Layne Beachley becomes first female Patron of Surfing Australia as she steps down as Chair of the board

Published on 27/11/2023

Layne Beachley has become the first female Patron of Surfing Australia after stepping down from the board following 14 years of service.

Reflecting on her tenure as a board member, which included eight years as Chair, Layne said that the waves of change that had swept through the organisation and the sport as a whole were impossible to ignore.

“It has been a journey filled with challenges, triumphs, and a relentless commitment to advancing the sport of surfing while fostering inclusivity and diversity,” she said.

“When I first joined the board, the landscape of surfing was vastly different. The sport was often perceived as male-dominated, with limited opportunities for female surfers to showcase their talents on the global stage. However, it was precisely this perception that fuelled my determination to break down barriers and usher in a new era for Surfing in Australia.”

Layne joined the board of Surfing Australia in 2010 and, in 2015, became the first former female world champion to become a Chair in any National Sporting Organisation (NSO).

She said the last eight years had been particularly transformative.

“I’ve had the privilege of leading a dynamic team that shares a passion for surfing and a vision for the future of the sport. Together, we built a safe, inclusive and exciting hub for athletes to flourish at our $12 million High Performance Centre, embracing a charter dedicated to creating the world’s best surfers and people. We became an Olympic sport, opening new avenues for our athletes to showcase their talents on the world’s grandest stage. We expanded our grassroots initiatives with over 100,000 kids participating in our SurfGroms program. During Covid we were the number one growth sport for females, with over 120,000 women picking up a board for the first time. With a complete overhaul to our coaching and judging programs we have empowered and educated more leaders, and we expanded our audience with innovative digital initiatives. We secured over $35 million in funding from all levels of Government to further the sport. Our goal was not only to produce world-class athletes but also to cultivate a love for surfing at all levels of the community.”

Layne said one of the proudest moments of her tenure was spearheading initiatives to promote gender equality in surfing.

“We worked tirelessly to bridge the gap between male and female surfers in terms of recognition, prize money, and opportunities. Today, I am thrilled to witness a more inclusive and equitable surfing community where female surfers are supported and celebrated for their incredible skills and achievements.

“However, our journey has not been without its share of challenges. Navigating the complexities of sponsorship, financial sustainability, governance and the evolving expectations of our diverse stakeholders and community required strategic thinking and adaptability. The surfing world is dynamic, and being at the helm of Surfing Australia demanded constant innovation and a willingness to embrace change.

“As I step down from my role as chair, I do so with a deep sense of gratitude for the incredible team, the surfing community, and the sport itself. Surfing Australia has become more than just an organisation; it’s a family united by a shared love for the ocean and a passion for riding its waves.”

Surfing Australia CEO, Chris Mater said: “The principal job of any person who is given the privilege & responsibility of leading a sport is to leave it better than when you found it. And OMG has Layne achieved that to an extraordinary level at Surfing Australia. I thank Layne for her leadership, passion, support, and ability to get things done in surfing. She is a trailblazer in sport & nothing short of a hero for what she has done for female surfing. What Layne has achieved both in & out of the water will likely go unmatched ever again. We love you & now as our first female Patron of Surfing Australia I look forward to working with you in that new capacity.”

Adrian “Ace” Buchan has been elected as the new chair of Surfing Australia.

Ace said: “It’s a huge honour to be moving into the Chair role less than two years after surfing my last World Tour event. Surfing is arguably Australia’s most loved and aspirational sport and I feel a great responsibility to ensure the next generation are provided with the same opportunity to discover the lifelong gift of surfing and chase their dreams. I congratulate Layne on her fantastic tenure in the role and all she has achieved, especially the establishment of the High Performance Centre, the explosion of female participation throughout Australia and successfully navigating the business through the pandemic.

“Giving back to the sport beyond my time in the jersey is something I’m acutely aware of. As a first generation Australian I fell in love with the ocean at five years old and crystallised a goal of emulating my heroes. Surfing has afforded me the ability to travel the world, chasing my dreams and broadening my perspectives. 

“I will bring a strong sense of values into the role as we look to build on the successful programs we have in the social and environmental space. 

“I truly believe in the transformational power of Surfing to unite and provide leadership, and at Surfing Australia we will continue to strive for a happier, healthier Australia through the sport, as well as supporting our elite athletes to be their best in and out of the water.”

Ace Buchan has been elected as the new Chair of Surfing Australia. Image: Guy Williment

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