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a 50-year wave of talent and camaraderie


a 50-year wave of talent and camaraderie

The Pa and Ma Bendall Memorial Surfing Contest is Australia’s second-longest running competition, drawing boardriders from around the globe.

There is a swell celebration in the pipeline for an iconic surfing event as it prepares to mark a major milestone.

Held annually across the Easter long weekend, the event pays tribute to the region’s ‘grandfather’ of surfing as it showcases some of the best talent in the waves.

In 2024, the Pa and Ma Bendall Memorial Surfing Contest will celebrate its 50th anniversary, with the breaks at Moffat Beach once again to host the popular event from March 29 to 31.

The Sunshine Coast Surfriders Association began the competition in 1974 to honour Charles Ben ‘Pa’ Bendall, who had died the previous year, and his wife Marjorie.

It is now the second-longest running surfing competition in Australia, surpassed only by the Bells Beach Pro.

WindanSea Surf Club has organised the competition for most of its 50-year history and club president Terry Landsberg says the event has gone from strength to strength.

“Fifty years has been a real credit to WindanSea running the event, not only because of its longevity, but also in regards to the level and quality of surfing that we see each year,” he says.

“It’s also been a real platform for a lot of emerging talent on the Sunshine Coast who are participating in great waves on the Sunshine Coast in front of huge crowds.

“It’s had some amazing surfers over the 50 years, including world champions, like Michael Peterson, Rabbit Bartholomew and Tom Curren.

“There’s been world-class, local junior talent coming through the event, including our club members Wade Goodall and Reef Heazlewood, who’s competing now in the Challenger Series.

“Joel Parkinson is a (three-time) past winner. In the women’s division, Kim McKenzie, April Bengtson, Connie Nixon and Sophie McCulloch are past winners.”

Mr Landsberg says as well as local talent, the competition lures in surfers from across Queensland and Australia.

“We’re expecting some past winners at the comp this year to mark the anniversary and some will be competing, which is something to look forward to.”

The Bendalls settled in Caloundra in the 1950s and ran Harmony Lodge flats at Bulcock Beach.

They started surfing in their 50s, when there were only a small number of surfers living locally, and they encouraged and supported young surfers on the Coast to get involved with the sport.

In 1966, Pa formed the invite-only Moffateers boardriders club to promote sportsmanship and good behaviour among surfers, and also nurture talent for more challenging regional, state and national competitions.

Mr Landsberg says their passion for surfing and their endearing character – encapsulated in the films they made together – made an impact among surfing communities not only in Australia, but also worldwide.

“This memorial contest acknowledges the commitment of Pa and Ma to the Caloundra community of surfing,” he says.

“We’re very fortunate that they chose to make the Sunshine Coast their home and provide the legacy they did for the development of surfing and young surfers here in the 1960s.”

WindanSea life member Laurie Jarman helped organise the inaugural competition half a century ago.

He made the esteemed competition trophy, which was first won by Gold Coast surfer Richard Harvey: the reigning Australian titleholder at the time.

“After Pa died in 1973, (we) decided we needed to do something to make sure his contribution to surfing wasn’t forgotten and we decided on a memorial contest,” Mr Jarman says.

“We wanted the emerging local surfers to see some of the more-experienced talent. So, the format was 15 invitees.

“They included state champions, national champions and overseas competitors – and then there was an initial surfout to get another 15 competitors to meet the 15 invitees.

“The kids were really stoked to see the big names of surfing here, including Simon Anderson, Terry Fitzgerald, Peter Drouyn, Rabbit Bartholomew, Col Smith and, of course, Gerry Lopez, from Hawaii.

“The $1500 prize money for the open men’s division winner was the biggest prize amount for a surfing competition in Australia at that time.

“In the years since then, it’s been great to see our local talent take it out – like Dave Reardon Smith (six times) and Joel Parkinson, whose dad competed and who grew up with the contest in his own backyard.”

Mr Landsberg says this year’s event will be action-packed out of the water as well as in it, kicking off on Good Friday.

“It’ll be a great weekend – a lot of food, a lot of fun, music and, of course, some great surfing,” he says.

“The multicultural Festuri festival will also be running in conjunction with the comp in Moffat Park on Saturday and Sunday, so we’re really excited about that.

“On the Saturday night, there’ll be live music in the park with local band The Flying Pigs.

“Then the competition finals will be held on Sunday with presentations on the beach after the open men’s final.

“We’d love to see people from all over the Sunshine Coast join the celebrations.

“This is an exceptional, award-winning event and it’s a credit to WindanSea, our local community and the tremendous support from our local sponsors.

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Most divisions of the competition are full but there is a reserve list. For more information, email or visit the WindanSea website:

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