Mike Jahn - Byron Bay Surf Festival

When and how did you first get into surfing?
I’m from Germany originally so was into windsurfing when I was younger, I didn’t get into actual surfing until I was about 17. I was living in the States, San Diego California for a little while, fascinated with surfing and I met this older surfer dude who threw me an old twin fin and basically said if you can make it out past the white wash I’ll teach you how to surf.

Have you done much travel?
As soon as I got out of school I wanted to leave Germany. I was always pretty ocean and mountain addicted which lead to doing a couple of seasons in France and Spain, the Canary islands. I also went back to San Diego a couple of times, travelling around parts of north and central America, as well as North Africa and most of Europe and then found myself in Australia.

What is it that you love about surfing?
Everything really, it’s hard to pick. It’s probably the cleansing part mainly, you get in there and can just wash away all your stress and whatever you have going on in life. It’s almost like a type of meditation. I love surfing in remote places by myself cause you can just escape and feel so refreshed and cleansed. It’s nothing like anything else I’ve ever done. It’s very purifying.

Do you have a favourite surf spot?
There are lots. I can’t really pin point one spot. But I do love what I’ve got around me up here in Byron and Lennox Head. It’s just so consistent most of the year. I’ve surfed a lot of good places around the world in Indo, America and Europe etc., but this is my home now and where I feel most comfortable.

How many boards do you have in the garage?
I have about 20.

Do you have a go-to board?
I have been getting into riding logs a lot lately. I have a beautiful Thomas Bexon 9’4 heavy log that I ride a lot. Over the last couple of months I haven’t been able to surf due to a knee injury, so I’ve been bodysurfing a lot with a couple of cool handplanes I’ve found…it’s such an amazing pure surfing feeling.

What have been some of your main sources of inspiration for what you’ve done in work and life?
I definitely got the travel bug from my parents, more so my mum, she’s a bit of a gypsy so we used to travel a lot when I was little to a lot of different places mainly around Europe and North America. My sister works for an airline so we have always been pretty fortunate to get cheap tickets. Been given that ability from my parents has been great, they were never like “You cant do this, or you cant go there” I was very fortunate to be able to travel and do what I wanted with a lot of support from my family.

What kind of education have you had?
After school I started working in seasonal jobs, I used to snowboard a lot so I first went and worked in the French Alps then I got into surf coaching in different camps and resorts. I basically slit straight into the Tourism Industry. Even when I was in school I used to organize these trips for just my mates and sorted out all the accommodation and travel for like 30-40 people. I started studying International Tourism Management after a few seasons working in the industry, then did another degree in Sports Tourism Management about 10 years ago up in Lismore at SCU Uni. So my love of travel basically led into studying tourism.

How did you come to be involved in the Marketing and PR side of things?
Through working for different travel and tour operators, events and promotion companies I ended up at Mojosurf a Surf Travel company and that led into a marketing and sales rep role which I worked in for a few years opening up new markets around Brisbane and the Gold Coast. I really enjoyed it.  That led into some more work in the area in marketing, communications and PR for a couple of tourism and later health and wellbeing companies.

Tell us a bit about how the Byron Bay Surf Festival came to be, and what is your role?
About 4 years ago a couple of the other guys involved approached me, Vanessa and James, I used to work with both of them at Mojosurf. Vanessa had this idea to bring people together in Byron for a kind of surf festival gathering and asked if I wanted to be a part of it. With a lot of time and passion invested this initial thought has evolved into a little bit of a beast and has evolved into a full time role for me over the last couple of years. I’m still doing a little bit of markeing and social media management work on the sides when things pop up, but the others are still working other jobs so I’ve taken on the full time role of planning, organizing and preparation etc. throughout the year.

What do you love about your job?
I just love the creative freedom. I can basically develop things however I want with a lot of great people from around the world. The whole gathering aspect is what I love, meeting surf legends and gaining an insider view into our surf history and culture. For me, the ability to travel the world and surf is what makes me want to keep surfing and experiencing these sometimes super remote places you would never think about going to if you weren’t a surfer. With a young family now I can’t travel as much these days, therefore I need to bring the rest of the world to me and stay connected in that way.

How do you see the festival developing in the future?
I’d love to keep it as sustainable as we can and not let it turn into something too corporate. When we started we wanted to create something alternative and bring all these creative people here from around the world who aren’t necessarily concerned with the whole performance aspect of surfing but rather the nature and art of it. We wanted to bring that creative and cultural aspect to life, whatever that might be, but we just want to connect with people and companies who share the same values regarding surfing. It’s pretty much about getting more people interested in that highly creative side of surfing, and attracting people to surfing and the beautiful culture/ lifestyle that comes with it.

What is your favourite aspect of the festival?
Probably the design side of things is what I really admire and what I would love to see developing in a more environmentally friendly direction. I feel with this alternative cultural community festival we have the opportunity to encourage people to think about things in that more environmentally friendly way. I also really love the surf films, history and the music side of things.

Do you see yourself being involved with the festival for a long period of time?
Sometimes I get frustrated and wonder why I got myself involved, lets face it, a lot of surfers and artists aren’t the most committed people on the planet (laughs) but it’s just such a perfect thing for Byron Bay. We have received amazing feedback from the community last year and they’ve really taken it on. We can see it lasting a long time in Byron because of that perfect fit. We might not be around, but there certainly will be a surf festival in Byron. There’s a huge amount of surf history up here and a thriving surf culture.

So ideally, I would like to build the festival up to the point where it can run independently and help establish it as something that shows everyone that this is what Byron Bay is all about, a creative flourishing surf community that loves to think and act outside the norm.

Where can we find you online?

Web: byronbaysurffestival.com
Facebook: facebook.com/ByronBaySurfFestival
Twitter: twitter.com/byronsurffest
Google+: plus.google.com/+Byronbaysurffestival
Instagram: instagram.com/byronbaysurffestival


Posted by: Troy Roennfeldt, on January 14, 2014
Categories: Interviews