Havaianas Australia cancels annual Australia Day Thong Challenge

THE popular Australia Day Havaianas Thong Challenge has been cancelled nationwide.

Last year, Cottesloe beach set the world record for the fourth year running with 2210 people taking to the water on giant inflatable flip-flops.

Cottesloe Surf Life Saving Club (SLSC) president Ben Stephens said Havaianas notified the club in September that the event’s 10th anniversary in 2015 was its last.

“They told us that they were refocusing their marketing and ending the thong challenge,” Mr Stephens said.

“Safety was not an issue, as it has always been a high priority.

“We have had no further contact from them in terms of what their future strategy is.”

One-third of the Havaianas Thong Challenge registration fee was donated to local surf lifesaving clubs at the five participating beaches – North Bondi, Torquay, Glenelg, Mooloolaba and Cottesloe.

It had raised more than $330,000 for SLSC Nippers programs across Australia.

People have begun posting about the cancellation on the Havaianas Australia Facebook page.

“Really disappointed the thong challenge isn’t on next Australia Day, I actually booked a site down at Torquay for this exact reason,” ‎Mishelle Barclay wrote on December 30.

In reply, Havaianas Australia said they were working on “some exciting plans” in 2016.

“After an amazing 10 years of the Havaianas Thong Challenge, the Havaianas team felt it was time to shake things up and offer fans a new experience,” the message said.

“Rather than hosting the Thong Challenge at five selected beaches, our exciting new Airstream which has already kick-started will continue to hit the road, along the East Coast of Australia, visiting new locations with activities, prizes and giveaways.”

Mr Stephens said the thong challenge had been an “incredibly popular” event.

“If it does get revisited in some form in the future, we have the trophy here and we are willing to rise to the challenge again,” he said.

“Looking ahead, this year we are looking at having a fundraiser barbeque on the beach.

“In due course we are hoping to build up another family-friendly event that focuses on water safety.”

Havaianas Australia has been contacted for comment.