Lennox Head World Tour Event Rejected For Now - Stab Mag

Lennox Head World Tour Event Rejected For Now

The WSL’s Australian Dream Tour is suffering setbacks.

Words by Jed Smith

The Ballina Shire Council just rejected the World Surf League’s bid to hold one of their four World Tour contests at Lennox Head during an “extraordinary meeting” that ended moments ago in the Ballina Council Chambers. 

As the council handed down its verdict, the dozens of Lennox locals crammed into the foyer outside the council chambers let out a roar of approval, startling several councillors. 

WSL General Manager, Andrew Stark, appeared on the big screen via zoom to present his case to a round table of Ballina Shire Councillors but to no avail. The WSL’s planned event was rejected on the basis of the “unacceptable risk” of a COVID19 outbreak due to contest; the impact on the local Lennox Head community; Lennox’s status as a Surfing Reserve, which prevents it being “used by a private commercial operator”; and a lack of proper process and community consultation.

Enter the arena. Photo: Harley Van Valen

The WSL will now wait and see if the NSW State Government is willing to overrule the Ballina Shire’s decision.. According to Lennox Head local, Nick Mercer, speaking inside the chamber, the decision to hold a contest against the community’s wishes could be met with a protest paddle out during the event by local surfers, raising the possibility of an “ugly confrontation” with security. 

As the verdict was delivered and the crowd erupted, confusion also reigned with one councillor turning to give two members of the Lennox-Ballina (Le Ba) boardriders club a vigorous double thumbs up. Except Le Ba wholeheartedly supported the WSL’s bid to hold a contest at Lennox. An awkward impasse then unfolded as the councillor failed to compute the nuance and persisted with his vigorous thumbing.

Caps-lock engaged. Photo: Harley Van Valen

“Within our committee there wasn’t one person that was against it. I can only speak on their behalf. I couldn’t speak on all of Le Ba’s behalf but that’s why I ran with it,”

Le Ba board riders President, Ben Beasley, told Stab following the meeting. 

“Anyone who has families in the area, from what I got all the kids were super excited to see all their pro surfer idols coming to the area. The benefits that they were going to give to our club and community was phenomenal in the way that they were going to support Le Ba and all the kids and juniors, and wildcards into Pro Junior events. That’s why I was all for it,” he says. 

Ben Beasley, Le-Ba Boardriders President. Photo: Harley Van Valen

It turns out Le Ba are not the barometer of public opinion many people thought they were. At least two councillors were left scoobied by the divide between the Le Ba club, who voted for the contest, and the few dozen Lennox Locals packed into the chambers opposing it. 

“Le Ba represents a really small percentage of the local community. They don’t speak for all of us,” said Ben Holmes, one of three Lennox Head surfers invited to speak to councillors inside the chamber. 

“When I was in Le Ba as a junior, when Donny Munro was president, we deliberately didn’t surf the point because we respected the crew.” 

“The kids may think it’s awesome to see their surf heroes but they’ll pay for it down the track. Look at what happened to Kirra,” he said.

United feels. Photo: Harley Van Valen

They might have been in boardshorts, bucket hats and wrap around sunglasses (with strap) but the Lennox surf community were mercurial in their command of the microphone. Eloquent and with a detailed understanding of the various levers to pull in order to pose a threat to both government and world surfing’s governing body, their staunch and well organised opposition – despite a conspicuously fast approval process – drew acclaim from at least one councillor. 

“This community knows how to mobilise, that’s all I’ll say,” said councillor, Sharon Cadwaller. 

You can tell by the signs how little time they had to prepare. Photo: Harley Van Valen

If they were ready to rumble that’s because this isn’t Lennox’s first rodeo. Back in 2017, the community warded off plans by the NSW State Government to erect a monolithic 35 meter ski jump at Lake Ainsworth just north of Lennox Head. They also successfully stared down an attempt to hold a Rip Curl Search World Tour event at Lennox in previous years. 

“We killed off the Rip Curl Search. My brother even drove all the way to Melbourne, to Torquay, to have a word with him. Killed that off,” says Don Opey, a retired school teacher and longtime Lennox Local.

There is one contest held at Lennox, the Skullcandy Gromsearch, which was noted by one councillor. “It’s incongruous that we have Gromsearch and their dream is to one day surf in a World Tour event…There’s a lot of contradictions,” he said. 

