Queensland lifesavers produce masterful display

The state’s most experienced lifesavers produced some masterful displays on the first day of action at the 2016 Queensland Surf Life Saving Championships at North Burleigh on the Gold Coast.

Day one of competition saw more than 600 masters competitors aged from over-30 through to over-70 line up across a range of events including the ironman and woman, surf skis, board races, beach sprints and ocean swims.

Northcliffe’s Allan Nicholls showed his class in the over-70 age group, taking out the 1km beach run, beach flags and beach sprint. Campbell Seward and Russell Trueman teamed up to win the double ski in the same age division, while Jeff Gatenby won the surf board event. Terry McLardy won the over-70 surf race and the ironperson.

Northcliffe’s Lee Vrolyks won five events across the day including the 30-34 years ironwoman.

Former Queensland and Australian champion Grant Kenny wound back the clock to produce a number of strong performances including top three finishes in the 50-54 years surf race, ironman, surf ski and surf board, before partnering with Jeff Lemarseny to take bronze in the double ski.

While Kenny was happy with his performances across the day, he admitted that his preparation was far from ideal.

“It’s been a good day and it’s always a lot of fun in this type of surf. The shore break is pretty heavy, and the bank out the back has been pretty heavy all day, so there’s plenty of stuff the ocean’s been throwing up at us which always makes racing a bit more interesting,” he said.

“I spent the whole of February overseas and I’ve only been back in the country for three weeks now, so I’m very light on at the moment when it comes to training.

“Having a crack is one thing, going fast is another story and doing it again and again is yet another story, and that’s the hard part, but it’s been a good day.

“The best part about events like this is hanging out with the guys, having a laugh and doing what we’ve been doing for a long time now. These days it’s mostly about the guys that you’re racing with and against,” he said.

Kenny said he was hoping to line up at Maroochydore next month for the Australian Surf Life Saving Championships.

“That’s definitely the plan at this stage, but I’ll need to do a bit more training between now and then,” he said.

“I’ve spent a lot of time overseas this year and I haven’t really done much but, barring a couple of short trips away, I should be here most of the time between now and Aussies so hopefully I’ll get three or four weeks of solid training in before then,” he said.

It proved to be a family affair for the Kennys, with Grant’s son Jett teaming up with James Porter to take out the open double ski final. Meanwhile, Martin Kenny won the 45-49 years double ski event.

In addition to a full day of masters competition, there were also a handful of open events and finals.

Noosa’s Jordan Mercer and Kirsty Higgison kicked off their campaigns in the best possible way, teaming up to take out the open female double ski final.

Mercer and Higgison, who finished first and second in this year’s Nutri-Grain IronWoman series, produced a near faultless performance to master the tricky surf conditions which caught out a lot of other pairs.

“It was really good fun out there. We were actually lucky at the start, Jordie said ‘just go’ and we went so hard off the line and managed to pop over that first wave where a lot of other crews got stuck,” Higgison said.

Mercer, who won the Queensland ironwoman title in 2014, said it was a great way to start the weekend.

“What a perfect way to start and, to be honest, I was looking forward to the double ski race the most out of anything this weekend, along with our Taplin relay,” she said.

“To have it first up was just a perfect start for us, and I think today’s really set the tone for the rest of the weekend.

“It’s tough out there, but I love racing in conditions like these and everyone’s smiling and happy to be here, which is great to see,” she said.

The action continues tomorrow when some of the sport’s biggest names hit North Burleigh for the first time, including the likes of Shannon Eckstein, Courtney Hancock, Ali Day and Matt Poole.

The 2016 Queensland Surf Life Saving Championships will see more than 1,600 athletes line up across three days of competition in their quest for state glory.

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