FRIENDLY RIVALRY: Some of the world’s fastest and fittest athletes will come out to play at the 2018 Queensland Surf Life Saving Championships at Maroochydore Beach. PHOTO: JOHN MCCUTCHEON
SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST Some of the world’s best athletes in the surf and on sand vie for glory
It’s a wonderful opportunity for anyone and everyone to get down to Maroochydore and check out some of the world’s fittest and fastest athletes in action.
RIVALRIES will be reignited and reputations put on the line when the state’s top surf sports athletes flock to Maroochydore this weekend for the 2018 Queensland Surf Life Saving Championships. As the pinnacle sporting event on Surf Life Saving Queensland’s calendar each year, the championships will see more than 1500 lifesavers from across the state battle the surf, sand and each other in their quest for glory. The championships, which kick off today and run through to Sunday afternoon, will see competitors from under-17 to over-70 test their fitness, endurance and surf skills in a range of events including beach sprints, surf boats, surf skis and swims. The ironman line-up reads like a who’s who of surf lifesaving, with Shannon and Caine Eckstein, Matt Poole, Matt Bevilacqua, Ali Day, Hayden White and TJ Hendy all hoping to assert their authority in the sport’s premier event. In the ironwoman, reigning World Champion Harriett Brown will be out to rewrite history as she
attempts to become the first athlete since Karla Gilbert in the mid-1990s to win three consecutive titles. However, it won’t come easy, with the likes of two-time winner Courtney Hancock, Noosa’s 2014 champion Jordan Mercer and a raft of other athletes all out to spoil her party. On the sand, Queensland’s fastest lifesavers will put everything on the line in the beach sprints and flags, while the action will be fierce as always in the surf boat competition. SLSQ surf sports manager Stuart Hogben is expecting some tough racing across the championships. “Some of the biggest names in our sport will be in action across the weekend, with everyone hoping to come out on top,” he said. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for anyone and everyone to get down to Maroochydore and check out some of the world’s fittest and fastest athletes in action.” The action runs from about 8am to 4pm each day with the major finals, including the ironman and ironwoman events, from noon on Sunday. Page 3
NEVER A DULL MOMENT What each surf-sports event demands of its competitors
ICONIC VICTORY: Ironman Grant Kenny wins Australian Senior and Junior ironman titles at Maroochydore Beach, 1980 and is congratulated by his dad Hayden Kenny. PHOTO: STAFF PHOTOGRAPHER THERE will be thrills, spills and plenty of action in between when the state’s top athletes chase gold at Maroochydore this weekend. Competitors will line up in a number of key events including the blue-ribbon ironman and ironwoman, relays, boats and beach sprints – all designed to test the core skills of surf lifesaving.
Ironman and ironwoman
ONE of the sport’s most iconic and popular events, the ironman and ironwoman remain the ultimate test of a lifesaver’s skill, fitness, and courage. Competitors battle it out over a gruelling course of swimming, running, board paddling and ski paddling, with the specific order of events determined by a random draw at the start of the carnival.
THE most prestigious team event on the program each year, the Taplin relay sees each club nominate their top competitors in swimming, ski, and board paddling to race off over a fast-and-furious relay circuit. Athletes leave everything on the course in the final event of the championships.
Surf boat racing
THERE are few sports in the world that match surf boat racing for its raw and unique combination of Page 4
CHAMPION: Ironman Matt Bevilacqua claims his maiden Queensland title in 2015. PHOTO: HARVPIX power, precision, and tactical nous. Its excitement and unpredictability continue to make it a favourite among spectators and competitors alike.
Surf ski and board racing
BOARD and ski racing not only test an athlete’s physical capacity, but also their ability to read and adjust to the surf conditions. Competitors use their ocean experience to navigate an out-and-back course, making the most of any waves l on offer.
Beach sprint and flags
QUEENSLAND’S fastest surf lifesavers will battle it out when they line up in the beach sprints and flags. The sprint events see competitors race off over a flat course, roughly 90m in length, while in the flags, athletes are knocked out one by one until the final two face off for top honours.
One of the sport’s most iconic and popular events, the ironman and ironwoman remain the ultimate test of a lifesaver’s skill, fitness, and courage.
