With just over a year to go before the 2020 Lifesaving World Championships in Riccione, Italy, the SLSNZ High Performance Open Squad management and athletes enjoyed their first opportunity to come together for 2019, spending 4 days in camp on the Gold Coast last weekend.
However, before the main event in there is still the International Surf Rescue Challenge in South Africa in late September, the German & Orange Cup Pool events in Europe in November as well as many club, regional and National events through the New Zealand summer to get through first.
With a number of new members in the squad, the camp allowed experienced Black Fins such as Steve Kent, Max Beattie and Danielle McKenzie to share their leadership and experiences of what being part of the squad is all about. As well as training and building team culture, athletes across the squad competed in the Australian Lifesaving Pool Championships and the Gold Coast Classic craft race.
In the pool, Steve Kent, captain of the 2018 LWC Black Fins reminded us why he is the one of the all-time greats of Pool Lifesaving competition with impressive performances throughout the weekend.
Natalie Peat drew a line in the sand claiming the 100m carry (53.16s), and the 100m tow (59.08s), both of which were personal best’s and NZ record times, while Madi Kidd and Chris Dawson showed they had lost nothing since competing for the Black Fins at the LWC in Adelaide last September with strong showing and medals in their races.
Dani McKenzie discovered she hadn’t lost her touch in combining with Olivia Corrin to claim the Line Throw in a new Australian record time (11.79s).
The younger members of the squad, Libby Bradley, Lochlainn O’Connor, Oscar Williams all featured on the podium throughout the weekend, with the squads youngest member Sasha Reid taking out the Open 50m with Fins. These young guns then combined with their more senior teammates to compete under a NZ cap in the Australian interstate relays (4x25m mannequin, 4x 50m Obstacles, 4x 50m Rescue Medley and 4x 50m Lifesaver relay) where our Men’s team dominated their Australian counterparts and our ladies with absolute distinction to claim one win and three very close seconds.
Pool Coach Dan Grant left the weekend satisfied with many of the weekend results but reiterated this is very early days in the preparation for big Pool based competitions ahead, but a good platform has now been established.
Squad craft athletes embraced a great few days under the guidance of New Zealand Surf legend Cory Hutchings who returns as an assistant coach for the 2019/2020 campaign. Four paddlers braved what was supposed to be a downwind ‘Gold Coast Classic’ on Saturday. In what turned out to be an absolute slog into a howling headwind for large parts of the race, each athlete put on a Black Fins worthy performance to podium against a highly talented and hugely competitive field.
For the rest of the crafties it was a wonderful opportunity for the experienced heads of Cory Taylor, Max Beattie, Danielle McKenzie and Devon Halligan to share their experiences and knowledge with younger squad members Claudia Kelly, Hayley Cox and Scott Cowdrey, and of course the slightly older head of Mike Lee, who at 29, will make his debut for the Black Fins in Durban aboard his surf ski.
Coach Cory was very happy with what he saw from the craft athletes throughout the weekend and was pleased he could get the New Zealand based members over to the Gold Coast for a few days to train in some much warmer conditions than those which they have been training in back home in Aotearoa.
Open squad beach athletes were challenged over the 4 days by New Zealand Beach Sprinting Legend Callum Taylor who supported the athletes through some new sprinting opportunities in technique and performance measurement. The feedback from the athletes, Murdoch Finch, Olivia Eaton, Aidan Smith and Casie Fyall suggests there was plenty gained under a watchful set of fresh eyes.
Callum was stoked to support these athletes who all come from highly successful, highly talented programmes and was pleased he could help these athletes try to find the small improvements that will lift their performance in the years ahead.
New Head Coach for 2019 Matt Cairns felt the weekend was a great success and was pleased with the early signs of what he saw from each of the squad members.
Matt was particularly pleased to see the new and old (slightly more experienced) squad members gel so quickly. The weekend proved to be a fantastic opportunity for some team building and culture development and stated “it’s great to finally come together after such a long time since Nationals. The squad and ISRC team had a great weekend sharing time together. I’m really looking forward to the months ahead and taking the Black Fins team to South Africa and the competition and opportunities that trip will hold for this team”.
The camp was also the perfect opportunity to announce within the team the appointment of highly experienced Black Fin Cory Taylor as Captain for the International Surf Rescue Championships in late September. Cory is a key member of the Black Fins family, having been a regular fixture since 2014. Cory is the current World Board Champion and last season won a round of the Nutra-grain Ironman series in Australia. Cory was humbled by his elevation to captain and will lead by example when the team hits the surf in Durban.
The New Zealand Black Fins & Junior Black Fins depart for South Africa on Sunday September 22, competing on North Beach in Durban in three tests against some of the world top surf athletes from South Africa, Australia, Japan and the United States to decide the winners of three trophies – the ISRC trophy, the Tri-nations trophy and the Trans-Tasman Cup.
Keep an eye out for updates in the weeks ahead as we take you on the journey with your team as they take on the World for glory in the surf. Our Black Fins need your support. Make sure you check out the SLSNZ HP Facebook and Instagram pages for all the information to keep you up to date with the Black Fins in South Africa 2019.
NZ Team Manager, Steven Vaughan.
New Zealand Black Fins - International Surf Rescue Challenge 2019, Durban, South Africa
Cory Taylor (Captain)
Matt Cairns - Head Coach
Steve Vaughan - Manager
Cory Hutchings - Asst Coach
Fiona Hastie - Asst Manager
Kendall Stevenson - Physio