Don Opey, a retired school teacher and longtime Lennox Local. Photo: Harley Van Valen

The Lennox World Tour contest was scheduled to be held between the 1st and 11th of April approximately the same time as the easter Bells Beach World Tour event, prompting one councillor to let slip news that Bells had been cancelled with Lennox set to replace it. 

Rip Curl’s marketing director, Neil Ridgway, denied that is the case.  

“The Rip Curl Pro Bells Beach has not been cancelled at this time,” he told Stab

“Will it run? That will depend on what happens with the pandemic and the government restrictions on any given day. We would love to ring a Bell in 2021, and we know we have to be flexible for as long as we can to see if that happens. The WSL are working very hard to run a tour here in Oz. Everyday they have to try and find the options that will work. If they can pull it off it will be a real feat in world sport. Covid 19 has taught us that you have to adapt everyday to make things work. You protect the country from covid 19 and you take your chances on the day. Sometimes the surf shop is open, other times it’s shut. But you don’t give up.”


Comments are a Stab Premium feature. Gotta join to talk shop.

Already a member? Sign In

Want to join? Sign Up


Most Recent

Would You Ride A Hemp Surfboard?

If so, here’s your chance to win a freebie from SOLID.

Oct 27, 2021

Should Championship Tour Surfers Compete On The Challenger Series?

Given the new wildcard rule, questions of morality loom. So we posed them to Kanoa…

Oct 27, 2021


Mikey February Won’t Leave Costa Rica Until His New Board Is Dialed

The proper setting for a talk with your shaper.

Oct 27, 2021

The Strange Intimacy Of An Almost Empty Lineup

Misc: Just the two of us.

Oct 26, 2021

Did Australian Surfing Just Get Its Mongrel Back?

Connor O'Leary may be the nicest guy in pro surfing, but his recent win revived…

Oct 26, 2021

Koa Smith Pleas For WSL 2022 Ultimate Surfer Wildcards After Zeke Lau Officially Qualifies Via CS

"The Ultimate Surfer wildcards are floating around up in the air, up for grabs."

Oct 26, 2021

Inside The Thai Factory Where Your Surfboard Might Have Been Made

“It sort of made me frightened for the Australian surfboard industry.”

Oct 25, 2021


“The Most Spooked Out I’ve Felt In A Very Long Time”

The Coopers Pacific Pale Ale Odyssey heads to the Indian Ocean.

Oct 25, 2021

Morgan Maassen Talks Creative Processes & The Production Of His Latest Work, ‘Goddesses’

A serene portrait of three Polynesian sisters pushing their surfing to the limits.

Oct 25, 2021

The Picasso Of Social Media Surf Skits Reveals The Tear-Shed Moment He Confronted Girlfriend With Outrageous Stab Highway Hairdo

Mckenzie Bowden had to quarantine in the doghouse.

Oct 25, 2021


Unlocked For All: Asher Pacey In ‘No Straight Lines’

He draws many lines — and, as promised, none of them are straight.

Oct 25, 2021

Are We Due For Another Perfect Wave Discovery?

Short answer: yeah.

Oct 24, 2021


Watch: Another Young Talent Springs Out Of Florianópolis

Wallace Vasco bleeds undeniable shades of Yago Dora.

Oct 23, 2021

The Challenger Series Rankings Just Got a Savage Shake-up

Brisa Hennessy and Connor O'Leary win the Quik/Roxy Pro France

Oct 23, 2021

What’s Your Favorite Song + Surf Section Pairing Of All Time?

An exercise in unabashed subjectivity.

Oct 23, 2021

If One Deceased Surfbrand Deserved Resuscitating It’s Most Certainly Gotcha

Surf Core Heritage not thought up in a focus group.

Oct 22, 2021

Stab Podcast: How Many Waves Counts As A Session?

Conspiracy theories, wildcard fiascos, and an inception-like surf sin.

Oct 22, 2021

‘Drive-Thru’ Team Buys Rights Back To Iconic Surf Series, Plans To Start Filming In November

Benji Weatherly explains how he, Donavon Frankenreiter, Greg Browning, and Taylor Steele plan to take…

Oct 22, 2021