The Mount’s surf culture is reflected in its waves – relaxed, fun, warm and welcoming.
“It’s such a good place to learn because it’s not too intimidating,” explains The Mount Surf Festival organiser Holly Gear. “It’s usually only like one to two foot. The sun’s always shining and the water’s warm. Everyone in the water is very friendly. It’s quite an embracing culture.”
A desire to celebrate that special culture and bring our local surfing community together is what inspired Holly and her partner, Leo Ferraris, to organise The Mount Surf Festival which will be held at Mount Drury on 27th February 2021.
“We came up with the event during lockdown when the world as we knew it stopped. Surfing was illegal and the events, gigs and occasions we’d looked forward to for months were being cancelled and postponed,” Holly says. “We wanted to create something to work towards, look forward to, and bring the community together after a challenging year. The festival aims to not only celebrate surf and New Zealand’s culture of it, but also celebrate the Mount and the lifestyle we all enjoy here.”
Holly and Leo both grew up in landlocked cities in the UK and Argentina respectively, far from the ocean. But their families always holidayed on the coast and they both started surfing around 10 or 12 years of age.
“Surfing is such an enriching sport,” Leo says. “It’s difficult to put into words why it’s so special but I think it’s probably being outside in nature and not relying on anything other than the waves and a completely natural energy. It’s just such good exercise and so much fun. There’s a feeling of freedom you get from being outdoors.”
Leo arrived in New Zealand four years ago, and Holly booked a plane ticket in 2018 after feeling compelled to travel here. The pair were initially just flatmates but soon discovered their shared passion for surfing and the ocean.
“The Mount was more than I could ever have expected,” Holly says. “As soon as I got here, I felt more at ‘home’ than I did at home if you know what I mean. I just felt like I had found my place.”
Plans to return to the UK and introduce Leo to her family have been put on hold thanks to COVID-19, and the pair have thrown themselves into creating The Mount Surf Festival instead.
“This is the first edition of TMSF and the first event of its kind in The Mount. We think the region not only lacks this type of event, but needs it. We want to create a space where people can meet and develop new connections, as well as enter and celebrate the world of surfing, while also recognising the need to care for the ocean and the environment,” Leo says.
The free day-long event will showcase surfboard shapers from around the North Island, plus artists, photographers and food vendors. A mini outdoor games tournament will be held, and a pump track set up for skateboards and scooters. “Everything will tie back to the surf lifestyle.”
Holly says New Zealand’s biggest junior surf lifesaving event will be held on Mount Main Beach the same day, so the pair are hoping to see lots of families and budding surfers come and check out the festival while they’re there. “I’m just looking forward to seeing everyone enjoying themselves.”
Sustainability will be a key focus and the festival will be totally plastic free. “Being surfers, you’re kind of faced with the environmental changes that are happening and the plastic pollution in the oceans directly. You see and appreciate the sea much more than people who don’t live beside it and don’t really see it every day.
So you have more of an awareness of how important it is to look after the coastline and ocean. It just seems like a natural fit to try and take advantage of getting a crowd together and also use it as a way of promoting environmental initiatives and brands that are trying to make an effort to create sustainable products.”
A surfboard will be raffled off at the festival with all proceeds going to Project Blue – a group of ocean enthusiasts who are releasing a documentary in November 2021 about plastic pollution to educate and inspire change.
Holly and Leo have taken on this event in addition to their full-time jobs. Holly works in PR & marketing, and Leo is a painter. They admit it seems like a “crazy” thing to do, but are thrilled to see everything coming together.
“We just thought we should create something that kind of distracts us from what’s going on in the world right now. We knew we were obviously going to be in New Zealand for the next few years and wouldn’t be able to travel to see our family. So we just wanted to make the most of that and make the best of quite a bad situation by knuckling down and doing something for the community,” Holly says.
“Through this event we want to promote living a healthy lifestyle and reaping the benefits of the great outdoors, create a focus on the importance of sustainability and caring for the planet, and celebrate our community’s creativity.”
For more information about the Mount Surf Festival, visit their website.
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