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Exclusive: Surfing Australia Unveil New Team Name And Tagline To Introduce Fresh Identity

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n an exclusive interview, Surfing Australia CEO, Chris Mater, spoke to Ministry of Sport about the creation of a new name and identity for Australia’s national surf team with the upcoming Olympic Games just around the corner, the first time surfing will be involved in the championships.

The team name will be titled Irukandjis (named after the Yirrganydji people), and goes under the tagline, “Deadly in the Water.”

Mater said there were a number of reasons for this selection, including a connection with an extremely venomous breed of jellyfish, and the indigenous connotations of which the name possesses.

“Firstly, the name is a cool sounding name,” Mater told Ministry of Sport. 

“Secondly, the name reflects this really venomous, nasty jellyfish, and if you get stung by it in the water it really leaves a bite, so we like that play on that of our competitors being fierce and leaving you with a nasty sting if you come up against them.

“Lastly, there was the indigenous tieback as well, coming from the Yirrganydji people which is where the jellyfish is found,” he said.

Former world champion, Stephanie Gilmore, played a critical role in the obtainment and selection of the name, a duty in which Mater could only describe as having massive implications.

“She was the architect of it, and it was her suggestion that we put forward,” Mater said.

“A major step was going to the Yirrganydji people and talking to them about what we wanted to do there.

“We have an indigenous surfer Soli Bailey and there’s a guy called Jarrod Harbrow who is a player at the Gold Coast Suns, and he is actually from there [Yirrganydji], so there was this nice, natural connection.

“We met with them [Yirrganydji people] and asked for their permission to learn about their story and a little bit more about it and they were gracious enough to give us the name and we went from there.

“Steph [Gilmore] came up with the name, and then each step along the process just felt right, and happened very organically,” he said.

This is the first time Australian representatives across all surfing genres, including junior, open, masters, Olympic, longboard, big wave, stand up paddleboard (SUP) and adaptive disciplines, will all compete under the same national identity.

Speaking on the past year during the COVID-19 pandemic, Mater highlighted some difficulties, but reiterated there were plenty of innovations created to combat any misfortune.

“We viewed the postponement [of Olympics in 2020] as everyone bring in the same boat in the sense that our competitors in Brazil and America had to deal with the same situation,” Mater said.

“From that point of view, we saw it quite neutrally, that it’s going to be in another year.

“One that was most affected was the high performance centre, which is our 2000 square foot facility that can sleep 45 people, holding sporting groups and conferences, so that one was really hammered from July, and up until today it hasn’t really recovered.

“We saw it quite favourably, as it gave us another year to prepare, get our athletes ready, and given also that you can’t do anything about it.

“We had some beautiful silver linings due to COVID, outside obviously from things being cancelled.

“Our media business grew exponentially, we’re getting well over a million views a month on all our digital content.

“We launched a new television series on channel nine called “Rivals”, based around our legends, and we are we are doing season two right now with the girls, so that has been tremendously successful.

“We moved all our learning and management, and all our coaching and judging to all online into a learning management system.

“We couldn’t do our surfing awards so we did a one-hour television special for our awards, and we couldn’t do our juniors but we did an online surfing contest.

“So we really had some great things come out of COVID which was a nice surprise,” he said.

Looking forward to the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo, Mater said he, and Surfing Australia, are very much looking forward to securing the commercial partner for the company.

“We’re a non-for-profit, outcomes based organisation, so our high performance program has never had commercial partners, so for the first time ever, we’re going to invite the corporate sector, so brands, to come along and join the ride,” Mater said.

“So we’re actively looking for a naming rights partner.

“Obviously surfing is a massive part of our sporting identity in Australia, it’s the national sport, there are over two million surfers, and it is a 365 day proposition.

“We think there is a lot of value there for partners, but it’s not just writing a cheque, we want partners that have the same values and are committed to our purpose, which is supporting the world’s best surfers and people.

“The money that we get will go right back into performance programs,” he said.

Asked on the goals of the team for the upcoming Olympic Games, Mater said medals were crucial, but not the only avenue for success for the team, with domestic goals needing to be met.

“The first goal is medals,” Mater told Ministry of Sport.

“Whether it’s fair or not fair, because of our rich history of winning and having so many world champions, it’s sort of ours to lose.

“The Australia public is going to expect us to [win] medals.

“I have confidence that all will be on the podium, so that’s first and foremost.

“With those results and with the visibility on such a big stage, we expect our participation to increase even more.

“We also want to do better in the female space.

“We have a great, inclusive sport, with equal prize money for men and women, but it is still across the board more men than women, we want to see this balance out.

“In the five to 12 year old space we are at 45% girls to 55% boys, so we would love to see that get to fifty-fifty post Olympics,” he said.