STATE FINALS HIGHLIGHTS When the best of the best in each event will be competing on the weekend FRIDAY ● Open Male and Female Double Ski ● Open Mixed Double Ski ● Under-19 Male and Female Double Ski ● Open Male and Female Belt Race ● Open Male and Female 2km Beach Runs
SATURDAY ● Open Male and Female Board Relays ● Under-17 and Under-19 Taplin Relays ● Under-17 and Under-19 Surf Races ● Open Male and Female Beach Flags ● Open Male and Female Beach Sprints
FAST AND THE FURIOUS: World Beach Sprint Champion Bree Masters will set a fast pace at Maroochydore. PHOTO: HARVPIX
● Open Ironman and Ironwoman ● Open Taplin Relays ● Open Male and Female Surf Boats ● Open Male and Female Single Ski ● Open Male and Female Board Race ● Open Male and Female Board Rescue
MAROOCHYDORE COMPETITORS ON HOME TURF
MAROOCHYDORE has celebrated 100 years as a surf lifesaving club and has a fine tradition of competition in the surf and on the sand. On home turf for the State Titles, they’ll have even more to prove. PHOTOS: CONTRIBUTED Page 5
BATTLE OF THE BEST Reputations on the line for most prestigious events at state titles
IF THERE’S one event that encapsulates the drama and romance of competitive surf lifesaving, it’s the ironman and ironwoman. It’s the arena where reputations are made and legends are born. If surf lifesaving were the Olympic Games, the iron finals would be the 100m sprint – high pressure, high stakes, and plenty of excitement along the way. The ultimate test of endurance and courage, iron racing sees the sport’s elite battle it out over a gruelling course involving swimming, running, board and ski paddling. To succeed at the top level, competitors need to master all four disciplines, with even a single weak leg often leaving them off the pace. Since 1966, when Hayden Kenny won the first ever national ironman title, the event has captured the imagination of the Australian public. But it was the release of the 1984 cult film Coolangatta Gold, which led to the world’s first professional ironman race and took it to new heights altogether. As the sport’s popularity grew, the sight of bronzed surf lifesavers tackling the biggest waves Mother Nature could throw at them became synonymous with Sunday afternoons across Australia, while the “cereal wars” of the 1990s saw the likes of Trevor Hendy, Guy Leech, Grant Kenny and the Mercer brothers become household names and rightly feted as some of the world’s fittest athletes. Those pioneers of the sport have well and truly hung up the open competition togs, but a new generation of champions has emerged in their place, driving the sport into the future and continuing to push the human body to new limits. When the Queensland Championships kick off this weekend, the likes of Ali Day, Caine Eckstein, Matt Poole and the undisputed king Shannon Eckstein will all be on the starting line, eager to write a new chapter in the history of ironman racing. Meanwhile, the ironwoman will see Courtney Hancock and Harriett Brown attempting to join the great Karla Gilbert as the only athletes to have won three titles in the event. Page 6
But there are no guarantees in competitive surf lifesaving and sometimes, almost cruelly, the only thing separating victory from defeat is one big wave. However, it’s the same unpredictability and raw excitement that continues to make iron racing one of the most iconic events on the Australian sporting calendar each year. Watch history unfold as the state’s top ironmen and women put everything on the line in a bid to be crowned Queensland’s best. Finals action kicks off at Maroochydore from noon on Sunday.
YOU BEAUTY!: At the Kelloggs' Nutri-Grain Ironman and Ironwoman round two at Coolum Beach last year, Ali Day crosses the line to win the men's race. PHOTO: WARREN LYNAM
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT: Karla Gilbert; Hayden Kenny; Darren and Dean Mercer; Courtney Hancock; Caine Eckstein; Maddy Dunn, Courtney Hancock, Harriet Brown and Rebecca Creedy; Matt Poole; and Trevor Hendy, Zane Holmes, Shannon Eckstein, Caine Eckstein and Guy Leech. Photos: staff photographers, contributed, HARVPIX.COM and Maryborough Wide Bay Burnett Historical Society
Thrills and spills are assured when the surf boats battle it out for the state crown and glory. PHOTO: CONTRIBUTED
This is what we’re here for: the race will be on from the starter’s gun in every event on the program. PHOTO: CONTRIBUTED Page 7
THE ONES TO WATCH
DOB: 07/07/1990 Club: Northcliffe
DOB: 03/08/1988 Club: Northcliffe
DOB: 02/12/1993 Club: Noosa
A sensational 18 months of racing has seen Harriet Brown stamp herself as one of the sport’s true superstars. The reigning World Champion proved near unstoppable at last year’s Queensland Championships, winning six from six events including back-to-back ironwoman titles.
There isn’t much in the sport that Courtney Hancock hasn’t achieved. With a resume boasting multiple Queensland and Australian titles, three Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Series, and three Coolangatta Golds, it’s easy to see why she’s regarded as one of the sport’s premier athletes.
