Celebrating surfing, community and great Aussie music, The Drop Festival is back for its second year. Taking place in five cities alongside some of the most incomparable surfing tournaments in the world, this year's festival will feature a range of talented acts including Angus & Julia Stone, Client Liaison and The Jungle Giants. Ahead of the festival kickoff, we caught up with Director (and world surfing champion) Wayne ‘Rabbit’ Bartholomew. We found Wayne in good spirits and more than willing to share what The Drop's second year had in store.
Rabbit Radio: The Drop debuted last year and it went super well. Now you’re back for round two. What’s it like trying to bring this whole festival together? Booking the venues, the bands and then lining it up with a surf league tour, that can’t be an easy thing to plan.
Wayne Bartholomew: No it’s not. I mean that’s why we’ve really got a very good team. The logistics are quite amazing. Obviously, I’ve got my role with the World Surf League and working with the councils around Australia and the surf industry and then of course. [Drop team members] Ken O’Brien and Andy Rigby have 25 years experience in the festival space and worked even longer in the music industry touring bands and so forth so there’s a lot of experts in different areas
RR: It’s a stellar lineup! You’ve got Angus & Julia Stone, The Jungle Giants, Hockey Dad, plus more! What goes into deciding which bands you’re going to bring along for the festival?
WB: Yeah well that’s always a challenge. It’s really a simple formula: it’s going to the beach, watching great surfing and then being entertained by, as you've said, a stellar lineup. But actually getting that right combination [of bands] is a big part of it
RR: Pre-sale registrations went live on Tuesday, at 12.45pm and as well and with those registrations, I saw that you had some exclusive prizes up for grabs that were described as, "prizes that money could not buy." Can I get some hints or clues as to what those prizes might be?
WB: Well look, this is where it’s a lot of fun working with the surf industry. Down in Torquay, we’re working with Ripcurl and there’s some great packages and prizes including VIP entry, Ripcurl packs and meeting some of the Ripcurl international surf stars. Up here [in Queensland] we’ve got Quiksilver Pro, it’s the same sort of thing. Vissla is at Manly. Each of these surf industry companies is providing some awesome opportunities and there’s a couple of surprise ones as well!
RR: And so, you, yourself, have had a pretty fascinating life, you’ve done so much to bring credibility to the sport of surfing. You've won three World Surfing Championships, I can go on but you’ve done a lot and now you’re the director of a festival that is gaining much notoriety after only being around for a year! What’s that kind of success feel like to you?
WB: Well it’s a building - you know, we’re building momentum. Nothing I’ve done is without a lot of thought put into it, a lot of preparation, and it’s about having really viable partnerships and everyone working towards a goal. And, really, the thing is surf and music just run a parallel course, right through my life and right through the whole pursuit of adventure and youth and cutting edge music. It all fits so well together so for me. It’s a natural transition
RR: Absolutely. Like you said, it’s a natural transition but what was the moment that you decided you’re gonna start putting on this festival?
WB: Years ago in the '70s and early '80s you’d go to a major surf tournament and then at the end of it there’d be a great show like Midnight Oil or GANGgajang or even when INXS in its early days. That’s who you’d see live you know, and we kind of lost that. Really I just wanted to bring live music back to major surfing events. That was the initial thought and it’s been a lot of fun putting it all together.
RR: It’s a really cool idea. Have you had any major setbacks in this kind of new career, this new lifestyle?
WB: Pretty much everything I’ve ever done in my life from the very word go when I said "Look, I dream of being a professional surfer", it’s been met with scepticism. I’ve really ridden a wave of scepticism for about 40 years, so I know the ride well. [Laughs] You know I think there’s been some firey hoops to begin with but working really closely with all the stakeholders everywhere - You know what? We’re good guys, we’re here to have fun. We’re here to make it all happen and make the whole show bigger! And really we went in with enthusiasm and I’m certainly not one to lack enthusiasm. With my partners, we all share a real passion for what we’re doing
RR: Focusing back on The Drop Festival, you guys have decided to add a further two extra destinations to the tour, Newcastle and Manly. What made you guys decide to add those destinations?
WB: It was a no brainer really. I mean, they’re great events in their own right, Snapper, Bells Beach, Margaret River, they’re world championship events, they’re really… they’re huge! But with Newcastle with Surfest, with Manly [Vissla], they are great destinations, they’re huge events. They still attract some of the best surfers in the world and are really nearly a larger attraction because you know you’ve got 160 to 200 of the guys and girls trying to qualify to get onto the big stage and they bring with them their entourages and they’ve got their own fanbases. And also the venues – they’re awesome! Newcastle is a great sporting city and, it’s got a love of surfing. The great Mark Richards, my rival and great friend comes from Newcastle and they’ve produced so many great surfers over the years. And of course Manly as well you know, Manly is the home of Layne Beachley and Bart Lynch and former world champions. It’s a great venue to have surfing and music together
RR: Yeah totally! Is there anything that we can expect this year that’s gonna be different from last year at all?
WB: We just keep polishing the product you know? Obviously, in your first year of a festival, there’s a few teething things. We pretty much got it right, all our debriefs with all our stakeholders, we ticked all the boxes but we are not satisfied with just that you know? We really want to excel and we really want to stand above. It's just incredible entertainment when everyone walks away with a happy smile and has had a ball.
Words by Tayla Sudall
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