Saturday, 1 March 2014

Safety First at State Champs

If the competitors at the NSW Surf Life Saving Championships thought it was cold on the beach, they should spare a thought for the long-suffering Water Safety volunteers who braved some pretty bad weather to keep almost 3500 young competitors safe this weekend.

A visit to the quagmire which is ‘The Compound’ gives a rare insight into a much less glamorous aspect of the state’s premier surf sports event. The Compound is where a small, but important band of blokes manage around 120 volunteer powercraft operators a day who turn up for their shift driving or crewing an Inflatable Rescue Boat or jetski.

Safety is paramount at large events such as the State Championships and the Water Safety contingent plays a vital role in the conduct of the carnival. Each club at the event provides water safety based on the numbers of competitors they have entered. This year, the Powercraft team reported a much-improved response from clubs, with everyone turning up on time to fulfil their roster commitments.

Compound Coordinator, Neil Whittaker, (‘Whit’) says while the conditions this weekend have been challenging, he hasn’t heard any of the Water Safety volunteers complain.

“We know it’s not much fun sometimes, bobbing around in the duck for hours in the rain, but we need to make sure all our competitors are safe at all times,” said Whit.

Back at the Compound it’s not been much fun either, with tents blowing down in the wind, bogged forklifts and the smell of outboard fuel hanging thick in the wet air.

The team works hard to stay positive, keeping the jokes and banter up along with a fair amount of sledging. Changa, Humbo, Hoges, Bursty, Rocket - everyone has a nickname, including the team’s newest recruit, ‘Red Dog’.  Red Dog is standing in this year for the Compound’s usual hound, a brown Kelpie imaginatively named ‘Brownie’.

Jokes aside though, all the volunteers who give their time to ensure the safety of our competitors should be congratulated and are a vital part of the event logistics. Spare them a thought next time carnival conditions aren’t great.

Friday, 28 February 2014

Ground Hog Day?

NOOOOOOO!!!!!!!  And they say lightning doesn’t strike twice…

It’s fair to say there were a few officials and competitors experiencing a déjà vu moment on arrival at Ocean Beach/Umina this morning for the start of the 2014 NSW Surf Life Saving Age Championships.

Crap weather, wind, rain, wet kids, wetter parents….conditions reminiscent of last year’s event, which was in large part delayed, cancelled or relocated.

On the up side, it’s not nearly as miserable as last year when we in the throes of a massive East Coast low. For weeks after we were pulling barrier fencing from the water and sand and don’t forget the half a dead cow which was apparently spotted in the water, washed down from the Hawkesbury. Not sure if the story was real or not but it’s taken on Urban Myth status now.

Everyone is doing their best to stay positive and at this stage competition is continuing, however there have been some delays.

Brightening the mood, Kendrick Louis rocked up to chat to the kids and sign autographs at the Engine tent. And everyone is smashing the hot chocs and the sausage sambos, courtesy of the club barbie.

1pm Friday: Weather has continued to deteriorate so referee has called a halt to competition for the day. There are some relieved looking kids, parents and officials trudging off the beach in search of a hot shower and possibly a cold drink!

Some people are unkindly joking about the ‘Curse of Steve Marley’.  Steve was referee last year and promised this wouldn’t happen again!

We popped over to the Merch tent to see if things were as grim in retail. Understandably, hoodies were walking out the door, with many sizes completely sold out.

Back to the drawing board with the timetable for Saturday, with events not complete Friday slotted into the program for Saturday.

Here’s hoping the weather fines up and the rest of weekend’s competition runs smoothly. Til tomorrow, stay classy Umina!

Sunday, 3 March 2013

Is March Past a Sport??

So we’re sitting in the pub last night and they’ve got golf playing on the big screen TV on the wall and someone says, “golf’s great, but it’s not really a sport is it.”

Someone else goes, “rubbish, golf so IS a sport.”

First guy says: “Yeah I get that it takes a lot of skill and that, but it’s not like it gets you puffing, or you need to be fit or anything.”
And so commenced a long argument about what does and doesn’t constitute a ‘sport’.

“But what about stuff like darts? I mean that’s not really a sport, but you need to practice heaps to be good.”
“What about the Welsh and their Bog Snorkelling?”

“Yeah, or thong throwing?”