After enduring a frustrating run of injuries over the past 12 months, the 2014 Queensland ironwoman champion has rebounded strongly over the summer months to produce a number of strong performances in the Ocean6 Series and Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain IronWoman Series.
DOB: 02/11/1994 Club: Northcliffe
DOB: 25/03/1999 Club: Kurrawa
DOB: 18/04/1996 Club: Noosa Heads
Maddy Dunn won her first Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Series round at just 18 years of age, and has since emerged as one of the sport’s most consistent performers. A strong summer of racing should see her line up at Maroochydore full of confidence.
Kurrawa young gun Brielle Cooper well and truly stamped herself as a genuine superstar when she held off some of the sport’s biggest names to win back-to-back rounds and the overall title in this year’s Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain IronWoman Series.
Noosa’s Lana Rogers has emerged as a key contender this weekend following a strong summer of racing. Her form saw her selected to represent Queensland at the Interstate Championships, and pick up a number of top five finishes in the IronWoman Series.
THE ONES TO WATCH
DOB: 07/05/1983 Club: Northcliffe
DOB: 16/11/1985 Club: Northcliffe
DOB: 20/07/1990 Club: Surfers Paradise
With three Queensland titles, eight Australian titles and six world titles already under his belt, it’s easy to see why Shannon Eckstein is regarded by many as the “GOAT”, or greatest of all time, when it comes to ironman racing.
A five-time Coolangatta Gold winner, Caine Eckstein is widely viewed as one of the endurance kings of ironman racing. A strong performance at last year’s championships saw him dominate the ironman final and win a maiden title in the event.
Ali Day showed his class at last year’s Coolangatta Gold, winning a fifth title in the gruelling event. A two-time Queensland ironman champion, Day knows how to win under pressure and will be out to claim a third title this weekend.
Trevor ‘TJ’ Hendy
DOB: 20/05/1988 Club: Kurrawa
DOB: 30/03/1992 Club: Kurrrawa
DOB: 27/02/1995 Club: Surfers Paradise
A nail-biting win in the 2016/17 Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Series saw Matt Poole realise a childhood dream and strengthen his place among the sport’s elite. Poole relishes the big stage and will be out to claim his first Queensland title this weekend.
A stunning run of form over the past two years has seen Matt Bevilacqua emerge as one of the sport’s top competitors. And he capped off another strong summer of racing with a maiden title in this year’s Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Ironman Series.
A commanding performance in the opening round of this year’s Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Ironman Series saw TJ Hendy leave some of the sport’s biggest names in his wake as he broke through for his first win in the prestigious event. Page 9
CLUB BRAGGING RIGHTS ON LINE Year of hard work, training comes down to this By Shannon Eckstein, Multiple Queensland, Australian and World Ironman Champion
... it’s a different feeling altogether when you put on the noddy cap and race for your club. It’s amazing how far you can push yourself when clubmates are relying on you to perform.
AFTER months of training and more early mornings than I care to remember, we’ve finally arrived at the business end of the surf lifesaving season with only the Queensland and Australian Championships to go. For me, the season started way back in winter last year with a solid block of training leading into the Coolangatta Gold, and since then it has been a fairly consistent stream of racing, culminating in the final two championship events. We’re lucky enough to have some of the world’s top ironmen and women based right here in Queensland, and this weekend provides us all with a really exciting opportunity to put our skills on the line and race off against the best of the best. State titles and bragging rights will all be up for grabs, and you can guarantee that no one will give an inch once that starter’s gun goes off. One of the best things about a carnival like this is the opportunity to race under club colours. A lot of the time in our sport, you’re out there competing as an individual. But it’s a different feeling altogether when you
LEGEND: The Gold Coast's Shannon Eckstein. PHOTO: HARVPIX.COM Page 10
TAKING ON ALL-COMERS: Shannon Eckstein. PHOTO: HARVPIX put on the noddy cap and race for your club. It’s amazing how far you can push yourself when clubmates are relying on you to perform. From an athlete’s perspective, there’s an incredible amount of hard work and dedication that goes into an event like this to make sure you’re fit and firing come race day. There are early starts, late nights, time away from family, and everything in between to ensure your body can handle the rigours of back-to-back racing across the weekend. It’s not always fun, and it’s not always pretty, but the sacrifices we make along the way pale in comparison to the feeling of leading your club to victory on one of the sport’s biggest stages. Ultimately, that’s why we race – and why many of us keep coming back, year after year. I’ll line up this weekend with the knowledge and confidence that I’ve done everything to prepare. However, a lifetime of racing has shown me that anything’s possible on race day. Whatever happens, it’s sure to make for some exciting action and great entertainment, so I’ll hopefully see you out there on the beach! ● Don’t miss any of the action at Maroochydore this weekend as Shannon Eckstein lines up against Queensland’s fittest and fastest surf lifesavers. Heats and qualifiers will be held on Saturday, with major finals actions from noon on Sunday.
