Navy Australian Open surf boat race to draw crowd to Stockton beach

STOCKTON beach will be crawling with competitors keen to win Australia's largest surf boat race.

The Navy Australian Open will involve 1500 entrants from 100 surf life saving clubs in what is expected to be an extremely tight race.

Throughout the Australian Surf Rowers League series the results have yielded an even playing field.

The league was founded in NSW in 1992 and now has more than 3000 members from 260 clubs across the country.

The Open marks the end of a series of 25 races that took place on the nation's beaches this summer.

Stockton beach was chosen for the finals because of its reputation as a safe beach, close to Newcastle CBD, easy airport access and ample accommodation.

Sponsored by the Navy, the event will involve 3500 rowers, officials and supporters.

Stockton Surf Life Saving Club president Callan Nickerson said the event was a huge asset to local businesses as it brought so many people to the beachside suburb.

Mr Nickerson trains the Stockton surf boat team of three crews, who have trained four days a week in preparation for the competition.

"It'd be amazing to win, especially since we're competing on our home beach and everyone we know will be here to support us," he said.

Other local clubs to compete include Caves Beach, Dixon Park, Merewether and Newcastle.

Competitors in the open men and women's races, the reserves, as well as the under-23s men and women, masters and under-19s will all be in the water.

All crews will push themselves to the limits in three round-robin races over a 400-metre distance, and those who survive elimination will go on to compete in the finals for their division.

■ The Navy Australian Open, Australian Surf Rowers League Series final, at Stockton beach, February 7, 8am to 6pm; February 8, 7am to 6pm, February 9, 8am to 2.30pm.

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