More than 500 surf sport athletes from Port Douglas down to Hervey Bay will hit the surf and sand at Mackay this weekend (October 24-26) when they battle it out for glory at Surf Life Saving Queensland’s 2014 North Australian Championships.
The annual event will see competitors from under-11 right through to masters converge on Harbour Beach, Mackay, across three days to contest the full suite of surf events including beach flags, sprints, surf ski, pool rescue and the blue-riband ironman and ironwoman events.
SLSQ regional operations manager and carnival coordinator Craig Holden expects the competition to be fierce, as some of the top athletes from North Queensland, North Barrier and Wide Bay Capricorn compete for one of the prestigious medals up for grabs.
“North Aussies is the most prestigious lifesaving event on the regional calendar each year and, in terms of competitor numbers, is the third largest carnival in the state behind Senior and Junior Queensland Championships,” he said.
“Each and every year the event brings together almost 500 passionate lifesavers, and there’s no doubt it will be another hotly contested event this year. Cairns will be looking for its fifth overall victory in a row, however there are plenty of contenders who will be eager to knock them off that top spot.
“While everyone competes under the overarching umbrella of lifesaving, once they pull on their respective club caps there’s certainly no holding back – it’s literally a case of club against club and mate against mate out there. There’s plenty of pride on the line and no one’s willing to give an inch when there’s a regional title up for grabs,” he said.
The competition will kick off on Friday 24 October with Champion Lifesaver, First Aid competition and high-octane IRB racing contested at Harbour Beach. The day will also include the pool rescue component at the Memorial Swim Centre from 10am – 5pm, which will see athletes take the skills they use on lifesaving patrols and transfer them to the pool in a competitive setting.
The action will continue at Mackay’s Harbour Beach on Saturday 25 October with junior, open and masters athletes set to compete in a full day of beach, board and ski events, battling it out for a spot in Sunday’s finals.
Surf boat action will also kick off on Saturday with a short-course event that afternoon, before normal championship racing on Sunday.
Looking ahead to the Championships, Mr Holden said he was excited by the influx of talented athletes currently making their way through the ranks.
“Traditionally speaking, the region has always produced really strong under-19 and open age groups and this year has been no exception,” he said.
“Maegan Cass from Mackay has just returned from the Lifesaving World Championships in France, when she placed 8th in both the Under-19 Beach Flags and Beach Sprints events so she’ll definitely be one to watch out for.
“In the men’s, Hayden Lester from Tannum Sands will be lining up at the North Aussies this week and then backing up for this first Coolangatta Gold the next weekend, which is a huge effort from him,” he said.