MAKING UP FOR LOST TIME Mercer hopes to put frustrating year behind her in search of ironwoman state title
I think I have the ability to just lift to another level when I have my teammates relying on me and, when it means a great deal to you, you’re able to do some pretty incredible things.
NOOSA’S Jordan Mercer will be hoping to put a frustrating year of injury and rehabilitation behind her when she lines up at Maroochydore this weekend in search of a second Queensland ironwoman title. Mercer, the 2014 Queensland champion, has been left biding her time on the sidelines for much of the past 12 months after succumbing to the effects of a navicular fracture in her left foot. The injury, which required surgery and extensive rehabilitation, halted an ominous run of form which had already seen the 24-year-old claim her maiden Kellogg’s Nutri-Grain Ironwoman title and win two golds and two silvers at the 2016 Australian Championships. She returns to the starting line hungrier than ever, and eager to make up for lost time, with a series of strong performances over the summer months signalling a warning to her fellow competitors. “For me, the season so far has been a bit of a process in terms of working through these injuries and trying to get back to the form that I was in before, but also obviously wanting to improve year to year as well,” she said. “It’s definitely been foreign ground for me, in terms of not being able to train the absolute house down and race as much as I’d like. “But being back out there now racing again has just been the best thing for me and it’s really reminded me why I stayed so committed to all of the rehab work in the first place.” While Mercer said it was exciting to be racing on the Sunshine Coast, she isn’t expecting any significant “hometown” advantage when she hits the surf at Maroochydore. “Having the Queensland titles at Maroochydore this year is great and everyone’s pretty excited to get back out there, especially after such a successful Australian titles a few seasons ago,” she said. “But the conditions we do race in, no matter where it is, can be so unpredictable and it can be really hard to have that hometown advantage, particularly at a beach like Maroochydore. We’ve already raced there once this season, and it proved to be just as challenging and ever-changing across the weekend as any beach can be.” Individually, Mercer will be targeting the ironwoman, board, and ski events. Meanwhile, in the team events, she’s hoping to bring home gold for Noosa in the Taplin relay alongside clubmates Lana Rogers and Electra Outram. The formidable team will enter the Queensland Championships as a red-hot favourite after dominating the summer months on the way to winning the first six races of the season. “A lot of things have to come together for a
IRON MAIDEN: Jordan Mercer is back from injury and ready to race. PHOTO: HARVPIX successful Taplin relay, so I guess we’ve been pretty lucky,” Mercer said. “But at the same time, we’ve proven ourselves so far in six different conditions and six different beaches and managed to come out on top after racing some of the best girls in the business. “It’s something that we’re so proud of and something that I’m pretty humbled by. “I think I have the ability to just lift to another level when I have my teammates relying on me and, when it means a great deal to you, you’re able to do some pretty incredible things.” ● Catch all the action live at Maroochydore this weekend as Jordan Mercer lines up against the biggest names in ironwoman racing. Heats and qualifiers will be held on Saturday, with major finals actions from noon on Sunday. Page 11
JETT IS READY FOR TAKE-OFF Third-generation of Kenny clan continues winning tradition IN 1980, a young Grant Kenny created history and changed the sport forever when he claimed an unprecedented double win in the Australian junior and open ironman finals at Maroochydore. The remarkable performance stamped his name in surf lifesaving folklore, and his feat remains unmatched to this day. Now, almost 40 years later, son Jett will line up on the same beach in a bid to win gold and add another chapter to the famed Kenny name. At last year’s Queensland Surf Life Saving Championships, the 23-year-old partnered with James Porter to place second in the open male double ski, before winning another silver medal in the open male surf board. He’s set to tackle another big program this year when he hits the surf and sand at Maroochydore. “My main events at States will obviously be the ski and the board, and then depending on conditions, I’ll possibly do the ironman as well,” he said. “I had a really good state titles last year and made the (ironman) final. If there’s a bit of a wave there this year, it could turn into anyone’s race.” While Kenny would love to add another individual gold to his collection, he’s just as excited by the prospect of teaming up with his Alexandra Headland clubmates in the relay events. “We’d love to win the Taplin relay, but that’s
(The Taplin is) normally the last event of the carnival, everyone’s down there on the water’s edge and if you’re the last to go, your whole team is right there yelling at you along with everybody else. probably one of those races everybody wants to take out,” he said. “It’s normally the last event of the carnival, everyone’s down there on the water’s edge and if you’re the last to go, your whole team is right there yelling at you along with everybody else. “With the Taplin, you’re no longer racing for Page 12
yourself: there are six of us out there and you all have to do your part for the team. “It’s the one race where your legs and arms might be feeling completely dead, but you always manage to find another gear when you need it.” ● Don’t miss the electrifying atmosphere as Jett Kenny goes for gold against Queensland’s best at Maroochydore this weekend. Finals action kicks off from noon on Sunday, including the ironman and Taplin relay.
