THE Forster Island Paddle Festival has broken the record for the largest stand up paddle board event in Australia with a staggering 273 competitors taking part.
Held on February 14 and 15, keen paddlers from Newcastle, Sydney, the Central and South Coasts, Queensland, Victoria and even Western Australia competed in a variety of stand up paddle board (SUP) events on the crystal clear waters of Wallis Lake and the surf at Main Beach.
Events included the 10, 5, 2km and 200m races, a battle of the paddle and a 200m dash for cash.
The festival set the national record after beating a Currumbin SUP event last year which attracted 136 competitors.
Overall, 375 people entered the event with others competing in the 12 and 6km ski paddles, the Berg Building Forster Island Challenge run/swim and a business challenge charity relay which raised $1650 for the Cystic Fibrosis Federation.
Professional SUP racers and husband and wife Angela and Paul Jackson, Jake Jensen and French racer Celine Guesdon were also in attendance to conduct coaching clinics.
Organiser Peter Camilleri said he was blown away by the response.
“I was more than happy I had no idea of the success up until the very last minute,” he said.
“To be considered the biggest SUP event in Australia is fantastic for the Great Lakes. I never expected to get the record. I honestly thought we would be lucky to get 100 people.
“I think as momentum rolled on we started promoting it more and all of a sudden people starting coming from everywhere.”
Mr Camilleri thanked all of the dedicated volunteers who helped out across both days. Given the success of this event, he said organisers were already in the process of setting a date for next year’s festival.