Sarah Dunstan speaks to Shane Chalker of Forster Bodyboarding Club about the revival of the longest running independent bodyboarding event in Australia. The Jeff Wilcox Memorial Classic has returned to our coastal region in honour of Jeff and his great legacy for the sport of bodyboarding.
Through Jeff’s passion for youth and his involvement in sport and community, The Jeff Wilcox Memorial Classic has become one of bodyboarding’s most renowned and respected competitions in Australia. Locals and tourists have flocked to take part in this year’s event held at Nine Mile Beach, Tuncurry and Boomerang Beach, Pacific Palms.
Hi Shane. Thanks so much for speaking to FOCUS about this prestigious annual event. Please tell us about the origin of the competition and why Jeff Wilcox and his legacy has succeeded in highlighting bodyboarding as a sport for young and old?
Jeff was a local lad who lost his battle with cancer back in 1989; good mates of his came up with the idea, and “The Jeff” was born.
It quickly became one of the most prestigious events on the bodyboarding competition calendar. Many competitors who won the Jeff Wilcox went on to win numerous Australian and even world titles. The good vibe of the event and our beautiful location and waves this area has provided over its 20 plus year history makes it a must do comp for bodyboarders of all ages.
This year’s event has been a first, with equal prize money being awarded to winners across all divisions for both men and women. Why is this such an important step for the future of the competition?
I think it’s an important and positive aspect for this contest. “The Jeff” has what I believe to be the second longest running history of all bodyboarding events in Australia (second to the Port Macquarie teams Challenge) and to set the standard with equal prize money over all the divisions hopefully sets a great example for this kind of equal rights for competitors in the future. It wasn’t only a first for this contest, but the first time equal prize money has been awarded in this sport nationally, and to my knowledge one of the first times ever internationally.
What were some of the highlights that were seen at this year’s event?
So many highlights! Eleven year old Forster Bodyboarding Club (FBC) member Shay Kennedy starting the comp with a great welcome to country speech, having three generations of the Wilcox family helping out down on the beach for both days, having a member of the FBC in each of the finals, catching up with old mates and making new ones, the great numbers that showed up for the women’s division, the support of the local community, having long time local contributor to the sport of bodyboarding Steve Kirkman MC for the event and his son Dan documenting the event on video, the professional judges calling the drop-knee final one of the “best displays of this style of riding in some years”, and the list goes on.
A personal highlight though was seeing legend bodyboarder and long time friend Adam Keegan get his name on the trophy, winning the Open Men’s and the Masters division as well.
This year’s event was highly supported by the Wilcox family, as well as local sponsors. A coaching clinic for young board riders was also held for kids. How did these inclusions contribute to the success of the two day event?
It was amazing seeing the smiles on the Wilcox family’s faces during the days of competition, but especially at the presentation, when they announced their love of the event and how it keeps the memory of Jeff alive. Local sponsors’ support was amazing, and without this support the event wouldn’t be near as successful as it is and wouldn’t have carried on for so many years. I would love to thank on behalf of the FBC and all competitors involved these contributors who made this event possible.
The free coaching clinic held by Australian legend female bodyboarder Lilly Pollard from the Bodyboarding Academy was a great success, with all ages and abilities taking to the water for some fun and giving non competitors a place at the event, which contributed massively to the success of the event. A special thanks to all the sponsors; without their support this amazing event would not be possible.
For people wanting more information about being involved with Forster Bodyboarding Club and to take part in future competitions, how can they best make contact?
Forster Bodyboarding welcomes all ages and abilities to join the club. Comp day is usually the last Sunday of the month. For updates and information, go to facebook www.facebook.com/Forsterbodyboardingclub/ or instagram – forsterbodyboardingclub
Round 10 of competition will take place on 10th November 2018.
Images: Shane Chalker Photography. Photos: Hero – Adam Keegan, Winner of the Open Masters; Picture 1 – John Cruickshank; Group Pic – Sue Wilcox, Braeden Lee and Carolin Wilcox