Blue skies and perfect conditions greeted competitors on the opening day of Surf Life Saving Queensland’s 2014 North Australian Championships in Mackay.
The first day of competition saw hundreds of athletes from under-11s right through to masters put their lifesaving skills and fitness to ultimate test in the pool and on the beach, taking the skills they regularly use on patrols and transferring them to a competitive setting.
The North Australian Championships are open to surf clubs north of Hervey Bay from Queensland and the Northern Territory.
“North Aussies is very important to the regional clubs. It’s a chance for the clubs up here to see who is the best Queensland country club but it’s also a good opportunity for the Queensland country guys to push for Queensland country selection in the Junior Representative team,” says Event Manager, Craig Holden.
“It’s also a good chance for everyone to come together with all their friends and their mates from other clubs and enjoy the weekend and enjoy the spectacle which is North Aussies.”
The action kicked off this morning on Harbour Beach with the Champion Lifesaver events, First Aid competition and the high-octane IRB racing while, at the Memorial Swim Centre, athletes competed in the full suite of pool rescue events.
Taking advantage of the local conditions, Mackay lifesavers performed strongly across the day to record a number of victories including gold in the open female IRB mass rescue, 30+ female champion lifesaver event, and the masters IRB mass and surf rescue events.
However there was plenty of joy for other clubs with an even spread of medals across the day.
Tannum Sands claimed gold in the open male IRB rescue race and also picked up silver medals in the open female and masters IRB mass rescue events.
Bundaberg’s Emma Finnis claimed gold in the open female champion lifesaver event, with club-mate Lateisha Stam taking out the under-17 division.
Townsville Picnic Bay competitors also produced a number of strong performances across the day with the club taking out a raft of events including the open male IRB mass rescue, the under-14 male champion lifesaver event, the under-15 female champion lifesaver event, the under-17 male champion lifesaver and the open IRB teams rescue event.
Meanwhile, Cairns and Arcadian put on outstanding performances at the pool.
“The pool was fantastic. I’m excited to see so many Nippers, under 11 to under 14’s, competing and great to see the older guys there too today, everything hummed along nicely and there were some good performances too,” says Mr Holden.
“From a Queensland Country perspective it’s good to see some great results and some competitive racing for when we pick our team on Sunday.”
The competition continues at Harbour Beach tomorrow with junior, open and masters athletes set to compete in a full day of beach, board and ski events where they will battle it out for a spot in Sunday’s finals.
Surf boat action also kicks off on Saturday with a short-course event that afternoon, before normal championship racing commences on Sunday.
Mr Holden says the champion club is up for grabs.
“Traditionally Ellis Beach, Cairns and Townsville Picnic Bay are the three big clubs. Looking at nominations I think Ellis Beach might struggle a bit this year. I’m loathe to write them off, they’ll have some good competitors when we hit the beach tomorrow morning,” predicts Mr Holden.
“Just looking at entry numbers I think Townsville Picnic Bay might be a dark horse this weekend. They’ve always been up there in the points score but they haven’t cracked it for quite a while so I think between them, Cairns and Ellis Beach, they’re going to fight out the overall points score.”