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A changing of the guard occurred at One Mile Beach as Warilla-Barrack Point SLSC overturned nearly six years of Cudgen Headland SLSC dominance to win the 2023 Oakberry Acai NSW Country Championships.

The South Coast club has had its eyes on the title for several years, steadily building a team to succeed. Last year they fell agonisingly short of a momentous victory, finishing five points shy of Cudgen’s overall score.

That result would prove the fuel to the fire in taking that final step, and on Sunday afternoon at Cape Hawke SLSC, all the training and preparation bore fruit.

There was very little to separate the two clubs once again this year, and three highly competitive days of racing arguably came down to the final event on the final day.

Warilla would earn a one-three in the Open Mixed Taplin, with Cudgen splitting them for second place, in the most dramatic circumstances, as Bailey Krstevski caught a final wave all the way into shore, separating him from the chasing pack.

It felt like the entire Warilla travelling team surrounded Bailey on the shore and improvised a de facto guard of honour as he charged up the beach, revving up the crowd before crossing the line with a beaming grin.

“I had Cudgen on my toes there for a long time,” Bailey said after the race.

“I knew I had to be on that wave, and it carried me the whole way in.

“It was amazing seeing everyone there, it was a spectacular feeling. I had to tone it down when I got past the finish line to be respectful, so I just sat down in the sand.”

The two clubs weren’t the only clubs caught in a ding dong battle across the weekend – Port Macquarie SLSC managed to hold on against a fast-finishing Byron Bay SLSC team to claim the final place on the podium.

Moving down the leader board, Yamba SLSC held off Lennox Head-Alstonville SLSC to finish nestled inside the top five, Woolgoolga SLSC outmuscled Mollymook SLSC for seventh, and Black Head SLSC leapfrogged Sawtell SLSC as the two rounded out the top 10.

Day three of the Oakberry Acai NSW Country Championships kicked off early with the 1km and 2km Beach Runs and ran into the March Past – a traditional event where points are awarded for timing and accuracy. Sawtell SLSC and host club, Cape Hawke managed to take out the Youth and Open titles.

In the water, Mollymook SLSC and Byron Bay took out the Male and Female Open Double Ski, with the latter also impressing while taking gold in the 30+ Mixed Double Ski.

Mollymook continued its run in the 40-49 Male Board Rescue, while Port Macquarie won the 50-59 Female category.

In the Taplin events which brought competition to a close, Warilla and Cudgen shared the spoils four to three across the seven races.

“We have put in a massive effort,” Warilla’s Nicole Sims said.

“The whole club was spearheaded towards this weekend. We have been aiming for this and the fact that we could finish the day with a win in the Taplin and then points total just topped it off.

“I know there’s two in the juniors who had no idea what country surf titles was and signed up and travelled up here. When they got here, they thought it was going to be a little local carnival. We had so many people willing to put in for us.”

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Sunday 29 January 2023