And then of course, someone says, “yeah but it’s like the March Past, it’s not really a sport, but it’s still run in surf lifesaving competitions, more like a traditional thing.”
Our learned colleague nursing the Corona was right of course, the March Past is still a part of surf lifesaving culture and competition, but it raises the question as to whether it should be run separate to the main ‘racing’, especially when time is tight and carnival organisers and officials are already under pressure to get through the packed program at most surf sports events.

Let’s face it, everyone loves a good March Past – the full-length costumes, the bagpipes, the military precision of the moves – what’s not to love?
It’s one of Surf Life Saving’s original events and is supposed to represent the traditional discipline of being a surf lifesaver, marching in time to music, carrying aloft the surf reel, line and belt and following the flag bearer. Teams march in formation following commands and they are judged on factors such as timing, arm and leg swing, space and dressing, body carriage and presentation.

This iconic Surf Life Saving event dates back to the 1920s, but does it still have relevance today?
Many surf lifesaving stalwarts say almost certainly it does.  Before this morning’s March Past, which was a somewhat streamlined event due to the terrible weather conditions, one ‘marcher’ told us: “It’s a very proud occasion for any club to watch their team at a major championship event, and an even prouder feeling to be a part of that team.”

One long-serving official when asked, is March Past a sport, answered: “well I don’t know about it being a sport, but it’s a tradition that we should never lose,” she said.

Many younger competitors and surf lifesavers say it’s a waste of time, looks weird and is definitely not a sport. But surprisingly, the March Past is experiencing somewhat of a resurgence, and particularly among the younger members of surf life saving.

On Umina Beach today, there were 20 clubs contesting the junior March Past event, despite the weather and disruptions to the program. Some of these teams take their ‘sport’ very seriously too, practising 3 or 4 times a week in the lead up to the State Championships.
If these kids and adults get to enjoy the camaraderie of being in a team, working toward achieving a common goal and perfecting a skill, maybe that’s reason enough to keep it a key part of carnival competition?

So we’ve put it out there. What do you reckon? Sport or not? You’re welcome to put forward the case for thong throwing if you disagree…

Saturday, 2 March 2013

It Just Gets Better...

3pm Saturday – and now the blueys are coming in, topping off what must go down in history as one of the most atrocious days ever experienced at a NSW State Championships EVER!

5.45am - We could hear the wind whistling three streets away when we arrived pre-dawn at Umina clubhouse this morning. Palmie ferries cancelled all services, even to Patonga, but a small group of die-hard kids and parents were already milling around on the grass, waiting to hear if events would be cancelled for a second day in a row.

Some kids were whingeing about the rain but as one crusty coach was heard to say, “yeah don’t worry about it mate, you’re gunna get wet anyway…”
We caught up with young Beau Jefferies from Avoca, huddled under his swim jacket and champing at the bit to have a crack at his water events. Must be pumped after having his mug feature in the local rag, the Central Coast Express Advocate on Friday.
Even though there were heaps of people huddled under the balcony of the Umina clubhouse waiting for the verdict from the team managers’ meeting, it was obvious some people had decided to head home to escape the crap conditions.  
Referees and organisers didn’t disappoint and announced an amended program, running some water events up past the Ocean Beach club where it was a bit more protected, moving some stuff to Terrigal and pushing ahead with beach sprints in front of the club at Umina. 
Apparently the vibe at Terrigal was generally good, although some punter was overheard whingeing about why all the water events weren’t relocated there. Someone enlightened him about how lucky they were to get even two areas set-up at Terrigal at such short notice, what with council approval and logistics issues, and he began to understand.

Given all that has gone pear-shaped so far, the potential for tempers to fray were high today. But the kids were great, which was probably helped by a visit from ironman idols Ali Day and Kendrick Louis who were almost mobbed while signing autographs and giving away freebies in the Engine tent.

The latest news from our on-beach gophers, Kingy and Knighty, is as follows: excavations continued for missing crowd control fencing under sand, banners and bits of tent were located and removed from trees around Umina, the latest in fashion apparel (the black garbage bag) was jealously guarded by wearers and Bunnings made a killing on plastic ponchos and umbrellas!

But the true heroes from today were probably the long-suffering Rotary volunteers manning the barricades in the car park. Looking like soaked zombies standing in the rain this morning, they kept smiling. And these guys have heard every excuse under the sun from people hoping to park right outside the club – from gout-suffering officials, to those sporting borrowed disabled parking stickers.

