The state’s best and brightest surf sport athletes are about to face their toughest test to date since the establishment of the Surf Life Saving NSW Surf Sport Academies late last year. 

The NSW Surf Life Saving Championships, proudly presented by Your local club, is the biggest event of its kind in the state, with the vast majority of the nearly 60 athletes from the first Academies intake in November set down to compete on the big stage. 

The Academies are supported by the NSW Regional Academies of Sport (RASi) network, providing professionalised athlete services and coach development opportunities pertaining to strength and conditioning, sports nutrition, sports psychology, media skills, preparing for performance and injury prevention. 

They align with SLSNSW’s existing five regionally based Super Surf Teams and the Surfboat Interseries Competition, helping to provide a clear athlete and coach pathway from Club & Branch representation through to Interstate team selection. 

“It’s a really exciting concept because it’s good to be surrounded people with the same or similar goals to me,” North Curl Curl SLSC’s Zara Kasprowicz said. 

“You know you’re coming into a high performing and productive environment that will encourage me and other athletes to do better.” 

Cashar Darwin (left) and Zara Kasprowicz (right).

Zara is excited coming into the 2024 NSW Championships, who this year moves into the U17 age group. 

“What excites me about State Champs is how it allows you to practice racing and getting in a good race-day mindset whilst also having a good time with teammates and other competitors. I would definitely say it’s one of the feature events on the calendar,” she said. 

“One of my goals is to make sure I learn from any mistakes made so I can make the most out of the weekend.” 

Further up the coastline, Alex Walker from Cooks Hill SLSC will be hoping to improve on a gold medal in the U17 Male Surf Race and silver in the U17 Male Iron. As one of the region’s Academy athletes, he’s looking forward to testing himself against the competition. 

“It’s a great chance to have a hit out with a highly elite field before Aussies. It is something me and my club look forward to every year,” he said. 

“I still definitely have some work to do on some legs more than others but it’s a working progress, especially with the goal to get to the NutriGrain Iron Series one day. 

“On the Academies, it is a very exciting program. It is a great idea to support the younger athletes in NSW in the hopes to build the sport up across the state.” 

One of the key components of the Academies offering is strength and conditioning – something Cashar Darwin from Terrigal SLSC has utilised after injuring his shoulder several times last year. 

“We’ve had a few sessions and they’re really helpful, it’s helped me to be able to compete really,” he said. 

Without the guidance and assistance offered through the Academy, Cashar is certain he wouldn’t have been ready to hit the water at Queenscliff. 

“I think doing it with other people involved in the same sport, it helps me push myself, and the trainers are really good,” he said. 

“Without this I wouldn’t be where I am now, and I imagine I’ll continue to improve as well.” 

Tuesday 5 March 2024