Best Indigenous talent battle it out for title


Best Indigenous talent battle it out for title



The 2015 version of the Wandiyali Indigenous Classic will be the richest indigenous surfing contest ever held in Australia.

How rich?

Well the good people of the Wandiyali ATSI have stumped up an amazing $20,000 for the contest.

In recent years the event has included indigenous surfers from as far north as Coffs Harbour on the mid north coast of New South Wales and as far south as the rugged coastline of Victoria around Bells Beach.

The Wandiyali Classic offers open and junior men and open women a chance to meet in Newcastle and compete against old friends and family and to make new friends.

The Wandiyali Classic is the gateway event to Surfest.

In 2015 the contest will be held over two days on February 11-12 on Merewether Beach.

It is expected that the number of surfers and the standard of surfing will be exponential compared to past events due to the increased cash prizes.


So why double the prize money?

Steve Kilroy the CEO of the Wandiyali ATSI based in Newcastle tells us why.

We wanted to make this year’s event the biggest and best ever.  There is not a lot of money out there for indigenous surfers. We see this as an opportunity to grow the event possibly into something even bigger in the future. 

So has there been more interest in this year’s contest?

Yes.  We are seeing a heightened interest.  Russ Molony is certainly interested … (Steve and Warren Smith, who was in the room, laugh out loud) … and why wouldn’t he be … he’s won the thing nine times.  Russ is wrapped the contest is richer.

I know the contest director, Stan Moylan has been getting a lot more calls this year too.

There will a lot of surfers who haven’t surf in the Wandiyali Classic who enter this year.

That was our aim. 

How long has this event being running and how did it all start?

This is our 13th year.  It all started out of something else really.  I was involved in running a Kooris verses the cops surf contest on Nobbys Beach.

That’s where Warren grabbed me and asked us to be a part of Surfest. The event has grown from there.  The Koori contest was just for male surfers but when we came to Surfest we opened it up to both men and women.

The contest is now open men, juniors and women. 

So tell me what the Wandiyali Classic is all about? 

It’s about friendships and it’s about meeting up with your mob.  I know it’s a competition and getting together to compete with surfers from all around Australia but what comes from that is catching up with family and friends and meeting new people from our mob.

I have built a lot of strong relationships through this event.

Stan Moylan who runs the contest is great friend, as is Warren.  We have become very close as a result of the Classic. So for me the Classic is about building relationships. 

Is there a serious message? 

Yes … building community.  In our day to day dealing we deal with people in trouble so this contest is about better health and fitness in our community.  It is also about building on the social relationships within our community as well.

The contest creates an opportunity for us.  We are a foster care organisation and if we can raise awareness of the need for foster carers as a result of this contest then it is a bigger success. 

That is a lot of money $20,000 … what return is expected?

The Wandiyali ATSI see this event as a great enhancement of what we do.  I have a firm view of where the Classic can go in the future but you’ll have to wait and see what that future will be.  

On a personal level I get great satisfaction from seeing old friends and meeting new ones. It is such a good feeling you know.  

Take the winners trophies this year.

I became aware of the indigenous art of Col Wightman.

We have had dealings with Col before so I asked him to paint four surfboards for the division winners and on for a raffle to raise funds.

We worked together on the designs.  My only request was that each board be original and unique and that there was a representation of water in each.

Steve pointed to four beautifully painted surfboards standing in the corner.

He was clearly very proud of the end products.  

Col does everything by freehand.  You never get two pieces of his art that are the same

I’m very proud and pleased that we could get this art from Col.


Some days after this interview Col Wightman, the 2004 Australian Artist of the Year died suddenly.  Surfest offers our deepest condolences to Col and his family and friends.

Grant Sproule
Grant Sproule

Grant Sproule has worked in Newspapers and Surf Media for 22 years and is also graphic designer and photographer. His eye for detail and deep passion for surfing has led him to develop one of Australia's leading Surf Magazines. Grant Started shooting surfing at a young age and is now regarded as an industry pro.

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