Taking up photography meant I could be involved with the team at carnivals. Not that I needed an excuse. I wanted to be useful to the team. Taking photos gave me a buzz and I practiced my skills at surf carnivals. Just being there was exciting. Trampling up and down the soft sand in my boot was tiering, but it didn’t stop me.
The Australian Surf Life Saving Championships has an indescribable atmosphere. In 2010 they returned to Kurrawa, QLD after three years at Scarborough beach, Western Australia. On the second day whilst I was waiting for events to start, a tragedy occurred. The entire beach of about 4000 competitors and spectators feel silent. Shock fell over the carnival as the word spread fast on the beach. The horrific news we heard was that a competitor was missing at sea. For the best part of 45 minutes we stood on the beach in silence. Nobody left, they just stood there looking out to sea. Jet skis and IRBs circled the ocean as helicopters buzzed above. The carnival was cancelled and people began to leave the beach. Later that day we were informed that they had found the young competitors body. Nobody knew what to do and everyone felt upset. The following day event organisers announced that all water events were cancelled. Beach events would be the only events completed at Aussies in 2010.
The beach competitors continued on their way. The heartbreaking events were so fresh in everyone’s minds. Saturday saw the beach sprints and relay final races. Anglesea performed outstandingly with finalists in the sprint and relay. Even better were the medals our men’s teams won. Standing on the sidelines was exciting. Cheering with enthusiasm as our team lined the fence. I couldn’t help wanting to be out there. Racing with the others.
Sunday was set to be a long day. The remaining flags heats and finals. What I really wanted to see was the opens women’s race. This was my event. What I had been training for throughout the winter. Standing on the wrong side of the fence was difficult. I wanted to be a part of the mix. To be racing off for those flags. Instead I bit my lip and came to terms with watching. I was still wearing the boot. One by one, girls were eliminated. Becoming harder and harder to watch each time. I snapped photos of every run off. My mouth was dry and I was silent. At last the event came to an end. Seeing triumph for the winner and placegetters. Some were disappointed. I was relieved. I could put it behind me and look forward to next year.
Walking away from the event was strange. The tragedy of Friday still hangs over the Surf Life Saving community. They left with feelings of sadness. They would return but no one would ever forget what happened on the beach and in the ocean that day.
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