Some of surf lifesaving’s most experienced athletes wound back the clock and produced some dazzling displays on Day One of Queensland Surf Life Saving Championships at Maroochydore Beach on the Sunshine Coast.
More than 600 of Queensland’s top masters competitors aged from over-30 to over-70 hit the surf and sand in their quest for glory across a range of events including the ironman and woman, skis, boards and surf swims.
Sunshine Coast clubs made the most of the local conditions with Alexandra Headlands leading the masters competition ahead of Mooloolaba and Northcliffe, with only a handful of events to be completed tomorrow.
Former Queensland and Australian ironman champion Grant Kenny proved he was still a force to be reckoned with, taking out the 50-54 years ironman, surf race and surf board finals while picking up silver medals in the 50-54 years surf ski and 150+ years surf team event.
However the 51-year-old didn’t have it all his way, forced to make up more than 50 metres after the opening swim leg in the ironman, before eventually taking the race in a sprint finish from Surfers Paradise’s Craig Chapman.
Kenny, who slightly aggravated a calf injury in the process, said he was happy with the final result despite having to dig deep for the win.
“It was definitely hard work out there, particularly because I was chasing right from the start with the swim, so I was playing catch up the whole way,” Kenny said.
“With these conditions, if you manage to get a wave it can be pretty hard for someone to come back from behind, so I really needed to pull it out in the ski leg, and that hurt. I hurt my calf as well, so the last thing I needed was a run up the beach, but that’s just the way it is some days.
“As far as the conditions go, they were pretty good out there. You’ve just got to try to pick the gaps with the rips and so on, so it’s a little bit tactical in that regard but otherwise the surf was fairly straight forward,” he said.
It was a strong day for the surf veteran, who also teamed up with Alexandra Headland teammate Jeff Lemarseny to take out the 50-54 years open double ski. In addition to the masters events, he also backed up to compete in a number of open races including the double ski and ski events.
“They’re long days but you’ve just got to go when you need to, and as the day goes on you get more and more tired and start to wish you’d done more training, but it’s too late for that now,” he joked.
Northcliffe’s Lee Vrolyks was one of the stars of the day, claiming seven gold medals including the 30-34 years ironwoman, surf board, surf race, surf board rescue and surf ski while also joining teammates to win the 110+ years surf team and surf ski relay.
“It’s been a really good day, the conditions were testing but I like a bit of surf. And it’s always great to race in the team events with the other girls, we always have a bit of fun,” Vrolyks said.
“I’ve been a member of Northcliffe for 20 years now and I haven’t raced for another club for a very long time, since I was a little nipper, so it’s always nice to put on the maroon and white star and race for the club,” she said.
It was also a successful day for one of the oldest competitors in the field, with 76-year-old
Neville de Mestre taking out a raft of events including the 70+ years ironman, double ski, tube race and surf race, while also finishing second in the board rescue with teammate Barry Miley.
De Mestre, who has amassed more than 60 Queensland titles since he first joined North Burleigh in 1989, said he continued to enjoy the challenge of testing himself against the conditions and fellow competitors.
“I love catching up with everybody and the challenge to see if I can still do it, and of course the fun of being in the surf – there’ s waves to catch and strategies to work out, so it’s good fun out there,” he said.
There was plenty of joy other clubs, with the likes of Kurrawa, Alexandra Headlands, Mooloolaba, Noosa, North Burleigh, Surfers Paradise and plenty more all walking away with gold from the day.
Rod Finney ensured a couple of medals would be heading back to Mackay, placing 2nd in the 45-49 years beach flags and 3rd in the sprint.
Yeppoon’s William Robertson knocked off Mackay’s Colin Coles to win gold in the 55-59 beach flags, before Coles turned the table in the sprint to take gold ahead of Robertson.
There was further joy for Yeppoon with Kirsty Glithero taking bronze in the 40-44 years beach flags and Peter O’Shaughnessy winning silver in the 50-54 years 2km beach run.
In addition to a full day of masters competition, there were also a handful of open events and finals.
Maroochydore athletes made the most of local conditions with Alyce Burnett and Brianna Massie teaming up to take gold in the open female double ski, while Jy Duffy and Jordan Wood took out the male final.
Northcliffe’s Rebecca Creedy made a strong start to her state campaign, taking out the open belt final ahead of club-mate Devon Halligan. Stefaan Demopoulos made it a double for Northcliffe, taking out the male final ahead of Lacey James (Mermaid Beach) and Pierce Leonard (Southport).
The action continues tomorrow when some of the sport’s biggest names hit Maroochydore Beach for this first time this championships, including the likes of Shannon Eckstein, Ky Hurst, Matt Poole and Liz Pluimers.
As the pinnacle sporting event on Queensland’s lifesaving calendar, the 2015 Queensland Surf Life Saving Championships will see more than 1,500 athletes line up across three days of competition (March 27-29) to battle the surf, sand and each other in their quest for glory.
For results from the masters competition, please visit: http://sportqld.carnival.sls.com.au/eventmgr/results/report/public/348/1
For results from the open competition, please visit: h
To view images from the first day of competition, please visit www.facebook.com/SurfLifeSavingQueensland