More than 100 competitors from around Australia descended on Newcastle for the inaugural SUP Australia National titles. During the four day event on 26-29 April 2012, stand up paddlers from all over the country took to the water for surfing, distance/downwind and short course races. The first two days of competition saw titleholders crowned in SUP surfing with the downwind and short course races held on the weekend.
Competitors in the surfing events gathered at Dixon’s Park, Merewether on Thursday morning to be confronted with solid one to two meter waves but not a lot of paddle out options.
Event organisers opted to move the first day’s competition to Nobby’s Beach, which provided slightly more sheltered, but still challenging conditions for competitors.
Heats got under way in solid overhead waves with perfect offshore conditions which then swung cross-shore and ended up on shore by the day’s end.
The call was made to move the second day to Stockton Beach where smaller one meter waves provided more benign conditions for competitors.
John Christensen was the stand out surfer of the event by taking out both the Open Men's and Senior Men’s surf titles.
The Open Men’s was keenly contested with some great surfing by all competitors in the clean one meter conditions. Kai Bates showed he is a young surfer to watch, coming in second behind John Christensen with Glen Turner in third place and Dan Cleary in fourth position.
In the Senior Men’s final, John again showed his style and athleticism, with Rob Gittoes in second place, Glen Cochrane took third with Rod Hindson in fourth place.
Kai Bates took out the Junior Boy’s final in a hotly contested event from local Newcastle surfer Dylan Henry, followed by Tyler Cochrane in third place and Robbie Christensen in fourth place.
In the Open Women’s final another stand-out junior Erin Dark made the most of the conditions to edge Terrene Black into second place with Lynda Lim in third.
In the Senior Women’s final, Jervis Bay surfer Melissa McManus took out the title from Victorian surfer Lynda Lim.
Erin also won the Junior Girl’s division from Hannah Finlay-Jones.
The 10km Downwind
After two days of great surfing, competitors rocked up to Blacksmiths Beach on saturday morning for the 10km Downwind Race.
The anticipated winds didn’t eventuate but there was enough NE wind for Event Director Will Anido to decide to run the race from Redhead Beach down to Blacksmiths.
Competitors had to negotiate a challenging shore break at Redhead Beach for the water start under the cliffs and from there it was a straight line run to Blacksmiths Beach - a easterly swell and a 10kt wind gave the competitors something to work with.
On water support was provided by Redhead Beach Surf Life Saving Club, Lake Macquarie Lifeguards and Dylan Henry from C4 Waterman and all competitors were effusive in their praise for the amount and quality of this support.
First across the line in a time of 57 minutes 34 was Sam Parker ahead of Will Anido and Dane Hurst.
Terrene Black was the first woman across the line in 1 hr 10 ahead of Lynda Lim and Kylie Clarke.
Up and coming Queensland racer Trevor Tunnington was the first Junior to finish in 1 hr 7 and is one to watch in the future. Stuart Murray and Rob Gittoes were first and second across the line in the Senior Men’s division - both on 14ft boards - followed by Jeff Lim on a 12ft 6 board.
Short Course Races
Competitors were up early on Sunday morning for the short course races which got under way at Throsby Creek in sunny conditions with a light southerly breeze.
Matt Worley from the Newcastle SUP Club had set an interesting and technical course with a number of turns for the competitors to negotiate.
The first event of the morning -the 6 km race - had competitors negotiating three laps of an “out and back” course with a downwind run away from the finish and racing back into a slight head-wind. This made for exciting viewing for the spectators as the field charged around the course.
From the start, Ben Chalmers and Rob Westerlink stormed away from the field, paddling neck and neck for the whole race. As they raced to the final buoy before the sprint to the finish line, they were going stroke for stroke, with Rob hitting the line in 39 mins 44 ahead of Ben in 39 mins 50.
Third across the line was Stuart Murray in the Senior Men’s division ahead of Trevor Tunnington in the Junior Boy’s.
Melissa McManus was the first woman across the line in 44 mins 44 ahead of Vanessa Smith and Angela Sawers.
Unfortunately the southerly wind strengthened as competitors hit the water for the short course 1500m races - so while it was a perfect downwind run to the turn, everyone faced a very stiff paddle home into the wind.
With a wind increasing and conditions deteriorating, organisers decided to combine the divisions - with the 14ft and over (unlimited) and 14ft and under (fixed fins) racing together followed by the 12ft 6 race boards and 12ft 6 non race boards.
In the 14ft combined division, Rob Westerlink again prevailed over Ben Chalmers in another close finish with Rob crossing the line in 11 mins 29 and Ben only four seconds behind in 11 mins 33.
Melissa McManus took out both the Open Women’s and Senior Women’s Division in a time of 12 mins 45.
In the Open Men's 12 ft 6 class Trevor Tunnington and Ben Chalmers staged another amazing duel with Trevor just pipping Ben into second place in a time of 12 mins 12.
In the 12 ft and under non race boards competitors cheered home young Grace Oakley as she battled bravely into the wind to round the final marker buoy and finish the race.
Heavy rain then lashed the course in what was an untimely way to end a great four days of competition.
SUP Australia CEO Jeff Lim said it was great to see so many competitors take to the water across all disciplines.
“This sport is just going to continue to grow and grow - particularly when we see the strength that is starting to come through in the junior divisions,” he said.
“It was also fantastic to see the support that the event generated - from all the Newcastle locals in particular Matt Worley and the Newcastle SUP Club and the local surf life saving clubs, to the sponsors and competitors who made the event such a success.”
Full Results are available from the following links: