Oz Grom competitors "most protected surfers in Australia"
THE Skullcandy Oz Grom surf contest was in full-swing at Lennox Head yesterday with air and sea patrols guarding against any possible shark attacks.
"The competitors in the contest are the most protected surfers anywhere in Australia," contest director Cameron Lindsay said.
The contest endured an interrupted start after a surfer was savaged by a shark at Ballina on Thursday.
Less than 24 hours later another surfer was knocked from his board by a shark while surfing at Lennox Head.
The attacks prompted all beaches in the area to be closed but the contest has since gone ahead with unprecedented surveillance in place.
Aerial surveillance yesterday included a fixed-wing plane and a helicopter, backed up by on-the-water support including two jet skis, an IRB, a jet boat and 24 rostered surf lifesavers on patrol, Mr Lindsay said.
"We have allayed all the fears of the young surfers and their parents," he said.
The annual junior surf contest has attracted almost 300 competitors and Ballina Mayor David Wright said the event is incredibly important to the Lennox Head community, especially in the quieter winter months.
An analysis conducted a few years ago indicated the event contributed at least $500,000 to the local economy.
Mr Wright said council had responded to the shark menace by hiring the fixed wing aircraft to conduct patrols.
While competition was cancelled on the first day of the event due to the shark threat, since then it had been a spectacle of waves, sunshine and some fantastic surfing, Mr Lindsay said.
The event continues to grow and this year includes for the first time a World Surf League-sanctioned pro-junior event.
Surfers will compete in age divisions from under 12 through to the pro junior with finals to be held Wednesday.
All the contest action is streamed live on the internet at skullcandyozgromopen.com.au.