Written by Jolt Squirrel
Title image courtesy of James the Dragon

 

Australia’s premier furry convention, Furry Down Under (FurDU for short), started its event on May 31-June 2, 2019. It is located at the Mantra on View in Surfers Paradise, a hotel that has served them for 7 of the 10 years the convention has been running. This year, they celebrated their 10th anniversary, and what better way to do so than by throwing a party like none other and adding a lot of goodies to take home?

 

The beach shack, for all your tactical gear, survival supplies and miniature nukes. We accept only bottle caps.

The theme of this year is “Back to the Beach” and it’s strewn around with post-apocalyptic artifacts and imagery. Think Mad Max or Fallout, add a few signs warning of radioactive furries, a miniature nuke and you’ve got an atmosphere that fits the bill. The overall vibe of the event is highly relaxed, owing largely to Furry Down Under being located in Surfers Paradise and its image as a party convention with a premium for fun and socializing and less of a focus on the panels. Also, fair disclosure: FurDU is billed as 18+ due to the overt presence of mature elements in some of the panels that were being hosted.

 

Some statistics, though. Furry Down Under 2019 sold out and reached a full capacity of 800 odd attendees, and there were well over 200 fursuiters in attendance. The charity for this year was Fresh Start Rescue Inc. – a band of passionate animal lovers who focus on rescuing, rehabilitating and re-homing animals in need. Read more about them here (https://freshstartrescue.wixsite.com/freshstart). The convention raised a total of $7,000 AUD for charity this year. Since its conception in 2010, FurDU has definitely come a long way. 2010 saw an attendance of 92 at a time where the Australian furry scene had a mostly vacant calendar in terms of furry events and the first organisers OzKangaroo and Flame Drake believed the time was ripe for a second Australian furry convention. Since then, FurDU has seen consistent growth throughout all the years.

 

That's a fair bit of moolah for that dragon suit. 10/10 Would buy, because purple, but that's just me.

The Dealer’s Den (Junkertown as named on the conbook) was abuzz with business and on display, you’ll see tables stocking furry literature, stickers, fursuit sprays, premade fursuit parts and much more. Australia’s best furry artists are in no shortage around the den as well and their portfolios looked top notch – I even managed to snag up a commissioned piece. If you read the conbook, you’ll know also to find a dealer that accepts bottle caps as currency to get you supplies to survive FurDU, which ranged from medication to an imitation Nuka Cola. Overall, it’s quite easy to be glued to Junkertown admiring the handicrafts of the dealers and splurging out your budget on these goodies.

 

Fireworks from the best seats in my buddy's apartment balcony

To add more spice to the mix, an international fireworks competition called Seafire just happened to line up with the scheduling of the convention. The festivities happened on the beach down by the block on Friday and Saturday. Seafire even brought a Batmobile on display, cultural dances and lots and lots of fireworks for two days. By noon crowds posed in front of the Batmobile, enjoyed the cultural dances, shopped around the vendor’s stalls and even petted some birds brought to the event. By night the crowds gathered around to watch international teams produce the most dazzling fireworks display. Word has it that witnesses saw the Batmobile being towed, so Batman, you better be doubly sure you’ve been paying those parking tickets!

 

The Batmobile on display, and a fox posing as the rains rolled in.

Story time. On Saturday I was crazy enough to immerse myself in the Seafire festivities by night with a fursuiter friend, walking down the beachfront with his fursuit and braving the crowds, porched on the sand and the neighbouring shops and stalls eagerly anticipating the fireworks. Rain was expected on the forecast on that day and just our luck, the rain rolled in. So just about all the furries at the con pretty much withdrew their plans to take photos of their suits at the beach because of it. Not us though (and another suiter). Revelers crowded around the fursuit I accompanied for photos, and things did get a little dicey when some children pulled my buddy’s tail. Luckily, we got out of trouble with no damage to either of us and the timing for the fireworks was bang on that I photographed him dancing to it. After that, we both enjoyed the remainder of the fireworks from the best seats in the house. What a way to spend the night!

 

An aerial shoot of the fursuiters on the beach. Eerily, the fursuiters are arranged in the shape of Australia. Photo taken by Sawrex Sergal.

