You go (surfing) girl
By TONY WHITE
AROUND 100 Clarence Valley females, from tiny tots to mums, will converge on Turner's Beach, Yamba tomorrow to experience the exhilaration of riding waves during the annual Rip Curl Girls Go Surfing Day.
Started 15 years ago, the Rip Curl Girls Go Surfing promotion has gone national, with 6000 girls expected to attend the learn to surf program at 61 beach locations around Australia.
It is the world's largest all-girl surf program and continues to grow in popularity.
At a cost of $40 per participant, the day is aimed at beginners and non-surfers of all ages, but is open to any female who wants to have a go at surfing.
Surfing is booming in Australia, particularly in the female ranks, with young girls of all ages taking to the waves to enjoy a great sport, healthy lifestyle and most importantly, having fun.
Yamba surf coach Jeremy Walters heads up the Rip Curl team of instructors at Yamba and the former professional surfer said local interest in this year's event had been enormous.
Walters faxed details of the Rip Curl Girls Go Surfing Day to 26 schools in the Clarence Valley and has posted signs at various public centres.
"The bulk of people tend to come from Grafton, Yamba, Maclean and Harwood, but last year we had 74 people participate including one girl from Nymboida and another from Gatton in Queensland," Walters said.
"This year we already have 70 people booked and it's likely those numbers will swell over the final few days."
Walters, a fully accredited surf coach with Surfing Australia and qualified snow board instructor, teaches around 1000 people annually at his Yamba Surf School, but the Rip Curl Girls Go Surfing Day brings its own brand of 'surf stoke'."
"It's our biggest weekend of the year and we get the best feedback from it," the 29-year-old said.
"You don't get much for 40 bucks these days, but they get a one-and-a-half hour lesson, t-shirt, Rip Curl gift show bag and have heaps of fun.
"The girls are just stoked.
"It's a great time to get a surfing lesson heading into summer before the school holidays and learn to ride waves.
"There's just a great feel to the day, especially with mums and dads sitting on the beach watching.
"These kids are just stoked. When they get a wave standing up for the first time they normally throw their hands in the air even before the ride is finished. The smiles are awesome.
"It's just great. If they are stoked, I'm stoked. I get lots of pleasure out of seeing that sort of thing.
"To see these kids in the water having a go is what it's all about. Unreal."
Walters, who grew up at Angourie, reached the pinnacle of his surfing career when he was crowned Australian Championship Circuit winner in 1998. He then spent four years travelling the world on the WQS circuit. These days he is also involved with a surf safety program with students from St James, Yamba.
While Walters has surfed famed locations around the globe, including the massive swells in Hawaii, he is patently aware of the need to ensure first timers understand water safety and get the basics right.
"Growing up in this area (Clarence Valley) the beaches are fairly accessible and it's such a healthy, fun thing to do, go surfing," he said.
"The kids in this program get a good start. They don't need any prior knowledge, just an entry form, some sunscreen and they're away.
"We teach them safety, surf awareness, about rips and sweeps, how to set markers, the wind and tides, where to lay on the board, how to safely negotiate through the break, then they can go out and catch some waves lying down. There's always instructors in the water with them.
"Once they show they can catch waves we bring them in and teach them the right technique for standing up, then for the rest of the lesson they go surfing."
The standard training surfboards used are rubber-topped, with a soft slick bottom, rubber fins and no sharp noses.
"They (the boards) are ideally suited to this sort of thing. They plane very easily," Walters said.
"If we were using fibreglass surfboards it would be mayhem. We've never had an injury problem. If someone cops a bump or sore knee or something, they're usually straight back into it.
"They can't wait to get back into the action."
This is the fourth year Walters has been involved with the Rip Curl Girls Go Surfing Day.
"In some ways it's surprising the amount of girls that turn up," Walters said.
"It's been big every year I've been involved. Each year you get a few returning, but mostly it's first timers."
Walters is hoping for ideal surf conditions, unlike in previous years. After studying weather forecasts he predicts Saturday should be near perfect.
"The first year we had five foot surf with a big sweep down the beach," he said.
"While safe, people were getting washed down the beach. We'd come in and walk back up to the southern end. It was like doing laps.
"The second year there was a strong northerly and moved the whole show to Pippi Beach which had it's own logistical problems, then last year we had a fairly sizeable swell again.
"They surf in waist to shoulder height water, always with a couple of instructors, and Saturday should be ideal.
"It looks like being a one to two foot swell with off shore winds.
"I can't wait for it to all happen and watch the girls getting stoked on riding waves."