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Surf Life Saving clubs from regional NSW are finalising their training with the 2022 Oakberry Acai NSW Country Championships just around the corner, set to run from January 28-30 at the idyllic Cape Hawke SLSC on the state’s Lower North Coast.

Running for the first time since 2020 after COVID-19 unfortunately brought about the cancellation of last year’s event, clubs outside the Newcastle-to-Illawarra will converge on Cape Hawke on the last weekend in January to compete across a variety of surf sport events.

The Oakberry Acai NSW Country Championships is second only to the NSW Surf Life Saving Championships in size, with well in excess of 1,000 competitors, 200 officials and around 4,000 spectators expected across the three days of competition.

Speaking at the official launch at Cape Hawke SLSC, Surf Life Saving NSW Director of Surf Sports, Don van Keimpema OAM believed the excitement for the reintroduction of the event – the first time regional-based clubs have had a chance to compete at an event of this size in two years – was palpable.

“It’s a fantastic time of year – summer is well and truly here,” he said.

“The Oakberry Acai Country Championships is an important showcase for our regional members to compete, there are so many friendly rivalries between clubs but the really special thing is that it’s done in such a safe and fun way.

“We are excited to be at Cape Hawke this year, it’s a tremendous location that’s quite central in terms of being accessible to our competing clubs, from Broulee Surfers in the south all the way up to Cudgen Headland in the north.

“It’s been two years since the last one at Cudgen Headland who hosted back-to-back years and I know they’re eager to defend their title, they’re sending a large contingent down.

“We’re also looking forward to seeing the team from Warilla Barrick Point who have been working towards a plan for a number of years to take the title – it will be interesting to see the strides they have made towards that goal.

“Thank you to Cape Hawke SLSC for hosting, and to the local council for being so accommodating in getting this event together.”

In 2022, an extended schedule will see competition run over three days instead of two, meaning a greater breadth of carnival competition across all age groups.

“One of the main additions this year is the Short Course Surf Boat Championship in addition to the traditional Long Course, which is just an example of how there will be more to play for this year,” Don added.

Surf Life Saving NSW has worked tirelessly with Cape Hawke SLSC, Lower North Coast Branch and Mid Coast Council to ensure the Oakberry Acai NSW Country Championships are COVID-safe for competitors, officials and spectators alike.

“We are leaving nothing to chance this year in ensuring that we will be compliant with the existing health orders,” Surf Life Saving NSW Chief Operating Officer, Phil Ayres said.

“We will be recommending teams, when in tents or in close proximity, use face masks, and there will be ample supplies of sanitiser available for participants and attendees.

“For officials, they will be required to take a Rapid Anitgen Test each morning prior to coming on-site, and all briefings and gatherings will be outdoors.

“Importantly, there are also contingency plans in place should any key personnel develop symptoms during the event, with deputies on hand to replace them in the lead up or during competition.”

Naming rights partner, Oakberry Acai said its new association with Surf Life Saving NSW and the Country Championships provides a platform for young athletes to achieve great things.

“Oakberry Australia is proud to be the Naming Rights sponsor of the Surf Life Saving NSW Country Championships, to be held at Cape Hawke Surf Life Saving Club on 28-30 January 2022,” a spokesperson said.

“In the three years since opening our first shop in Bondi Beach, Oakberry Acai has expanded to many other beautiful beach locations around Australia, and has become the most popular brand of acai in the country.

“Oakberry prides itself on its association with beach communities and its love of the ocean, and this provides the perfect foundation for the rich partnership that Oakberry and Surf Life Saving have forged.

“Our commitment to making the beaches and the ocean safe and enjoyable underscores our sponsorship of Surf Life Saving and we look forward to many years of rewarding partnership with Surf Life Saving NSW.”

Mid Coast Council Mayor, Claire Pontin said there is a lot of excitement around hosting and looks forward to seeing thousands of people enjoying everything the region has to offer.

“We are proud to support Surf Life Saving events and I am proud our region will play host to the 2022 championships,” she said.

“We welcome competitors and spectators to our beautiful region, to both compete and enjoy their time here on the Barrington Coast. We urge the local community to get behind this event and wish the organisers and the competitors well for the weekend.”

ClubsNSW, an ever-present supporter of Surf Life Saving NSW, is also looking forward to the event.

“Our state’s volunteer surf life savers work tirelessly to keep our beaches safe each summer — and now it’s time for us to cheer them on at the Surf Life Saving Country Championships in Forster,” CEO, Josh Landis said.

“Your Local Club is so proud to sponsor this event and we wish everyone involved the best of luck!”

Friday 14 January 2022