The 2021 NSW Age Championships proudly supported by Your local club is set to host 2,400 of the state’s youngest Surf Life Saving members representing 71 clubs across 11 branches. Four days of competition kicks off on Thursday with events at both Redhead Beach and Blacksmiths Beach (Swansea Belmont SLSC) in the Lake Macquarie region.
The Age Championships is open to members in the Under 9s through to Under 14s age groups who have participated in the junior activities program (Nippers) through their surf club this season.
The first official State Championship event for Nippers was held in 1968 at Merewether Beach in the Hunter branch with over 1000 young athletes.
In 2021 the event is split due to COVID restrictions, between Swansea Belmont SLSC which will host the water events and Redhead SLSC which will host the beach events. The two clubs actually share the same stretch of sand with Redhead at the most northern point and Swansea Belmont at the southern end.
Swansea Belmont has hosted 14 NSW Championship events but for Redhead SLSC, this is their first time. President David McCallum said his members can’t wait to be part of the event.
“The sand is primed for two weeks of junior and Opens beach competition. Our members and the locals are excited to not only have the chance to compete at home but also watch some of the country’s best athletes right here at Redhead,” he said.”
Jeff Mowbray has been part of the Swansea Belmont SLSC championship organising committee and work party for over 20 years. The local legend is looking forward to having Blacksmiths Beach full of Nippers again this week. He says despite the forecast, the surf conditions are looking great.
“We’ve had the beach cleaned and it’s all coming together,” said Mowbray. “There’s a little bit of a sand drop from the large seas but we’re expecting it to level out. There’s plenty of room on the beach for tents and we’ve got all the COVID entry and exit points set up ready to go.”
Mowbray says the surf conditions should be great. “There are gutters in between the banks which are separating the water areas nicely and there’s a perfect little wave breaking about 60 metres offshore right down into the Under 9s and 10s area in the southern corner. Even with the forecast swell, we're hoping it should be a good, safe bank for everyone.”
North Curl Curl SLSC had an amazing year in 2020 after winning the Age Championships point score and have already kicked off their 2021 success winning the Sydney Northern Beaches Branch point score earlier this month. They will arrive at the event with 82 competitors across beach and water areas.
Head Coach Michael Clues said it’s been a tough year for everyone and his team are going to head into State Champs with an emphasis on having fun.
“This year is more about getting the kids out in the fresh air, training and catching up with friends. We’ve always had the mentality that a good club culture and a great training setup will see the medals come, and that’s what we achieved last year.
“With COVID-19, we’ve just been trying to manage to get the kids out and training and doing the best they can. We’re aiming for a top-three spot without the kids being able to compete up an age-group but everyone’s in the same boat. There have been so many people doing a lot of work and no one has been through these tough times so we’re keeping it light-hearted to keep the kids involved in the club longer.
“We’ve got some very dominant competitors but anything can happen in the water, you can’t control it and that’s why we love surf.”
Travelling the furthest distance of 700km to attend the event, Cudgen Headland SLSC Director of Surf Sports Adam Mills said his crew of 45 young athletes have had a ball the last month with the Nutri-Grain Iron Series hosted at their club, really inspiring and energising the kids. The Cudgen team will be attending in force with strength in the water events throughout most age divisions.
“It was great to have the kids part of the Nutri-Grain event and cheering on the professionals,” said Mills, “Our Under 11 girls Board Relay team won in the Under 10s last year at State Champs and are raring to go. They’ve all got new boards, moving to fibreglass this year. They’ve been training hard and are very keen to get to State Champs. They’re undefeated so far this season locally so they want to see if they can back up last year’s results.”
The small but excited team from Broulee Surfers SLSC will return to Age Championships this year with five beach and two water competitors. The Far South Coast club’s team manager Darren Drewsen said the training has been great to keep the kids busy over the summer.
“We always love heading north for this event. It’s great to give the kids something to work towards and a good opportunity for them to meet new people and see how everyone else trains and competes.”
Drewsen said 2020 place-getters Luke Drewsen (U12s) and Amelia Tyrrell (U14s) are on their game and are expected to challenge the state’s best in both the Beach Flag and Sprint finals.