Bring on Sunday we say! March Past is first up at Umina, followed by beach flags and all water events are heading to Terrigal. Good times.

Friday, 1 March 2013

Nothing could be finer than conditions at Umina

Wow, what a difference a day makes! When we arrived at ‘Lake Umina’ yesterday to set up for the event it was like a millpond. People were posting smart remarks on our Facebook page about the distinct lack of surf.
Hmmm….staring out the miserable conditions as rain pelts against the front glass windows of the Umina clubhouse and it’s hard to believe it’s the same venue. BOM reckons it’s about 30 knots of wind, but we reckon it’s gusting more than that. Dogs off chains is the term that springs to mind and the surf is picking up. Quite nicely actually. If it was this time next week for the Open events the boaties would be stoked! A nice 3 ft wind-wave is coming straight in from the south-east.

When the workparty crew of volunteers rocked up pre-dawn this morning, bits of tents were strewn across the sand, signage flapping about and people stooging around wondering what the day would bring.
We passed a bunch of kids walking along the road, spray jackets on, heads bent forward into the wind, desperately trying to hang onto their raceboards.

Sadly though, they arrived to find events called off for today – it’s just too wet, windy and miserable.  

But luckily the serious lifesavers still managed to get some of their event in, with 100+ people doing the Champion Lifesaver theory inside the clubhouse.
Now comes the hard part. What do you do with 4000+ kids, pumped and ready for action, happy to not be at school today but with nowhere to go? Well some people have headed back to Sydney to wait out the storm and maybe have another go tomorrow. Maybe the Reptile Park up the hill could be the go for some wet lizard action? Or the Cinema Paradiso at Ettalong for a movie?

Great idea - head to the Merch tent and check out the sweet range of gear and souvenirs. While you didn’t get to actually compete today, you can at least take home the t-shirt! Pity we didn’t add a range of wet-weather gear to the line-up.
Hopefully we can amend the program and if weather improves by the morning, competition can re-commence.

So for now, stay warm and dry punters and we’ll see you back on the beach Saturday.
Champion Lifesaver competitors doing their theory exam. Pic by Mavimages

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Surf Juniors Kick Off State Champs

The stage is set for the 2013 Allphones NSW Surf Life Saving Championships as the state’s best surf athletes descend on Ocean Beach–Umina from Friday 1 March.

More than 8000 individual competitors will arrive on the Central Coast to test their skills and fight it out for glory in the water and on the beach.
The Allphones NSW Age Surf Life Saving Championships will commence with the junior competition at Ocean Beach-Umina from 1- 3 March while their older counterparts will take centre stage from 6-10 March.
Manly Life Saving Club, winner of last year’s Age Championships is fielding a strong team of competitors in the hope they can achieve back to back wins. Remi Krenkels who dominated the Sydney Northern Beaches Branch Championships is in fine form heading in to the competition. Remi convincingly took out the U14 surf race, board event and ironperson. James Curll who participated in the 2012 Talented Athlete Program will also be one to watch in the U13 events. James secured first in the U13 surf race and ironperson at the Branch Championships as well as a third in the board race.
The Central Coast is confident they will have a strong start in the competition with talented nippers Beau Jefferies and Jemma Smith. Beau from Avoca Beach SLSC is the leading U14 competitor on the Central Coast after taking out the local Ironperson Series. Beau was awarded the SLSCC Branch Junior Lifesaver of the Year and is hoping to spearhead his club towards their first State win in the overall pointscore.
Jemma Smith from Umina SLSC is the host club’s biggest chance and is excited to do her club proud on home soil. Jemma is undefeated in the board race event at all Central Coast carnivals this season and took out all three individual U14 events at the Central Coast Branch Championships.
Wanda SLSC will be looking to prove they are a force to be reckoned with, sending away their biggest team ever of 160 nippers. Following on from results at Kingscliff in 2012 and the Sydney Branch Championships last week, Wanda are hoping for some great results in the NSW Age Surf Life Saving Championships. Ones to watch are pocket rocket Tilly Handforth in the U9 girl’s flags event, Henri Carerra and the U9 boys surf team and Tyler Nott in the U13 male board race.