillan says he is compelled to put so much energy into the festival because surfing is worth it. ‘It’s been the best and most consistent thing in my life since I started at age ten. Nothing beats it. The joy and anticipation you feel when a magic wave is coming your way and you know it’s all yours is exciting – it’s a gift of energy directly from Mother Earth. Surfing goes much further than the act of riding a wave too; it’s a whole lifestyle based on being right in tune with nature, and being at the beach, which is heaven. It’s unpredictable, it’s beautiful, also frustrating at times. You learn a lot about yourself, about your fears, your limits, and also the sway of the seasons. Surfing gives and gives.’

McMillan says the festival brings a lot of like-minded and curious people together. ‘It inspires people, and it evolves creativity in the act of surfing through the type of surfing events we curate. Also, amongst all of the fun, it’s really cool how BBSF educates people through the environmental partnerships we have and the opportunities we give those crew to bring their products and messages to the festival and deliver them to a welcoming audience in fun and interesting ways. I also like how I don’t have to do any emails when the festival is actually on.’

McMillan says the festival’s surfing events are done in an alternative way. ‘The newest event we are presenting is the Vissla Cosmic Creek. It fits right in with us because it’s about fun and surfing on alternative equipment. It has a nostalgic and creative vibe. Our Freestyle & Stoke event on Sunday is always very popular… anyone can come along and surf in it and we have some interesting categories like the Woodsniffers, the Extraterrestrial Softboards and the BBSF PartyWave. The Wategos Wizards is our longboard comp on Saturday and it often has quite a few of the raddest single fin longboarders in Aus and the world surfing in it’.

McMillan says the physical act of surfing itself is art – it’s creative and spontaneous. ‘The surfers’ dance is a reaction to the movement of the waves. I could stop there. But also the arena, the ocean, is not a fixed playing field and seeking a wave puts you in direct connection with wild nature, often totally alone. If you happen to catch a big wave or get inside the tube then you could experience either of two extremes, you might touch god, or you might nearly drown. Either way, the experience will have inspired something deep within you, and by the time you get home you will already want to do it all over again. A powerful energy is created inside you and some surfers may then express this through other arts. Surfing is very addictive and for me its about the no-mind-state’.

The Byron Bay Surf Festival runs from Thursday to Sunday. For full program, visit: www.byronbaysurffestival.com.au. 

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