NSW Surf Life Saving Age Championships returns to Blacksmiths Beach from Friday, February 28

READY TO GO: Young competitors at the starting line at the NSW Junior Surf Life Saving Championships at Blacksmiths Beach last year. The event returns to Blacksmiths this weekend. Picture: Marina Neil
READY TO GO: Young competitors at the starting line at the NSW Junior Surf Life Saving Championships at Blacksmiths Beach last year. The event returns to Blacksmiths this weekend. Picture: Marina Neil

The NSW Surf Life Saving Age Championships return to Blacksmiths Beach, Lake Macquarie, this weekend.

The event is the state's premier junior surf event and is being hosted again by Swansea-Belmont Surf Life Saving Club.

The future ironmen and ironwomen - as well as potential future Olympic champions - will hit the sand and waves on Friday for three days of exciting competition.

This year's combined age, masters and opens state championship events are expected to attract about 6000 competitors from all over NSW, along with 600 volunteer officials and up to 15,000 family and spectators.

The age championships run from Friday, February 28, until Sunday, March 1.

The first 'unofficial' NSW age championships were held at Bulli Beach on February 6, 1966, with more than 1000 competitors representing 37 clubs.

The first official NSW age championships were held at Merewether in 1968.

Swansea Belmont SLSC president Graham Burge said despite recent storms, the workforce had been working overtime to prepare the beach for the event.

"We've lost a bit of sand over the last couple of weeks but it's starting to come back," Mr Burge said.

"Everyone has been putting in their all so the schedule of events can run to plan.

"We're all looking forward to having everyone back to enjoy our beach. State champs is always a huge weekend and it's the opportunity for the kids to get out there and enjoy themselves in the water and on the sand as well as in the festival area."

Some 52 years after the first official event almost 2700 of the surf life saving movement's youngest members (7-14 years old) will compete across 30 events in both male and female divisions.

There's another busy program of events in the water and on the sand. Picture: Marina Neil

There's another busy program of events in the water and on the sand. Picture: Marina Neil

The events

Water events: Iron man and Iron woman, Surf Race, Board Race.

Beach events: Flags, Sprint, 1km Beach Run (U11, 12, 13), 2 km Beach Run (U14)

Teams events: Board Relay, Board Rescue, Swim Teams, March Past, Cameron Relay, Mixed Cameron Relay, Beach Relay, Mixed Beach Relay.

In 2019, one of the premier events, the all-age beach relay was won by Freshwater and the Taplin relay won by Wamberal SLSC, narrowly beating Manly SLSC.

While Newport dominated many events and Sydney clubs had the sheer volume in participants, it was Hunter club Cooks Hill who took out the age championships overall pointscore last year.

The 2019 Cooks Hill win proves it's not all about the size of the club when it comes to success.

Conditions for the weekend look great, said Swansea-Belmont coach Jeff Mowbray.

"What we've got is a low tide early - perfect for the start of the carnival and low tides around lunch time. They're not big tides so there's enough beach for all events," he said.

"The swell is down to about half a metre. I think it will be a good weekend with the right conditions in the water and easterly breeze will mean a nice sea breeze to keep everyone cool. The southerly could increase the wave height slightly for finals on Sunday but will be perfect for the kids," Mr Mowbray said.

Mr Burge said Blacksmiths was an ideal venue.

"Blacksmiths always puts up fair conditions in the ocean with one wave breaking across the whole race area so there are no easy avenues," Mr Burge said.

Local hope

The Swansea-Belmont team has been training under the guidance of Australian and NSW champions and is ready to challenge Cooks Hill this year.

"We finished just outside the top three last year," Mr Burge said.

"The kids have been training hard and are as keen as mustard for the event to start. "

The 2020 event also features the second Your Local Club Inclusive Championships that will be held on Sunday, March 1, after the march past.

The inclusive events include beach sprints, flags, board as well as a surf race and wade - conditions pending.

The inclusive events aim to provide a fun and competitive pathway for the 34 NSW clubs who run inclusive weekend programs for their members.

Surf Life Saving director of surf sports Don van Keimpema said it was great to see the surf sports side of the movement continuing to flourish.

"We're looking forward to a great weekend with thousands of Nippers descending on Blacksmiths Beach," Mr van Keimpema said.

"Each year we see these young athletes and future lifesavers get better and faster. Our sport has a bright future," he said.

"And it's fantastic to see it on display combined with the amazing energy of the kids and their families for the State Championships."

For the Under 8s competitors, it will be their first state championships.

New wade, flags and sprint champions will be crowned ahead of what can be a life-long annual sporting event for some competitors.

Watch the event live on Surf Life Saving NSW Facebook or Youtube(@surflifesavingnsw) from 8am on Saturday and Sunday.

Cooks Hill Surf Life Saving Club's Tayn Cotterell, 10, in action at the 2019 championship. Picture: Marina Neil

Cooks Hill Surf Life Saving Club's Tayn Cotterell, 10, in action at the 2019 championship. Picture: Marina Neil

Competing clubs and competitors

Far North Coast (6 clubs) 68 competitors: Cudgen Headland, Byron Bay, Lennox Head-Alstonville, Ballina Lighthouse and Lismore, Salt, Yamba.

North Coast (2 clubs) 14: Sawtell, Coffs Harbour.

Mid North Coast (3 clubs) 12: Wauchope Bonny Hills, Port Macquarie, Tacking Point.

Lower North Coast (3 clubs) 17: Black Head, Cape Hawke, Forster.

Hunter (10 clubs) 321: Swansea Belmont, Redhead, Merewether, Cooks Hill, Stockton, Caves Beach, Catherine Hill Bay, Fingal Beach, Tea Gardens Hawks Nest, Dixon Park.

Central Coast (14 clubs) 486: Wamberal, Shelly Beach, MacMasters, Avoca Beach, The Lakes, North Entrance, Terrigal, North Avoca, Ocean Beach, Umina, Killcare, Copacabana, Soldiers Beach, Toowoon Bay.

Sydney Northern Beaches (15 clubs) 513: Manly, North Curl Curl, Collaroy, Mona Vale, North Steyne, Newport, Avalon Beach, Freshwater, North Narrabeen, Queenscliff, Dee Why, Warriewood, Long Reef, Bilgola, Narrabeen Beach.

Sydney (13 clubs) 1067: Bronte, Wanda, North Cronulla, Cronulla, Bondi, North Bondi, Elouera, South Maroubra, Maroubra, Coogee, Clovelly, Burning Palms, Tamarama.

Illawarra (9 clubs) 101: Towradgi, North Wollongong, Corrimal, Scarborough Wombarra, Austinmer, Helensburgh-Stanwell Park.

South Coast (5 clubs) 52: Warilla Barrack Point, Kiama Downs, Kiama, Mollymook, Shellharbour.

Far South Coast (1 club) 3: Broulee Surfers

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