Danny Wills and Byron Bay Boardriders president Neil Cameron.
Danny Wills and Byron Bay Boardriders president Neil Cameron.

Covid-19 rules will delay this annual surf classic

IT'S been a trying time for many, with months having passed since most sports could operate.

Byron Bay Boardriders would ordinarily hold their major annual event in the June long weekend.

Instead, the club's hopeful a postponed instalment of the classic, now in its 45th year, can run at the end of August.

Byron Bay Boardriders president Neil Cameron said the event had run at Easter for more than 20 years in its earlier days when the town wasn't so inundated with Bluesfest punters and other visitors during that time.

When it was moved to the winter months, more pristine winter swells proved favourable. At the moment, the club can't even hold its own local rounds due to restrictions resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.

For years the event has been known as the BK Classic in memory of former club president Ben King, who passed away tragically.

But Mr Cameron said the name of the event would evolve this year.

"I spoke to a few people including family and we just decided it's time to let him rest, so to speak, and move on," Mr Cameron said.

"We might keep BK there in (the name)."

But he said they would be moving to give a major sponsor naming rights: specifically, the Park Hotel at Suffolk Park.

That pub's ability to reopen and hold more than 10 patrons is a factor in the event's delay; presentations are generally held there and they like to give back to the businesses that supports them, Mr Cameron said.

While the open men's section is the premier event, he said they're hoping to grow the Willsy X Groms, the division for U16s.

Aside from involving cash prizes for even the young competitors, there are plenty of costs involved in running an event life this, from the prizes to PA system and hiring professional judges and an announcer.

"There's a lot of overheads that go along with it," he said.

"We do get a lot of support."

But sponsors have backed the classic once again, even in the difficult business climate of Covid-19.

Along with the pub, Coopers and Skullcandy will support this year's event.

"It's been a really tough time with Covid-19, with a lot of sports being banned and lockdowns and all that sort of thing," Mr Cameron said.

"(Our sponsors) were all still happy to go ahead.

"We wanted to still do it for Byron Bay because with what the community and people have been through, we wanted to bring some life back into the community."

He said the event typically draws surfers from as far away as Noosa and Sydney and would normally have in the realm of 170 to 200 competitors.

He said it was important for the club to be able to put the event on.

"It means a lot," he said.

"The easy option would have been to walk away but we're governed by two things: one is Surfing NSW and Surfing Australia, they will be under the guidance of the Federal Government's health department and then second is the Park Hotel getting up and running again.

"Restrictions are being lifted gradually. By the end of August, we're hopeful we'll be back on track."

This year's event won't include a senior's division but will have groms, open men's and women's.


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