Single Fin Mingle: Celebrating surfing, music and culture at Sumner beach

The Single Fin Mingle festival starts today with two musical events planned for the weekend...
The Single Fin Mingle festival starts today with two musical events planned for the weekend featuring Kiwi talent There’s a Tuesday and Jed Parsons. Photo: Supplied
The Single Fin Mingle is about to barrel into the streets and surf of Sumner.

The four-day surfing festival and competition, in its seventh year, celebrates a love of longboarding. It starts on Thursday and runs until Sunday.

Its founder, Ambrose McNeil is most looking forward to seeing the Canterbury surfing community come together to celebrate and have a good time at the mingle.

“It is pretty special to be able to bring friends from around the country and the Sumner community together to participate in the competition plus do all the fun things.”

Yesterday he was scheduled to finish managed isolation, having flown over from Australia to stage the event.

Sumner is the best place to run the event, McNeil said.

Although the waves are not always the greatest, the enthusiasm from the community makes the event so special.

“The community there are so supportive and tight-knit.

"There are great venues, a beautiful theatre, amazing bars and restaurants, surf clubs. The local businesses really get behind the event,” McNeil said.

The biggest hurdle for this year’s Mingle for McNeil has been actually getting back to Sumner, having lived in Australia for the past five years.

“It was touch and go for a while there,” McNeil said after booking a spot in managed isolation proved to be quite difficult.

The core of the event is the longboarding competition. Although the competition is divided by gender, there are no age categories, with the youngest competitor aged 14 and the oldest in their 60s.

“What makes longboarding special is that is spans a full age and gender divide, we can all chat about the same thing, no matter your background.”

A big part of the event is the celebration. Photo: Jonathan Smit
A big part of the event is the celebration. Photo: Jonathan Smit
It is an invitational festival meaning you have to be invited to participate.

McNeil said: “The idea behind this was to make it prestigious so we can showcase world-class longboarders.”

McNeil and a few others across New Zealand scout out potential participants at surfing competitions, look for people who stand out at local beaches and find others through word of mouth.

But it is not meant to be an exclusive event.

“Half of it is how good you are; the talented longboarders who put effort into perfecting the fine art of this traditional style of surfing,” McNeil explained.

“The other part of the criteria is just being a cool, laid-back, good person.”

The event has developed in many different ways each year.

In the early days of the Mingle, its biggest party held 100 people at a local venue.

This year, it is building its own venue in the Sumner Village Mall that can hold 800.

The event has also extended an extra day and night with more going on.

There will be two musical soirees showcasing local musicians, such as There’s a Tuesday; a film gala of surf cinematics, and an art show at LEstrange Gallery.

Surfers warm up in hot tubs. Photo: Jonathan Smit
Surfers warm up in hot tubs. Photo: Jonathan Smit
The ‘Wonderful Warm Up” gig, including Two Minds from Mt Pleasant, was held on Saturday.

A special part of the event will be the sale of Abrahands stickers, available for a donation. The donations will go towards an alternative mental health therapy, in memory of McNeil’s brother Abraham McNeil who committed suicide in 2019.

“We want to keep the conversation around mental health going,” McNeil said.

The Mingle has caught the attention of an international audience, too.

In 2019, more than 50 surfers from around the world competed in the Sumner surf and more than 100 other internationals attended the festival.

“I’m blown away every year by how the festival is growing. It’s not about getting bigger but it’s about trying new things to make the experience better.

“Our goal has always been to make this the best weekend of the year,” McNeil said.

  • Click here for more information and event times.



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