The inaugural IBSA World Tour kicks off at Coolum’s famous Bodysurfing Festival which is a three-day celebration of bodysurfing and the community of bodysurfing. The Festival runs from the 24th – 26th March with the first day dedicated to the IBSA Men’s and Women’s events.
There was great excitement in the bodysurfing community upon the announcement of the IBSA event. Registrations are not yet closed and already there are over 40 men and 10 women enrolled to compete.
Australia’s best bodysurfers have lined up to participate and the competition will be intense. One of the strong favourites is Tom Marr, who is a previous winner of the world bodysurfing championships. Another is Dylan Kelly, who has compiled an impressive number of wins and podiums in bodysurfing contests across Australia. Relatively new to the competitive bodysurfing scene is the Sunshine Coast’s own Jack Lewis, who went through every heat undefeated in winning last year’s Wedge Open Crown and must be considered a serious threat.
As the news and excitement around the IBSA event spread, internationals also registered to compete. Yet another strong contender for the title is Hawaii’s Adam Laeha who is flying out especially for the festival and who just missed qualifying for the Pipeline Masters bodysurfing semi’s last month.
The women’s line-up is equally impressive. Favourite for the event is likely to be teenager Lyla Crouch who has won three previous Wedge divisions and has a contest maturity beyond her age. Caitlin Callahan also comes into the event with form, the current winner of Australia’s oldest running bodysurfing tournament. Lynda Franklin is also a strong contender with multiple tournament wins to her credit and an intimate knowledge of the Coolum conditions.
Coolum itself is a natural magnet for bodysurfing waves. The continental shelf slopes off deeply out from Coolum, allowing swells to rear up quickly and break with more energy than other locales. Coolum is also blessed with permanent coffee-rock formations that protrude into the ocean like spines under the sand so the banks are typically anchored to these formations which makes the rides long.
Point Perry book-ends one corner of a long crescent-shaped beach, so no matter what the swell direction there is always a bank that’s optimal. The headland itself refracts swell lines back towards the main break, combining with the main swell, rapidly building in height and producing the legendary ‘Coolum Wedges’.
The weather forecasts look promising with multiple lows lining up through the great Australian Bight which should push south-easterly swells, the favoured direction, into the region over the contest period. Also, March is a great time to have a comp at Coolum. The statistical swell history shows surfable waves occur 95 per cent of the time during the month and it’s also the most likely period for tropical lows in the Coral Sea to push through. So it seems the planets are aligning for an epic opening to the IBSA World Tour.
A critical reason for the success and popularity of The Wedge Festival and now IBSA event is the intense support of the local community. Coolum is blessed with a culture of inclusivity and tribal togetherness and nowhere is this more evident than during the Festival. Throughout the Festival, over 50 volunteers give freely of their time and labour to ensure the success of the event and the to create the feel-good atmosphere that the competitors love.
Over 20 local businesses donate their products, services, time and financial backing for the Festival. Of special note is our major sponsor, Australia’s regional financial provider, Bendigo Bank. They were attracted to the Wedge as they share the same value of community first. In fact Bendigo Bank donate 80% of their profits back into local community projects. Bendigo Bank were as excited as the Wedge Management Committee when approached by the IBSA to run the inaugural event, and their Board immediately approved the funds necessary to hold the event. Simply put, the Festival would not exist without their support.
Going forward, the Wedge is excited to welcome more and more international competitors into subsequent IBSA events and become a part of the Wedge Family.