Culture takes centre stage at Surfest Indigenous Classic

RAINBOW Bay siblings Taj and Bodhi Simon were eyeing new surfboards with their $1200 cash prizes after claiming the open crowns at the Surfest Indigenous Classic at Merewether on Sunday following the weekend competition.

Taj, 19, went back-to-back in the men’s division, earning an 8.0-point ride late in the final to leapfrog Finn Hill on best two-wave totals. Simon (13.85) scraped past Hill (13.25) by less than a point.  Jed Mcdonagh (8.0) came third and Taj’s cousin Byron Simon came fourth (4.45).

Seventeen-year-old Bodhi won her first Surfest title, getting her best scores early in the women’s final for a 7.4 total to defeat Kauri Heuston-Connor (4.8), Matilda Thearle (3.6) and her 11-year-old sister Malia Simon (2.85).

Heuston-Connor (11.75) had earlier won the junior women’s final over Bodhi (6.55), Malia (3.0), and Thearle (2.8).

Bodhi pocketed another $500 for her second placing in the junior division.

Omar Moltzen (12.35) took out the junior men’s final ahead of Reko Moltzen (7.4) and JJ Lowrie (6.4). Jay Mckenzie (9.25) won the masters event from Brook Silvester (6.35), Donny James (4.9) and Matt Page (4.5).

Minister for the Hunter Yasmin Catley presented the trophies to finalists and said
surfing is part of our story in the Hunter and Surfest is a huge reason why.

“This is the beach, at Merewether, that Mark Richards made famous with his four world titles. To celebrate First Nations surfers like this is a fantastic part of Surfest.

“The Indigenous Classic has come a long way in 26 years. It started as The Kooris V The Cops and today it’s among the premier Indigenous sports competitions in Australia.

 “I’m proud to be part of a NSW Government that supports and funds the Indigenous Classic. It’s a great event for First Nations athletes and a showcase for Indigenous culture in the gorgeous setting of Merewether beach,” Minister Catley said.

The Surfest Indigenous Classic was sponsored by the NSW Government’s Regional Aboriginal Partnerships Program.

The two-day event displayed the talent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander surfing sensations via Open Mens, Open Womens, Junior Mens, Junior Womens and Open Masters divisions.

Between heats, surfers and spectators strolled over to a temporary Aboriginal business hub on the corner of John Parade and Watkins Street and enjoy all ages activities all weekend, including arts, crafts and textiles stalls which share the rich history and culture of the local Awabakal and Worimi peoples.

As part of the sponsorship, Surfest provided additional support to regional Aboriginal communities by setting Aboriginal business and procurement targets with competitor trophies sourced from Aboriginal businesses.

The Regional Aboriginal Partnerships Program is the lead regional-focused program to support outcomes under the NSW Closing the Gap Priority Reform 5, which seeks to strengthen culture and identity and empower Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people within NSW to access pathways through education, training, employment and business support to reach their aspirations.

Results Finals

Open Men
1. Taj Simon (13.85)
2. Finn Hill (13.25)
3. Jed Mcdonagh (8.00)
4. Byron Simon (4.45)

Open Women
1. Bodhi Simon (7.40)
2. Kauri Heuston-Connor (4.80)
3. Matilda Thearle (3.60)
4. Malia Simon (2.85)

1. Jay Mckenzie (9.25)
2. Brook Silvester (6.35)
3. Donny James (4.90)
4. Matt Page (4.50)

Junior Men
1. Omar Moltzen (12.35)
2. Reko Moltzen (7.40)
3. JJ Lowrie (6.40)

Junior Women

1. Kauri Heuston-Connor (11.75)
2. Bodhi Simon (6.55)
3. Malia Simon (3.00)

4. Matilda Thearle (2.80)