Tourism Minister Paul Papalia arrived in Margaret River on Friday morning to announce the confirmation of the Margaret River Pro surfing competition as a World Surfing League top-tier tour event for a further two years.
The announcement came after months of speculation over the future of the event, which is held each year at Surfers Point in Prevelly on the South West coast.
Speaking at the Surfers Point location on a blustery South West morning, Mr Papalia said one of the first pieces of information he received in the early days of taking over the role of Tourism Minister was the news that the event could lose its WSL status.
“Honestly, the briefing I received was that we had in fact lost it,” Mr Papalia said.
We checked the patient over in early February and found it to have a faint pulse, and it’s pretty much been an 18 month negotiation, and we are super excited about retaining the event.
“That was really distressing, so it is wonderful to be here today to be able to announce that we have managed to secure the Margaret River Pro as a Championship Tour event for another two years, at least,” he said.
“This event promotes Margaret River as a great destination and a great place to visit, but it also gives young surfers in Western Australia something to aspire to.
“We have seen the benefits of that with young people in Margaret River witnessing world champions and the best surfers in the world on their doorstep.
“The event is a tremendous drawcard and draws in thousands of visitors, it doubled the room night stays in Margaret River when it became a Championship Tour.
“There are 3.5 million viewers guaranteed online for this event around the world.
“It’s an incredible audience seeing Margaret River and Western Australia on their screens and hopefully wanting to visit as well.”
The minister was reluctant to provide exact figures on the support given by the State Government for the event.
“We don’t reveal the actual amount of money that we provide for these events – we are actually in competition for these things.
“We were up against Bells Beach and Surfers Paradise, pretty significant competition and I can say the State Government are one hundred percent behind this event.
“Full credit to Mark Lane, the Surfing WA team and the people in Tourism WA who negotiated this, they deserve every credit, it is a wonderful thing to retain this for WA.”
Surfing WA chief executive Mark Lane said the “patient didn’t have a pulse” when asked about the future of the Pro earlier this year.
“We checked the patient over in early February and found it to have a faint pulse, and it’s pretty much been an 18 month negotiation, and we are super excited about retaining the event,” he said.
“It is fantastic to see behind us these little snowy haired kids and having the under 16 and under 18 State champion here, the fact that possibly some of them might get to surf against a world champion in six months’ time, I don’t know where that happens anywhere else around the world.”
Surfing WA Chairman Mike Best said the Margaret River Pro was unanimously voted in by professional surfers who threw their support behind the event during the 2017 competition.
“Margaret River has some of the most consistent surf in the world, the surfers genuinely love being here and surfing here, and that certainly helped our argument for retaining the CT status.”
Augusta Margaret River Shire President Ian Earl was at the announcement on Friday and said the news was “all positive” for the region.
“It’s very important to the Shire and the whole of the South West region,” he said.
“The people who are seeing this coverage online and who are coming to the event itself are visiting Busselton, they’re visiting Margaret River, they’re seeing the whole area.
“Certainly the commitment from the government and the minister today gives the Shire great confidence moving into the future and giving us the opportunity to plan and make it even better as years go by.”
Vasse MP Libby Mettam welcomed the Tourism Minister’s announcement of the future of the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro and further certainty regarding the region’s other global events.
Ms Mettam said she heard concerns this year from Surfing WA about the future of the event as there was some alarm raised by the WSL that this event would be dropped from the World Championship Tour.
Ms Mettam said Surfing WA worked hard to negotiate a good outcome with the WSL and it was a credit to Mark Lane and the Surfing WA team to see this event retain its WCT status.
"It is also a credit to the organisers, Tourism WA, the Augusta-Margaret River Shire and the event volunteers for hosting such a fantastic event for the visiting surfers whose positive feedback is so important in these negotiations,” she said.
"This year the Margaret River Pro made BBC world news reaching over 50 million viewers worldwide.
"Apart from global headline acts such as Kelly Slater and the 2017 Champion Jon Jon Florence Australian surfers Joel Parkinson, Stephanie Gilmore and Mick Fanning have also given strong support for this event.”