The Professionals Forster Weekend of Surf, presented by Forster SLSC, is in its 23rd year. The event will take place over two days, on the last weekend in September, and welcomes competitors from U10 to Masters.
The Weekend of surf is in its 23rd year. How did the event get started?
Two members, Jeff Bonner and Simon Lee, thought it would be a good way to start the season with a small carnival at Forster on the Long Weekend. About 100 competitors turned up for the Sunday, and then the idea of an Ironman event was borne a couple of years later for the Saturday, so competitors and friends could make a weekend of it.
From small things, little things grow. Now it is one of the most popular carnivals in regional NSW, with over 500 competitors expected to compete each day. Simon, of course, along with our Event Manager Beth Lee have never had a weekend away from Forster, as they have been heavily involved in the running of them all.
What’s involved in setting up a weekend like this one?
We need assistance from MidCoast Council to flatten and rake the beach for the sprints and flags and support from members to setup the competition areas, which are two water courses for swim, board and ski and then the sprint track and flags pit. We have our own PA system that needs to be run out to keep competitors, officials and families up to date with the events as we go and also support our great event sponsors. We provide sustenance to our volunteer carnival officials, who give two days of their time to be on the sand. Then there is all the back of beach jobs – sending out entry forms, inputting over 500 competitors – assembling prizes and liaising with our sponsors. We always welcome more helpers to make the event happen.
The Professionals Forster are the major sponsors for this weekend; how did they get involved?
They came on board eleven years ago. We had an excellent early relationship with both Principals, Darrell and Richard, and it has grown from strength to strength.
Professionals’ commitment to FSLSC and the surf life saving movement has been unwavering. Surf life saving in general provides positive outcomes for member development and meeting the community’s needs, and this is something the Professionals highly value and align with.
This commitment has recently escalated further, with a significant contribution to the purchase of the Thundercat II IRBs for the club. We are very grateful and appreciative of our partnership with Professionals for this event and their continued support.
For those wishing to go and watch, can you give us an overview of how the weekend will run?
Saturday commences at 9am, with Ironman events conducted in both competition water areas from Under 10 to Masters in the over 50 category. From midday, we head to the beach events with sprints, sprint relays and flags events again through the various categories.
On Sunday, we commence with the iconic March Past at 8:15am and then on to the various sim, board, ski, taplin and finish with the various board relay events for the different age categories, which has been a huge addition to the carnival over the previous two seasons.
What will be some of the feature events that should not be missed?
We are looking at some Australian medallists in the Under 14 – Under 19 age groups in Ironman, swim, board races over the weekend. In the younger age groups, you find state and country champions competing, and our Masters competitors are also at the top of the competition stream. With our sprints on the Saturday, we may also see a quality field in Under 15 – Opens.
Why is it important to keep events such as this running?
It provides a wonderful group of visitors to our area, with many staying for the week. Our event attracts more than 90% of competitors and families from outside the Mid North Coast Council region, and many come back and visit at other times of the year. This is also Forster Surf Club’s major fundraising effort and assists to provide valuable lifesaving equipment to keep our local and visiting beachgoers safe.
Where do you see this event in five years’ time?
We see continued growth as we listen to the competitors and team managers, as we try to freshen up the format from time to time. They all comment that is a well-run event and everyone is friendly and they love visiting Forster-Tuncurry. A continued excellent relationship with our major sponsors Forster Tuncurry Professionals will hopefully see a combined commitment for an event that will grow and cement itself permanently as a major event on the Forster calendar.