freestyle & stoke, Byron Bay Surf Festival 2017

Joel Fitzgerald in the Fish session

Joel Fitzgerald in the Fish session

Keen local rippers, the hipsters and groms, surfing celebrities, shapers, travelers, families, respected elders, and everyday frothers like me all gathered at Wategoes beach, for the 2017 Byron Bay Surf Festival's non competitive 'freestyle & stoke' day.

Freestyle & Stoke

This is no ordinary event you see, since most in the world pose surfer to surfer in a competition for a 'win' the 'freestyle & stoke' is to simply express the joy of the glide. One prize is given for each division, peer votes decide the 'winner'. Board shape and sometimes board size determine the friendly surfing sections.

Towels, blankets, boards and provisions we salty sea folk cozied up alongside friends and strangers watching with excitement. Bare chested men rode waves with their bodies, Finless board riders swiveled backwards though the high tide. Swallow-tail and fish-board surfers took to the point, whilst women and girls hung ten and high fived in the Mermaid sessions.

Mc Tavish Trim

Between all the lady gliding and swish tail riding was the annual Mc Tavish Trim. The single competitive event on the day posing 12 hand selected trimmers one task -ride the wave as far up the beach as you can! Led by the master craftsmen Mr. Bob McTavish himself, measuring flag in hand, the twelve said trimmers sailed their 11ft plus boards in search of long swell.

Riding in triples and quadruples, squatting, flapping and wishing themselves along waves that crested for meters before they ever broke.  Eeking past the flag with giggles in backwards quasimodos the contestants and conditions made this comp so fun for everyone. When tip toes came to measure it was surfer/shaper Thomas Bexton the reining Doyen of the Trim whom with 432 meters rode, won it again!

Wood in the Water

Expression sessions and ocean-trims flowed easily along the festivals beachy dunes. Therein surfers and shapers shared a plethora of hand made sleds. Tom Wegener's new Corky board invention was a highlight to see, this humble author, and craftsman's passionate commitment to innovation never cease to inspire me. From hand planes to long boards and everything in-between Wooden surfboards and their collective builders were amazing. Here in Byron our surfing culture is moving towards sustainability, whereby returning to ancient history.


Party Wave

With group participation at its festival height, body to body, boards behind, a group of us surfers the beach did line. Hands touching, mouths smiling, we dispatched from the shore. Paddling out the back, on Tom Wegener's call we scrambled to catch the classic 'Party Wave' in. Issac Fields won the prize and prestige by bolting over 50 meters of ankle breaking rocks in the shallows to be the first to cross the finish line. DJ JayWalker kept the vibe alive with his sweet beats, and the Combi Cafe had their VW coffee bar serving up fresh coconuts and delicious raw treats. Camaraderie and stoke being the true themes of the day, I will hold dear the sharing of cheer and new friendships made.

Thank you to all involved and the bestest most fun surfing celebration to date, Byron Bay Surf Festival your so super great!


*all photos by and copyright to Chrystal Dawn use of or reproduction without consent is prohibited