The Swansea Belmont home team have a number of rising stars following in the footsteps of the 2020 NSW Team of the Year (U17 Board Relay) and enter the event with an 86-strong junior team. Head Coach Ryan Cook said there are a number of the club’s athletes in search of back-to-back state titles.
“Katy Rees (U13) is one to watch this year, she’s looking to take out her third Board Race title in a row. Kai Cook (U12) has had his head down in training for a second title and Billy Foran (U13) just missed out on a medal last year and has been putting in the hours in the surf, he will be right up there.”
Cook said Sam Murphy and Xavier Coates will compete in their final Age Championships this year and are hoping to go out with a final win after years of dominating the Board Relay.
2021 NSW Age Championships Referee Michael Bate (Freshwater SLSC) said that everyone has pulled together to help make this year’s event possible with all the distractions and uncertainty of COVID-19. “We’re all so committed to delivering a successful, fun and memorable event,” said Bate. “That can only come about with organisation and good team-work.
“I want everyone to come off the beach and think ‘what a great four days!’ At the end of the day it’s not all about the medals, everyone looks forward to coming to State Champs to catch up with old friends, make new friendships and have fun participating in the sport,” he said.
The Age Championships are also hosting the third Inclusive Championship events on Sunday 28 February to be held in the southern zone of the Swansea Belmont location.
The Inclusive events aim to provide a fun and competitive pathway for the 34 NSW clubs that run Inclusive weekend programs for their members.
The Inclusive events include Beach Sprints, Flags, Board as well as a Surf Race and Wade – conditions pending. Each event will be run for male and female, and competitors split into junior and senior events. View the Inclusive Championships fact sheet.
This year the SLSNSW Media Team aims to pre-record a number of races to showcase over the coming weeks including as part of the live stream. The LIVE STREAM will run from 8am – 2pm Sunday 7 March on SLSNSW Facebook and Youtube channels.
A selection of photos will be uploaded to SLSNSW social media each day. Photos from event photographers will also be sent directly to the media. Once again we have GeoSnapShot photographers on site. Their photos will be available via the GeoSnapShot website with links from SLSNSW social media.
2020 DEFENDING CLUBS POINT SCORE
1st North Curl Curl (289)
2nd Coogee (219)
3rd Cooks Hill (184)
FAR NORTH COAST (5 clubs, 74 competitors)
Ballina Lighthouse & Lismore, Salt, Byron Bay, Lennox Head, Cudgen Headland
NORTH COAST (4 clubs, 52 competitors)
Urunga, Woolgoolga, Sawtell, Coffs Harbour
MID NORTH COAST (3 clubs, 30 competitors)
Tacking Point, Wauchope Bonny-Hills, Port Macquarie
LOWER NORTH COAST (2 clubs, 10 competitors)
Cape Hawke, Black Head
HUNTER (8 clubs, 267 competitors)
Swansea Belmont, Cooks Hill, Redhead, Caves Beach, Stockton, Fingal Beach, Catherine Hill Bay, Nobbys
CENTRAL COAST (14 clubs, 455 competitors)
Avoca, Copacabana, Killcare, MacMasters, North Avoca, North Entrance, Ocean Beach, Shelly Beach, Soldiers Beach, Terrigal, The Lakes, Toowoon, Umina, Wamberal
SYDNEY NORTHERN BEACHES (11 clubs, 405 competitors)
Avalon Beach, Newport, Mona Vale, North Narrabeen, Collaroy, Dee Why, North Curl Curl, Freshwater, Queenscliff, North Steyne, Manly
SYDNEY (12 clubs, 950 competitors)
Tamarama, North Bondi, Bondi, Bronte, Clovelly, Coogee, Maroubra, North Bondi, Elouera, North Cronulla, Cronulla, Wanda
ILLAWARRA (7 clubs, 107 competitors)
Bellambi, Thirroul, Helensburgh-Stanwell Park, Corrimal, North Wollongong, Bulli, Wollongong City
SOUTH COAST (4 clubs, 57 competitors)
Kiama, Mollymook, Gerringong, Warilla Barrack Point
FAR SOUTH COAST (1 club, 8 competitors)
Tuesday 23 February 2021