SOARING INTO CONTENTION: Jett Kenny. PHOTO: HARVPIX
SPRINTER ON TRACK FOR GOLD Sunshine Coast speedster Nicole Kay sets the pace on golden sands
I had a stress fracture in my foot and then from that, my shins and hamstrings started playing up, which was frustrating.
IN THE world of beach sprints, where every second counts, Nicole Kay is a girl in a hurry. At the 2013 Australian titles, a then 15-year-old Kay produced the performance of a lifetime to take out the open beach sprint title ahead of a star-studded field including multiple world and national champions. Her efforts stunned the surf lifesaving community and saw the Sunshine Coast speedster etch her name into the record books as the youngest athlete ever to win an open gold medal at the national championships. Now, five years down the track, Kay will be out to build on her reputation as one of the country’s premier beach sprinters when she lines up at the Queensland Surf Life Saving Championships this weekend. After overcoming a series of injuries in recent months, Kay said a gruelling training program encompassing a mix of beach and track running would have her primed for a strong performance over the weekend. “I had a stress fracture in my foot and then from that, my shins and hamstrings started playing up, which was frustrating,” she said. “But I’m now injury-free which is really nice, and I’ll be training hard right up until the state and national championships. “I’ve been training six days a week and sometimes twice a day, with both track and gym sessions. “It’s normally five days a week on the track and then one or two days on the beach as well.” At last year’s Queensland Championships, Kay dominated the under-19 division on her way to winning the beach sprint and flags, before a second-place finish behind Currumbin’s Olivia Eaton in the open sprint final. She’s identified Eaton, the reigning national champion, and Kurrawa world champion Bree Masters as two of her biggest threats at
BEACH CHAMPION: Nicole Kay is a winner on the sand and athletics track. PHOTO: CONTRIBUTED Maroochydore this weekend. “I’d love to finish top two at both States and Aussies in the open beach sprint, and then hopefully place in the flags, but we’ll just see how it goes,” she said. ● Queensland’s top beach sprinters will square off this weekend in a battle to be crowned the state’s fastest. Head to Maroochydore on Saturday afternoon for heats and finals of both the beach flags and sprints.
FLASHBACK: At the 2015 International Surf Rescue Challenge, Australian competitor Nicole Kay. PHOTO: PATRICK WOODS Page 13
SETTING THE PACE: Queensland’s most experienced lifesavers will dive into the masters competition.
SET FOR MASTERFUL DISPLAY
I’m still doing it, and that’s the main thing.
THE 2018 Queensland Championships will kick off today when some of the state’s most experienced surf lifesavers line up to showcase their skills. The masters competition will see athletes aged from 30 through to 70-plus battle it out across the full suite of surf events. One man who will be there with bells on is
EXPERIENCED CAMPAIGNER: Tony Frost will race in the 70+ years division, proving age is no barrier. PHOTO: CONTRIBUTED Page 14
Sunshine Beach Life Member Tony Frost who, at 75, could be forgiven for putting his feet up and relaxing on the sidelines. Instead, he’ll line up in five events across the championships including the 70-plus years 1km beach run, beach flags, sprint, rescue tube, and surf race – proving once and for all that age is no barrier when you enjoy what you do. Despite a masters career that already spans a quarter of a century, “Frosty” said he had no plans to slow down any time soon. “I’ve been competing in masters for about 25 years if you added it all up, but I still love what I do, and I wouldn’t be doing it otherwise,” he said. “You can only train and prepare so hard and for so long. “And my body can’t do what it used to do 10, 20, 30 years ago. “But I’m still doing it, and that’s the main thing. “And, at 75 years, you give away up to five years to some competitors because 70-plus is the highest age group it goes up to in the masters. “I’ve made some really good friendships in surf lifesaving and it’s the camaraderie with other competitors that I enjoy the most and it’s nice to see them year after year.” At last year’s Masters Championships, Alexandra Headland took the top honours ahead of Noosa Heads and Northcliffe.
WHICH CAP TO LOOK FOR
Qld State Surf Lifesaving Championships 2018