Alarm bells ring­ing over ’Uluwatu Pro’

Augusta Margaret River Times - - News - War­ren Hately

Surf­ing pi­o­neer Brad Farmer says a lack of clar­ity around on­go­ing ne­go­ti­a­tions opens the Mar­garet River Pro to its great­est risk — los­ing the event to Uluwatu in In­done­sia.

The World Surf League was look­ing for a prime left-handed wave, and on­go­ing back­room dis­cus­sions about shift­ing the Pro to Kal­barri, de­spite fierce com­mu­nity op­po­si­tion, could be all the im­pe­tus needed to cut Mar­garet River from the World Cham­pi­onship Tour, he told the Times.

The state­ment fol­lows for­mal op­po­si­tion to re­launch­ing the Pro at Kal­barri from the North West Surfers Al­liance.

Na­tional Surf­ing Re­serves founder Mr Farmer said past in­vest­ment in Mar­garet River and es­tab­lished world-class in­fra­struc­ture meant it was vi­tal the Pro was re­tained in the South West.

“It would be po­lit­i­cally stupid to just plonk this in­ter­na­tional event some­where else, no mat­ter how the McGowan Govern­ment views the South West WA or shark is­sues,” he said.

“A ‘Kal­barri Pro’ will fail on eco­nomic, so­cial and en­vi­ron­ment im­pact as­sess­ments.

“The spec­tre of los­ing such a pres­ti­gious event to In­done­sia would be a loss for the lo­cal Mar­garet River econ­omy.”

The call fol­lows other stake­hold­ers de­mand­ing re­ten­tion of the Pro be­yond 2019, in­clud­ing Vasse MLA and shadow tourism spokes­woman Libby Met­tam.

Surf­ing WA chief ex­ec­u­tive Mark Lane said he was do­ing ev­ery­thing he could to re­tain the Mar­garet River event, though he de­clined to com­ment on Tourism WA ne­go­ti­a­tions and said the WSL was the ul­ti­mate ar­biter.

Mr Lane said talk about Uluwatu was “pure spec­u­la­tion”.

“Cer­tainly Uluwatu was used this year to com­plete the Mar­garet River event and we have heard no such noise re­gard­ing its use in the fu­ture,” he said.

“That is not to say we are privy to ev­ery sin­gle dis­cus­sion within the WSL re­gard­ing po­ten­tial lo­ca­tions.

“Ul­ti­mately, and the re­al­ity of it all, is that all fu­ture de­ci­sions will be made by the WSL as to where all events are held, re­mem­ber­ing they have only just re­leased the 2019 calendar.”

Speak­ing to The West Aus­tralian, Mr Lane said the qual­ity of lo­cal waves had stood up well against other big-name lo­ca­tions.

Cru­cially, he said the event was one of the strong­est fi­nan­cially on the world tour cour­tesy of the sup­port it re­ceived from the State Govern­ment, while the num­bers of spec­ta­tors at­tend­ing and view­ers watch­ing broad­casts and live streams had also been healthy.

Writ­ing on in­flu­en­tial on­line surf site Swell­net, Stu Net­tle said open­ing Jakes Point and Red Bluff to the WSL would ruin those breaks by ad­ver­tis­ing them to more users.

In a state­ment, Kal­barri Board­rid­ers sup­ported re­ten­tion of the Mar­garet River Pro.

“We feel deeply for Mar­garet River and sup­port them in try­ing to keep the con­test down there,” a spokesman said.

“It is a pres­ti­gious event and has a lot of his­tory and has been get­ting bet­ter and bet­ter since it has added the Box and North Point to the for­mat.

“The amount of money in in­fra­struc­ture to get main break up to the WSL stan­dard to be ripped out from un­der them and told it might be mov­ing is a dev­as­tat­ing blow for them.”

Kal­barri also warned Surf­ing WA to “step back and have a think about their fu­ture and how they want to be por­trayed in the eyes of surfers”.

What do you reckon? Send your let­ters to us at edi­tor@am­r­times.com.au.

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