LOCAL business as much as the First Point crowd will be stoked as a wave of overseas talent flows into town with the Cricks Noosa Festival of Surfing, generating a big swell of trade.

Presented by Jeep, the festival weeks ago was already on track for its biggest ever international field, with more than 40% of entries received by last month coming from overseas.

Festival director Phil Jarratt said Noosa was set for an economic bonanza, with surfers from a swathe of overseas counties represented at the March 9-15 full-on test of ocean skills.

Phil said only one in three of the festival competitors is a Queenslander this year.

"That's a far cry from the old days when we were considered a regional event with just a handful of internationals," he said.

"The majority of our foreign entrants make the festival the centrepiece of a longer vacation.

"Three weeks in Noosa is not uncommon."

The American surfers making make up the biggest portion of the internationals with the strong US "Greenback" making a Noosa stay that much more appealing.

"We've always enjoyed great support from the Californian clubs, like Malibu and Windansea, but this year they're coming from all over, from the Pacific Northwest to Montauk, Long Island.

"And on top of this, we've got a bus load of European backpackers coming to compete in the Mojo Backpacker Challenge," Phil said.

Japan and New Zealand are here in force with smaller teams from France, the United Kingdom and New Caledonia.

Phil said the UK team arrived a month out from the start of the action, trying to "thaw out" from Europe's big chill and wild floods.

He said: "We've put the hard yards in with international and on-line marketing, plus we're on the back of a couple of very good years for surf, so we're reaping the benefits of that.

"But I think it's also the fact that there has been a lot of positive word of mouth from those who have been to previous Noosa festivals.

"They go home raving about the beautiful waves, the beach bar and free entertainment, the beauty of the national park, the great restaurants and bars around town, and their mates all go out and book tickets."

This year's four-hours-a-day live webcast, streamed through Australia's biggest surf forecasting website, Swellnet.com, visitnoosa.com, noosafestivalofsurfing.com, and other sponsor websites, is expected to further raise the international profile of the festival.

To find out more about the program go to www.noosafestivalof

surfing.com


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