Inaugural Challenge Her Team’s Classic Lights Up Surfest

OVER 100 women and girls took part in an Australian-first, all-ages, all-abilities mixed board event that ignited a new wave of not only women’s surfing, but women’s sport. 

The Challenge Her Team’s Classic is part of the Surfing NSW Her Wave initiative supported by the NSW Government’s Her Sport Her Way program with the aim of increasing female participation in sport. What today’s event did was empower, inspire and reach thousands and showed them age and gender are not a barrier to surfing.  

The event combined professional with brand-new surfers, from 10 through to 60 years young. Some were even brought to tears putting on a competition rash vest for the first time in their lives at the age of 50. One young surfer so happy to paddle out said “I’m just really excited to get a rashie, I can’t wait to put it on.” 

SEE ALSO: FREE Online Surf Judging Course for all Women in NSW until June 30 – Register now!

The day ran with eight individual heats and two team’s relay-style heats and a team’s final. Excitement was at an all-time high on the beach with the teams of eight surfers only averaging seven minutes in the water to catch their best wave before having to return to the beach to tag their next team-mate. 

Conditions at Merewether beach were the perfect mix of light, offshore breeze and challenging, yet surfable waves for all levels of ability. 

The Merewether Surfboard Club team finished the final in first place with a total team score of 33.56 that included two top scoring waves in the final, 7.83 and a 6.77 among their eight scored waves. 

But this event wasn’t about the scores. Every single surfer and beach-goer today soaked up the mateship, kindness and pure stoke that was emanating up the beach and through the webcast. (Re-watch the event here)

Merewether’s Ellie Lambkin is also an event ambassador. The vibrant World Surf League (WSL) Qualifying Series (QS) surfer loved that she was able to give back to the surf community and help create momentum for the event ahead of competing in the main Surfest event this week. 

“It means a lot to have this much community spirit down here today,” said Lambkin. “To have all the girls from the Merewether club here getting in the waves and having a go is just amazing. And to take the win, the first event of this epic series at our home beach, it means a lot to the club and the community I think.” 

Young Mia Gentle who is also part of the Merewether club said it was the energy on the beach that really struck her. “The best part of the day was everyone cheering for you when you’re out in the water and running up the beach and then we were even cheering on other teams. Everyone was getting into it, it was just such a good feeling on the beach.”

Elke Ryssenbeek who recently founded She and the Sea women’s boardrider club in Newcastle never thought she’d compete as a surfer.

“I never thought I’d be in a surfing competition, I’m really proud of myself and all the girls,” said Elke. “There is not one person on this beach today that hasn’t gone, this is so sick! To see so many great women giving it a crack and loving it has just been the best experience.” 

Central Coast surfer Tahlia Hurst from Ocean Beach Longboarders team had a great day mixing it up with her board choices. The aspiring pro who has only been surfing for just over 12 months said, “It’s been a really fun day, the waves have been producing all day. I’m usually a shortboard surfer but today I’m longboarding, being able to ride any board helps your surfing. It’s amazing to see all the girls out here, there are so many people. It’s awesome girls supporting girls, there are no comparisons, everyone’s just here having fun.”

Event organisers Claire Ellem, Her Wave Program Manager and Kate Cass, Surfing NSW Operations Manager, couldn’t be happier with how the day was received. 

“We expected this event to be powerful, but I think the impact is going to be a lot more far reaching than we ever thought,” said Cass. “I can’t describe the pure joy on so many of the surfers’ faces down here. Some of them never thought they’d see an event like this run in their lifetimes and others this is just the start of a life that will be enriched with surf culture and a healthy lifestyle fuelled by surfing and the great outdoors. I’m inspired by every person here today.”  

Ellem said the event exceeded expectations, “Everyone was so happy, so stoked to be here, I could not have anticipated the feedback we’ve had. We’re so grateful to have had the support of the NSW Government to back us with the Her Wave initiative.

This event alone has helped to reach and impact thousands more women and girls in NSW. I think it’s going to be a game-changer when we see the increase in women and girls participating in the sport in coming years,” Ellem said.    

Final results
1. Merewether Surfboard Club Team
2. Dudley Boardriders
3. Women Soul Surf
4. Umina Boardriders (team 2)
5. Sydney University Surf Society
6. She and the Sea (team 2)

The Challenge Her Team’s Classic Newcastle event is the first of three in the series.

The next event is at Kiama on Saturday 30 April and then Lennox Head on Sunday 3 July. 

The teams who took part in the Newcastle event include:

  • Host a Surfer
  • Dudley Boardriders
  • Merewether Boardriders
  • Women’s Soulful Surf 
  • She and the Sea
  • Umina Boardriders
  • Ocean Beach Malibu Club
  • Sydney Uni Surf Society
  • Bar Reef Boardriders 

Pic: Merewether Board Club winners by Paul Danovaro