A contingent of athletes from Far North Coast Branch rivals Cudgen Headland and Byron Bay Surf Life Saving Club travelled south last week for the 2015 NSW Surf Life Saving Open Championships, both finishing among the medalists.
Byron Bay return from Ocean Beach-Umina with a swag of medals thanks largely to strong performances in the individual and team ski events. Caitlin Callahan and Ryan Beckett both claimed gold in the U17 Ski Race, while Shaun Sewell picked up a bronze in the U19 Ski.
The club also picked up medals in the Open Female (gold), U17 Female (gold), U17 Male (bronze), U19 Female (silver) and U19 Male (bronze) Single Ski Relay. Scout Hembrow became the second member of her family to win a medal at these championships when she claimed an individual bronze in the U17 Ironwoman Race.
State team representative Ela Heiniger had a successful championships, coming away with a number of medals. She was one of the few athletes to deny Newport’s Georgia Miller a gold medal when she won the U19 Swim and backed up this performance with bronze in the U19 Ironwoman and Board races.
Heiniger capped off her weekend with gold in the U19 Taplin Relay alongside teammates Joanna Charles and Madeline McCullagh, who were delighted to nab the state title.
‘It feels pretty darn great,’ McCullagh said after the race.
The team broke away during Heiniger’s leg.
‘She absolutely murdered the swim and I was so nervous that when I was watching her I felt sick and excited at the same time,’ Charles said.
Following her performance Heiniger was quick to praise the efforts of her teammates, and said the club culture inspires everyone to lift their game during competition.
‘We have a great club with some good juniors coming through and our Masters are really strong – they are great to train with and to have as mentors.
Cudgen-Headland’s Luke Chaffer blitzed the U17 Ironman event in tough conditions on the final day of the championships.
‘It was a tough race with the wind and choppy conditions really testing the field. The swim was definitely my weakest leg so I knew I’d have to work hard to keep in touch with the top. I just took a couple of deep breaths and really went for it on the board, and fortunately it paid off for me. I was lucky I had enough energy to sprint at the end,’ Chaffer said.
There was a familiar surname on the start list in the U15 Swim Teams Race when Evee Thuys lined up alongside good friends and clubmates Shayalla Young, Sarah Wilson and Chloe Jones.
Evee who has recently joined Cudgen-Headland after previously competing for Salt is the daughter of former Australian and World Champion Ironman Dwayne Thuys, and has joined the stable of talented young athletes coached by Scott McCartney.
‘She’s in safe hands, and she loves hanging with her mates but she’s certainly got a competitive streak,’ said her father while watching Evee compete at Ocean Beach-Umina.
The Kingscliff High year 9 student has a heavy weekly training schedule of up to eight sessions while also finding time to complete schoolwork, play piano and indulge in her passion for Australian Rules.
While they didn’t gain medals this time around, this young swim team of U15 surf life savers believe they gained a great deal of experience.
‘Congratulations to the winning Newport club,’ said NSW Surf Life Saving sports manager Shane Knight following the championships.
‘We’ve had a great three days of competition here at Ocean Beach-Umina, again a wonderful host.
‘The standard of competition has been extremely high and it was a fitting celebration to honour the centenary of the founding of surf sports.’