Margaret River Pro returns with two-year deal

Taelor PeluseyAugusta Margaret River Times
Tourism Minister Paul Papalia and Surfing WA’s Mark Lane announce a two-year contract extension for the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro.
Camera IconTourism Minister Paul Papalia and Surfing WA’s Mark Lane announce a two-year contract extension for the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro. Credit: Augusta-Margaret River Times

WA’s biggest surfing event, the Drug Aware Margaret River Pro, has been brought back from the dead after 18 months of hard negotiations with the sport’s world governing body.

During today’s announcement at Surfers’ Point to confirm a new two-year contract with the World Surf League, Tourism Minister Paul Papalia for the first time revealed how dire the event’s outlook had become.

“Honestly, the briefing note I read was that we had lost it,” Mr Papalia said.

“And that wasn’t being negative ... that was just the reality.”

WA would have been wiped off the World Championship Tour and the Australian leg reduced from three events to two if the five-year contract could not be extended beyond this year.

Surfing WA boss Mark Lane said negotiations on a new contract began about 18 months ago, but until six months ago, there was “didn’t have a pulse at all”.

“We checked the patient over in early February and we found a faint pulse and we sort of went again from there,” he said.

Mr Lane said it was great news for the sport and provided opportunities for local up-and-comers, with some set to surf against the world’s best in the 2018 event.

Margaret River’s Jack Haslau, who was last month crowned under-18 State Champion after dominating the WA Junior Surfing Titles, said he was “stoked” the Pro would return for at least two years, and while the waves could get crowded during the event, locals were happy to share.

The Minister would not attach a figure to the State Government’s contribution — considered commercial-in-confidence — but pointed to the money the event pumped back into WA’s economy.

A media statement revealed the Pro delivered $5.4 million to the South West each year.

Augusta-Margaret River Shire president Ian Earl told the Times the Pro offered an immediate economic return for the region and long-term benefits for the State as a whole.

“You can’t have 3.5 million hits (online) ... without some of those people wanting to come and visit Margaret River, or the whole of the South West and the State,” he said.

“We’ll probably be seeing the benefit of this over the next five, 10 or 20 years.”

Shadow tourism minister and Vasse MLA Libby Mettam said the negotiation’s positive outcome was a credit to Surfing WA, Tourism WA, the Shire, and all other organisers and volunteers.

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