THE North Barrier Branch has made their mark at the 2021 Queensland Youth Surf Life Saving Championships, taking home four bronze medals over the three-day event on the Gold Coast.
After last year’s last-minute Covid-cancellation of the event, the glory days of lifesaving returned to North Kirra beach where over 1,600 junior athletes converged for an action-packed weekend of surf sports in the final meet in the nipper calendar for the season.
The team of 62 nippers from seven clubs in the branch, including five juniors from local surf club Forrest Beach finished 15 overall and 9 on the handicap points score, out of 43 clubs in the state.
This promising performance from the north saw the team make finals appearances across individual and team events both in the water and on the beach.
The team scored an impressive four bronze medals in the 2-person R&R (Rescue & Resuscitation) event going to Caitie and Abbie Penny from Picnic Bay, the under-12 female surf race to Emma McMahon from Arcadian and under-14 male beach flags to Nate Brady from Sarina.
The surprise medal of the weekend was to the Branch March Past team who placed third in the event, behind Burleigh Heads Mowbray Park (first) and Palm Beach (second).
Assistant team manager and beach coach Lenny Chiesa said the team was thrilled to receive the bronze and add to the medal tally for the branch.
He said: ‘We always hope to do well, and this was a nice surprise to finish off a great weekend of competition.
‘We are competing against a lot of other clubs in the state, with some really strong teams so it was a great surprise and a real honour to get the bronze.
He added: ‘Competing as a branch has its challenges, as we are working with team members made up from seven different clubs.
‘Because of this there were few opportunities to train together as a team in the lead up to the championships, so we had to do the best we could, with the time we had and it certainly paid off.’
The popular march past is an iconic event in surf lifesaving and has been part of carnivals since the earliest days of the movement.
Forrest Beach Surf Club is known for their success in the event in the past, having gained several state medals, including a gold and a bronze national medal under Mr Chiesa’s mentorship.
The experienced coach said: ‘Now the North Barrier clubs compete as a region at the state championships, it was good to see a medal in the march past back in the north.’
What made the placing all the more special was the march past team was led by Mr Chiesa’s granddaughter, Forrest Beach junior club captain and under-14 competitor Mariam Hall in the standard bearer position, with teammate Louise Kaurila in the belt.
Mariam said she was so excited to hear they had won the bronze: ‘When you lead the team, you feel that extra bit more pressure to make sure you hit the marks, call the right calls and keep the team marching in time.
‘There’s a lot to it.’
‘It was special to be the standard bearer with Louise in the belt and march for our branch.
‘My mum was standard bearer as well when she was in nippers and she won state medals too.’
Mariam competed strongly on the beach, making finals in all her events placing fifth in the under-14 female flags, fifth in the under-14 female sprint and fifth in the under-14 female beach relay.
She said: ‘The competition is of an extremely high standard.
‘It was my goal to make the top 8 in my events so I’m really happy with my performances.
‘I really enjoyed the experience of being on the Gold Coast and competing for my region and club.
‘I hope I can make selection next year as it will be my last year competing as a nipper at the junior state event.’
Fellow teammates Louise Kaurila, Benon Hall, Alice Austin and Ellie Lahtinen also competed strongly in their individual beach events making quarter and semi-finals.
Junior activities coordinator Helen Kaurila said the event was a wonderful experience for the team: ‘This event is great for our junior competitors as it showcases the high level of athleticism, sportsmanship and camaraderie of the surf life saving movement.
‘We are really proud of our nippers for all the hard work and training they did in the lead up to the event and the way they performed at the state event.
‘We’d like to thank the families, supporters, coaches, team managers and age managers who made this event possible for our nippers and to the Forrest Beach and Ingham communities for their support.’
Having led the event from day one, North Burleigh stormed home to claim overall victory in dominant fashion with a total of 410 points – 166 points ahead of their nearest rival, Burleigh Heads Mowbray Park – followed by Alexandra Headland (219), Maroochydore (197) and Northcliffe (164), who rounded out the top five.
Forrest Beach Surf Club will hold their junior season break up and awards day on Sunday 28 March from 9 am at the surf club.
This will wrap up the nipper season until August when they will take the beach again for another fun, active and exciting season of surf life saving.