The inaugural Beach Warrior competition has been hailed a great success at the 2019 Coolangatta Gold Festival, with hundreds of competitors turning out despite the wet conditions.
The innovative course, including 25 fun and challenging obstacles, was tackled by 375 elite and recreational participants. The waves of competitors started on the grass parkland, before the elite and recreational participants pushed themselves on the beach, in the water and back on the beach.
Athletes from Wanda Surf Life Saving Club and Jock Athletic made it a clean sweep of titles in the individual and team events for men and women.
NSW, Australian and World 2km Beach Champion Ali Najem, 21, was favourite for the men’s event and was challenged by a few obstacles and challenged hard for the win.
“We’re definitely far from ironmen and women, that are doing the Coolangatta Gold tomorrow, but we’ve always wanted to come out here and experience the theme and the hype of it,” Najem said.
“It was tough, bloody tough and a great challenge. Definitely, much harder than a 2km beach race and totally different with obstacles on the beach and in the water. We hope it is here every year. Full credit to the organisers.”
Teammate Jess Phelps was tired but happy with the gold. And definitely found it much harder than a standard beach race.
“It is so much harder,” Phelps explained. “The obstacles they kill you, especially the cargo nets and the walls that need upper body strength.”
Founder and coach of Jock Athletic, Jock Campbell, brought a team of 15 to compete.
“We are all surf lifesavers for Wanda, mostly beach runners,” said Campbell. “We have young kids from nippers all the way up to masters here today from 13 years of age to our Master Donna who was part of our wining women’s team with three young flyers, to have two individual winners and to win the men’s and women’s teams events is unreal.
It is a proud day for Campbell, who has coached at Wanda for 25 years, and the team and Club.
“We expected Ali to do well today but he really got pushed all the way, I could see it unfolding in front of me, it really was a great effort and a great race.
“Jess is just so good on the sand, she came second in the national open titles last year and is the youth world champion, she is a young superstar.
“I’m so proud of not only Ali and Jess, but our whole team we have a great group and winning the team events as well is fantastic. We have a great team spirit, we all start on the line together and whoever finishes first at all our races goes back and gets the guys at the back, so if ever you are having a bad day, we have team-mates who make it a good day and today was certainly a good day for all of us”.
The vision for Beach Warrior is to create a ‘portable’ community-based event that can move around the country to a variety of beaches and surf lifesaving clubs and get the community moving and active.