More than 60 athletes have registered for one of Australia’s largest junior Indigenous surf competitions this weekend.
The Juraki Surf Invitational in the far north New South Wales coastal town of Fingal Heads has grown again, with 28 sponsors lining up in 2019 – 18 more than last year.
Juraki is a family-run organisation encouraging Indigenous kids to use surfing as a way of creating stronger friendships and growing culturally.
Co-founder of Juraki and organiser of the Invitational, Mary Slaab said it has been a hard road building the competition to where it is today, but this year has been a turning point.
“We’re looking at the future [for Indigenous surfing] and it’s pretty bright,” Ms Slaab said.
Last year Ms Slaab and her teenage daughter Jalaan spent 10 days living and training with World Champion surfer Carissa Moore and her dad Chris.
Mr Moore invited Jalaan over after watching Ms Slaab and her partner Joel mentor local kids at a Juraki event at the beginning of 2018.
The adventure was transformative for Jalaan, but Ms Slaab said it also stoked her fire to help encourage more participation of Indigenous kids in Australia.
“To be honest, I was nearly ready to quit after last year’s competition. Hawaii was great – I just got to relax,” Ms Slaab said.
Relaxing as Hawaii was, Ms Slaab also realised that the work the Moore father-daughter duo were doing with local kids in Hawaii rekindled her fire to make an impact at home.
“I’m not stressed at all this year. It has come together really well,” Ms Slaab said.
“We have athletes coming from Perth, Wollongong, Central Coast, a lot of local kids. There are more Fingal locals that are starting to surf which is great.
“This year, we made it a point to turn the event into a modern day gathering, it’s not just about surfing.
“[So] we have added a cultural program – cultural walks of Fingal – we will do a two and a half hour walk on Saturday, as well as a cultural awareness talk. And music on both nights, just highlighting some Indigenous musicians … we [also] have lots more volunteers this year.”
In the lead up to the event, several young female surfers have submitted video applications to go on the 2019 trip to train with Carissa Moore in Hawaii. The winner will be announced on the weekend during the competition.
“It’s totally different to when Jalaan went … Chris and Carissa are going to do a global exchange. They’ll have a girl from Fiji, New Zealand, Australia and Bali. They’ll stay in Hawaii for 10 days to surf and train,” Ms Slaab said.
“We have a team of local elders on the panel to decide who gets to go – the girls did a video application. Jalaan is also a part of the panel. It was great to see her come out of her shell.”
For more information, go to: https://www.jurakisurf.com/banaam-indigenous-surf-titles
By Keiran Deck