As for the parade? We in Australia call it the Fursuit Walk and venture outside of the convention hotel to humour the public, socialise and perform the group photo shoot. Blessed with sunshine and in an orderly as possible fashion, many of the fursuiters and congoers were corralled in the hotel lobby and then, formed a line for a short walk to the beach. You can easily figure what’s on the mind of the beachgoers when the 200 odd fursuits walked the streets and onto the sand. As for the photoshoot proper, the organisers set up a 360 degree overhead panoramic on the beach centered around the FurDU flag, but the main shot saw all the fursuiters literally try and form a rectangle and be seen the best they can. Protip: When finding a spot for the group photo, try and slink yourself into a position where you would be unmissable at just about every angle. I did just that to score myself a position right in front of the FurDU flag that lay rested on the sand.

 

The furs say AWOO in front of the Mini Golf course. Image taken by Kyle Foxson.

Plenty of time to adventure outside of convention space was also had, with many of the furries opting to go to the beach. On the schedule of external events, Mini Golf and the Infinity attraction were listed. With a group of furries, I played a round of Mini Golf in fursuit, which was made more challenging and fun with the addition of said fursuit. I experienced the marvel known as the Infinity Attraction (https://infinitygc.com.au), and what I got out of it was a weird mashup of darkness, mirror filled rooms, lasers galore and a literal ballroom. Claustrophobes need not apply in this maze-like corridor of wonder, and some contortion was done here and there. Only two other fursuiters (not me) braved the attraction in suit since you need an assistant to guide you through the dark corridors plus removable handpaws and feet to experience the full sensation of lights and sensory feedback.

 

The dance floor by night, Oooh, there's a pair of Finns that flew all the way down here

And how about the dances? FurDU hosted both the Floor Wars and the Dance Competition. The Floor Wars saw some intense battling between the dancers with and without fursuits, and even I had to cringe a little when one of the dancers pulled all the Fortnite dances. The Dance Competition exhibited impressive dancing talent all show long and even I was surprised when one of the competitors danced a 5 minute routine, which is well beyond what is asked of any fursuiter! By night, the Main Stage transforms into a dance floor with its own light show, projector and music provided by five different DJs. For the first time ever, I hit up the nightly dances in fursuit, and boy did I learn just how hard and exhausting it can be to dance in it. Needless to say, I gave the dances everything I’ve got, played ball on the dance floor once, enjoyed the company of friends and fellow furs alike.

 

Ball toss with fursuit paws on, piece of cake, right? Nope! Photo taken by Husky Pause

Fursuit Games? Can’t forget that – I managed to scrape a position in the nick of time. 40 fursuiters, 4 teams and a fun array of games including Tunnelball, Egg running with a spoon, ball toss and bizarrely, stuffing a partial fursuiter wearing a one-piece clown suit with balloons, and then popping them with a needle. Wearing fursuits, the games turned out to be more challenging, especially the ball toss, but that’s what makes it a spectacle to watch. In the end, my team performed spectacularly, scoring in equal first with another. Definitely gets the blood pumping and the competitive spirit going.

 

There's nothing quite like posing in the mornings with your fursuit mama.

So what was my experience in a nutshell? Amazing, exhausting and frantic! I was here, there and everywhere. I kept friends both old and new company, assisted them with the running of any photo shoots they may be involved with, and then some more. Jolty received lots of positive comments and even had a few fursuiters enamoured on how purple he really is. The biggest shenanigans can be experienced at night when the fursuiters just unwind outside of the Main Stage, popping in and out of the dances. Everyone seems to act all fuzzy, take group photos, pose around the beach shack with the nuke and bottle cap bucket and the life sized post-apocalyptic cutout.

 

Would I recommend Furry Down Under? Absolutely, I had one heck of a party! It still maintains the feeling of an extended family due to its attendance size, which seems to be on par with the current state of Australian furry events. You won’t have much problems making new friends or breaking out of your shell. Internationally, FurDU attracted visitors from New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan, the USA and even two from as far as Finland! So make it a priority to put this on your calendar when next it rolls up. The theme for 2020 revolves around mad science, and it was accompanied with laughter from Michael Jackson’s Thriller when announced. I hope to see you there on the beaches one day!

 

Feel free to listen to Episode 56 of the Raiders Rambles, titled "Life's a Beach" to get a taste of the FurDu story and some interesting tidbits that happened over the course of the event.