25 March 2024

What's really riding on the Illawarra's first all-female surf event?

| Dione David
Start the conversation
Young surfer Oceanna Rogers holds her board at Woonona Beach

Oceanna Rogers will hit the waves at Woonona Beach for the Illawarra’s first all-female invitational surf event, the Ocean Queen Classic. Photo: Region.

When Yvonne Turner looks at Oceanna Rogers and her young contemporaries, she sees a future professional surfer whose prospects hang in the balance and hopes that history won’t repeat itself.

“She should already be on tour but hasn’t got great financial backing, which is a shame because she has a really good chance of making a name for herself,” she says.

The co-director of the Woonona Boardriders’ new event – the Ocean Queen Classic (OQC) – says there’s a lot riding on the Illawarra’s first all-female invitational surf event, set to take place in Woonona in May.

“The female surfers in this area have needed this for 20, 30 years; it should have been done decades ago. Misogyny in the sport has stood in the way,” she says.

“An event like the OQC has been long overdue in our region. It will help to undo some past misdoings in our sport. It will financially support and showcase our best current elite surfers and help inspire the next generation of female surfers.”

READ ALSO Want to live your Kelly Slater dreams this summer? Here’s your guide to the secret rules of surfing

The former competitive surfer participated in three pro surfing tour seasons before poor financial backing put paid to her aspirations.

“It’s hard for a woman in the sport to secure good financial backing. Then I had a child and that was that,” she says.

“We definitely have some future professional surfers here. This event will hopefully showcase that and give some of these girls the shot at sponsorship they deserve for their hard work and skill.”

Substantial funding from principal sponsor Reub Goldberg Brewing Machine (RGBM) in Tarrawanna has combined with tireless efforts to flush out further support from the Illawarra business community and Wollongong City Council to secure prize money for the event to rival local men’s competitions.

RGBM, where the fermentation tanks are named after female sports stars, has long had a keen interest in grassroots women’s sports, and co-owner Anna Suthers says it’s high time for this prize pool shake-up.

“If we’re going to have a shot at evening out the playing field for men and women in the sport, equal prize money is a good start. If our girls are going to put in the same effort, why should they earn less?” she says.

“It should have been done forever ago.

“We’re stoked to sponsor this event. It’s going to be such a good day. We just hope the waves come to the party so these amazing surfers can really let ‘er rip and show the world what they’re made of.”

Anna Suthers of Reub Goldberg Brewing Machine stands on the beach with Yvonne Turner of Woonona Boardriders

Anna Suthers of Reub Goldberg Brewing Machine and former pro surfer Yvonne Turner say a reckoning in women’s surfing is long overdue. Photo: Region.

Oceanna, 19, is ready to do just that.

Though an avid surfer since age nine, her first experience with the sport at age five on the waves of Little Lake in Warilla left much to be desired.

“I caught the board straight to the chin. I have a nice little scar there,” she laughs.

READ ALSO More than 35 million items donated, 6500 tonnes diverted from landfill, and it all started in Woonona

After that, she switched to dancing for a time, but her passion remained on the waves. One day, at age nine, she quit dancing, picked up her board and went surfing with her dad. She hasn’t stopped since.

“It’s like dancing on waves, isn’t it?” she says.

“I love the challenge. You don’t know what the wave is going to throw at you, and there are so many different manoeuvres you can choose from at that moment.”

four women walking to the surf with thier boards

The Queens of the Ocean will be crowned by the day’s end. Photo: Region.

The invitation-only event will highlight the region’s rich and rising female talent in an Open Women’s and a Junior division, with Queens crowned by the day’s end.

Winners will receive an epic prize purse, with $3000 going to the Open Women’s champion and cash prizes to second, third and fourth place in both divisions.

The event will also feature a heritage heat, including Australian surfing icon and former world champion Pam Burridge and local ex-world tour surfers Jenny Gill, Yvonne Turner and Kim Wooldridge.

The Ocean Queen Classic is set to run on Sunday, 5 May, at Woonona Beach.

Start the conversation

Daily Digest

Want the best Illawarra news delivered daily? Every day we package the most popular Illawarra stories and send them straight to your inbox. Sign-up now for trusted local news that will never be behind a paywall.

By submitting your email address you are agreeing to Region Group's terms and conditions and privacy policy.