noosa festival of surfing 2022

Wave of Success

Image source: Photographer Ian Borland

From a grommet at First Point to tackling big surf breaks around the world, Kirra Molnar is the busiest surf coach, world longboard tour competitor, wannabe beach bum and all-round super surfer girl, writes Helen Flanagan. 

After gentle persuasions from dad Steve and watching surf movies, six-year-old Kirra Molnar quickly graduated from a foamie to a Sunova custom shortboard shaped by Bert Berger. She was totally hooked. 

 The Molnar family moved to Fiji’s Denerau where Steve was GM of the Sheraton. Here the 13-year-old had easy access to reefs around Natadola, Namotu, famous Cloud Break and Wilkes Passage where ocean glass conditions and two-metre waves often turned wild and were frequently twice her height. 

A few years later and back in town, she questioned surfing shortboards. 

“Starting out, a board with more volume has better stability so is easier to stand up on,” explained Kirra who graduated from St Andrews at Peregian and completed a double degree in sports and exercise science plus business management at USC. “But it also depends on your level of fitness and the way you want to progress. 

“I love surfing all boards, but you need to change technique and mindset when you switch. There is a misconception that longboarding is just for beginners and shortboarding is for advanced surfers. My love of longboards developed when I started competing in the Noosa Festival of Surfing,” she said. 

An exciting travel moment for Kirra was undoubtedly Mexico with partner Ricky Latham, surfing their way down the coast from Huatulco to Chipehua and back up to Puerto Escondido over a week of amazing swell that reached the shores of Oaxaca.

“We met a local surf guide who told us to head further south about 10km, turn right at the fence (yes) and head down a little dirt track,” the 28-year-old recalled. “Turning right down a very obscure, dodgy dirt track became so bad the leads to the battery of our little Volkswagen hire car became disconnected. But then came the ‘wow’ moment – perfect 5ft waves, peeling right hand break and no – I’m not sharing the name of the place. We stayed with a local family and four other surfers about 20 metres from the water.” 

In 2019, longboard competition became more serious with the World Surf League (WSL) World Longboard Tour featuring some of the most exciting events. 

“We surfed Playa de Pantin in Galicia where the geography created a natural amphitheatre,” she recalls. “I was stoked to win the first heat. Next round was against two previous multiple world champions Honolua Blomfield and Kelia Moniz. The swell increased to well over the head and the direction shaped a fast left hander into the rocky outcrop. 

“The waves were fun, challenging and I learned a lot.” 

Thanks to Hurricane Dorian, there were a few waves for the New York event; lost boards were returned in the nick of time from North Carolina; and Kirra’s mother Kim, her gorgeous friend with “the best genes” was there to meet her. 

“The final stop was Taiwan with typhoon waves making things super interesting and very entertaining to compete in and watch,” Kirra said. 

“I finished equal 25th that year which had me super inspired to do better.” 

Then Covid-19 halted everything. 

Currently Kirra juggles commitments as a high-performance surf coach and a fitness trainer at Pro Movement Studios, working in the surf shop for sponsor Classic Malibu; a key organiser of the first Womens Surf Festival with hopes to take it globally; and president of the Noosa World Surfing Reserve (NWSR). 

Designated two years ago, the role of NWSR is to help share, protect and preserve the outstanding waves and surrounding area’s environmental, economic, cultural and community attributes. Last year they installed defibrillators throughout the Noosa National Park and are currently working with Surf Life Saving to see if rescue equipment (rescue tubes) can be placed where regular rescues are needed during swell events at local breaks. 

At the Noosa Surf Museum, as part of this year’s Noosa Festival of Surfing, the NWSR is presenting the Surf Film Archive with Jolyon Hoff and Hamish Ludbrook, along with a preview of ABC-TV’s upcoming dramatic series Barons, due to hit our screens late April. 

By the time you read this, Kirra will have competed in the Woman’s Logger Pro and Open Woman’s, giving the old Mal a go; as well as leading the paddle out and featuring on the panel for the International Women’s Day event. 

Kirra’s life really is a beach and it is central to her happiness. 

“I’d love to continue competing in longboarding, meet inspiring people, travel the world, chase surf and be a beach bum in Mexico with Ricky, who has his own Rypl Lab Surfboards brand, is right into motocross and when not competing, is teaching me how to ride my KTM 350,” she said. 

A swell life indeed.

Surfers to Watch

The Noosa Festival of Surfing has many familiar names and faces; surfers who return year after year to compete, commune and carouse. For more than a handful, ‘returning’ means simply donning a contest rashie and paddling out at their home break as Noosa has spawned more than its share of expert loggers across several generations. Here’s some of the Noosa locals to keep an eye on:

Jack Norton: An outstanding surfer with a classic style. The humble family man is being projected around the world via the lens of his talented photographer wife, and Jack’s return to Noosa is never without a strong set of results. Too often a runner up, Jack finally took home his most prized victory in 2018 with a win in the Old Mal division. When the stars align, Jack’s competition talents can be simply unstoppable.

Sierra Lerback: Growing up in Hawaii, Sierra developed a consummate knowledge of and experience on a wide range of craft. We first saw her at the tender age of 16 under the chaperone of her life friend Honolua Blomfield’s family, and we knew then that we would be seeing plenty more of this talented young wahine. Sierra now calls Noosa home and continues to decimate the field in each and every Noosa Festival lineup.

Ryan Campbell: A former professional shortboarder, Ryan’s wide smile and constantly happy persona light up the lineup whenever he paddles out, but even their radiance dwindles into a mere glimmer when his surfing ignites. An exceptionally talented shortboarder, Ryan is the driving force behind the Noosa Festival of Surfing’s motivation to make a more inclusive surfing festival.

Zye Norris: Zye first surfed the festival as a frothing grom, drowning in his oversized contest jersey but holding his own. He has an acute affinity with our point breaks, reading their braille, hearing their whispers and discerning their undulations like few others can to slide wave after impeccable wave. In 2012, Zye took out the old Golden Breed Noserider division and owned First Point with a win in 2018’s Logger Pro.

Matt Ciddihy: Quiet-spoken, ultra-humble Matt appears from the hills when the swell starts to flow, his surfing uttering far more syllables in a single wave than he does in a week. Adventurer, photographer and casually classic styler, Matt has taken up permanent residence in the upper echelons of the Noosa Festival of Surfing winners’ circle for well over a decade.

About the Author /

Noosa’s sophisticated charm, vibrant food culture and the magnetism of a subtropical paradise surrounded by national parks, inveigled Helen’s manic world and flipped it on its side. She pursues the good life with gusto, instinctively understanding the joys of travel, the art of story-telling, a candid review and surviving another reno whilst thriving on the motto Live Laugh Love!

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