The 2020 North Australian Surf Lifesaving Championships got under way at the Mackay Aquatic Recreational Centre on Friday. The three-day event brought together 420 competitors and continues over the weekend at Mackay Harbour. Picture: Callum Dick
The 2020 North Australian Surf Lifesaving Championships got under way at the Mackay Aquatic Recreational Centre on Friday. The three-day event brought together 420 competitors and continues over the weekend at Mackay Harbour. Picture: Callum Dick

North Aussie Surf Lifesaving champs open with a splash

IT’S more fun than following a black line, with the added benefit of preparing the next generation to fill the crucial role of saving lives.

Surf lifesaving is a Sunshine State institution – as Queenslander as the Maroons and XXXX – and this weekend the sport is taking over Mackay.

The 2020 North Australian Surf Life Saving Championships have brought together 420 competitors from Hervey Bay to Port Douglas, beginning yesterday at the Mackay Aquatic Recreational Centre and continuing today and tomorrow at Mackay Harbour.

Event co-ordinator Ryan Bennett said the event had attracted “almost 100 more than last year”, when the championships were first held at Mackay Aquatic and Recreation Complex.

“We really thought we might take a hit (due to) COVID, but I think it’s actually brought out the passion in a lot of our lifesavers,” he said.

“They’re really keen to get back in the water and do something, which has been awesome. We hope to see this trend continue.”

The pool events included swimming to one end, ‘saving’ a mannequin and pulling it back to the other end. Picture: Callum Dick
The pool events included swimming to one end, ‘saving’ a mannequin and pulling it back to the other end. Picture: Callum Dick

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Before competitors hit the open ocean this weekend, they were treated to some highly competitive fun and games at the MARC.

Events included search and rescue with mannequins, relay events and obstacle courses.

“It’s a bit different to our other, traditional lifesaving events,” Bennett said.

“We include this at our North Aussies to give our lifesavers a chance to practise their pool disciplines as well.

“It’s all about (creating) different rescue simulations for when they might be in those situations in the ocean or pool.”

The beauty of surf lifesaving is that it not only teaches valuable swimming and surf rescue lessons, but it does so in a fun yet-competitive environment, Bennett said.

“It’s definitely more fun than just following a black line,” he said.

“And I think it’s why, especially in our 11s to 14s (age groups), we have huge numbers here.

“These kids will be our volunteer lifesavers on the beach. Before they get to that age, this is their chance to practise those rescue simulations not only in the pool but their technique in the ocean as well,” he said.

“By the time they get to being our volunteer lifesavers they’ll be well-equipped for saving lives.”

On the first day of competition, Tannum Sands and Yeppoon Clubs dominated many of the pool events.

However, Bennett said the Mackay, Sarina and Eimeo Surf Life Saving Clubs had all performed above and beyond their previous showings.

“This is probably one of the best years so far for the Mackay region clubs,” he said.

“Mackay, Sarina and Eimeo have got some great participation here this year which is great to see.

“We hope to see some good results from them, up against some fierce competition from other clubs.”

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