FIVE MINUTES WITH…Ben Walker
You might say that Ben Walker has Surf Life Saving in his veins with the talented teenager being around the club environment long before he was old enough to pull on the famous North Bondi cap.
Ben is a fine example of how hard work and dedication can help propel you to a whole new level as he seeks to carve his own name in a sport that his family has enjoyed plenty of success at over the years.
He enters the 2016 State Championships at Umina quietly confident of success in a campaign that will see him contest multiple Ski events in the U17 and 19s Age groups as well as the U17 Taplin Race.
How long have you been involved in Surf Life Saving and what attracted you to the sport?
I've always been involved in the surf club before I was even in nippers. With dad and mum being heavily involved in the club before I was even born, I guess I was just brought up into it. The mates and the competition side of the sport have always helped me keep a love of the water and of competing.
I'm quite a competitive person so I enjoy being able to compete in carnivals every week. Plus the ever changing conditions in the surf always make it interesting for the race. The changing surf allows you to be able to see how you’re going compared to the other guys.
You get to train at one of Australia’s most famous beaches – what is it like to be part of a club with that history and tradition?
Bondi is a great place to train. You have the opportunity to see some weird and wonderful people, which always creates good banter. The club’s history is great as well especially in the ski. We had great success with the ski team a few years back with people like dad (Jim Walker), Paul Tatham, Andrew Peacock, Tate Smith, Luke and Jake Michael, etc.
It’s great that myself and the others are creating a new era of ski paddlers in the club and we have such wonderful support from not only the club but also some our sponsors. I would like to thank Ric Serrao from Raine & Horne Bondi Beach real estate who sponsors not only myself but also my ski relay partners with our great slipstream surf skis.
Our youth competitors in the club are really putting North Bondi back on the map at event such as The Aussies with athletes such as Lizzie Wellborn and Ally Christopher enjoying plenty of success.
It’s great to walk through the club and look at the photos of Aussies gold medallists on the wall. It makes you feel like you’re part of a great club and i inspires you to do well yourself.
With Bondi being a “must see” on nearly every tourist’s Australian bucket list you must find yourself constantly on alert for potential rescues?
Yeah sure, that’s why we do the sport, so we can help those who are injured or need rescuing at the beach. Bondi being the beach that it is, you’ve always got to be alert for anyone in danger. As lifesavers it’s important that we are on alert no matter what beach we might patrol.
How have your preparations for the State Champs been?
So far, it’s been going well. In order to go well at State you have to get the combination of good training both in the gym or your fitness work and on the water. I've been working hard in the gym and in the fitness sessions and it is showing out in the water.
Currently my training program is Monday, Tuesday, Thursday mornings starting at 5:25 at the Cooks River on the flat, Tuesday and Thursday afternoon training at the beach to work on our surf skills and race practice, Monday and Wednesday afternoons at the gym, Friday afternoon boxing or fitness training and Saturday morning races if we aren’t competing at a carnival.
What do you most enjoy about competing at the State Championships?
The long weekend of competition sitting under the tent and watching the other guy’s race in your club always what’s made it fun for me. Besides racing, sitting under the tent with the guys and all the good laughs makes the weekend a great experience.
Umina is renowned for producing some challenging conditions – what are you expecting this year?
Umina, which is generally quite small but windy at the same time, is always a hard place to race well at. People say that it’s not a good beach to hold State because there aren’t waves but I don’t believe in that.
My prediction is that the conditions will be generally the same as last year, small but windy with a small wave chop on the way out and runs on the way in. A wave close to shore on the run home will certainly make it an interesting finish.
Do you find that being the son of an Olympian and Surf Sports Champion is a help or a hindrance as you carve out your own career?
It’s great to have a dad as a coach who is so committed and knowledgeable in the sport. He is a great mentor to have, and not many people are able to have a person like him helping them improve. Sometimes people do say that my performance and success is because of dad. Yes part of my success is due to him and his coaching, but being a good ski paddler isn’t genetic and my success has come from a lot of hard work, and now my aim is to create a reputation and career for myself.
Is shifting towards kayaking something that you would be interested in doing as you develop your career?
At the moment no as I believe that I'm too young to be pursuing that side of the sport. If I was going to do kayaking I would be trying to do it properly and make teams but that’s not my goal. I'm just concentrating on my surf work and making it in this side of the sport before I branch out if it’s something I want to do in the future.
Looking forward what do you hope to achieve for the remainder of this season?
Firstly, I would love to win State which will be extremely challenging. I'm paddling well, so it’s realistic, but there are many strong paddlers in our age group. If things don’t go my way, I would like to medal or be in the top 5. In the ski relay for State, Zach Havard, Jeremy Heys and I, are striving t finish in the top 3.
Hopefully we can medal at Aussies in the ski relay but again, we will have to reassess from State to see how we are travelling and whether we are good enough. There's still a lot of work we have to do in order to get to that goal, though I believe that we are training hard enough to reach these.
Thu 10 Mar 2016