For the first time in more than two decades the NSW Surf Life Saving country championships are returning to the Great Lakes.
The three-day event will be hosted by Cape Hawke Surf Life Saving Club at One Mile Beach, Forster from January 28-30.
Running for the first time since 2020 after COVID-19 forced the cancellation of last year's event, the country event is second only the the State-wide championships.
The event was expected to attract more than 1500 competitors (1000 have already registered), 200 officials and around 400 spectators.
Speaking at the launch last Friday, January 14 outside the Cape Hawke SLSC president, Gary Curtis said the club was pleased to have the opportunity to host the event.
Well practiced running country championships, the club has hosted four events since it was established back in 1979.
His words were echoed by Lower Mid North Coast branch president, Brian Wilcox.
"I think it is a great opportunity for surf life saving members to participate at that level of competition," Mr Wilcox said.
He invited members of the Great Lakes community and beyond to watch and support competitors who will travel from Broulee Surfers in the south to Cudgen Headland in the north.
Mr Wilcox said the local event would be great for the surf life saving organisation.
"It will promote life saving as a sport and the development of physical fitness and it will show the community what surf life saving is all about," he said.
Surf Life Saving NSW surf sports, director, Don van Keimpema OAM believed the excitement for the reintroduction of the event - the first time regional-based clubs have had a chance to compete at an event of this size in two years - was palpable.
"It's a fantastic time of year - summer is well and truly here," he said.
"The Oakberry Acai Country Championships is an important showcase for our regional members to compete, there are so many friendly rivalries between clubs but the really special thing is that it's done in such a safe and fun way.
"We are excited to be at Cape Hawke this year, it's a tremendous location that's quite central in terms of being accessible to our competing clubs.
"It's been two years since the last one at Cudgen Headland who hosted back-to-back years and I know they're eager to defend their title, they're sending a large contingent down.
"Thank you to Cape Hawke SLSC for hosting, and to the local council for being so accommodating in getting this event together."
In 2022, an extended schedule will see competition run over three days instead of two, meaning a greater breadth of carnival competition across all age groups.
It will promote life saving as a sport and the development of physical fitness and it will show the community what surf life saving is all about.- Lower North Coast branch president, Brian Wilcox
"One of the main additions this year is the short course surf boat championship in addition to the traditional long course, which is just an example of how there will be more to play for this year," Mr van Keimpema said.
Surf Life Saving NSW has worked tirelessly with Cape Hawke SLSC, Lower North Coast Branch and MidCoast Council to ensure the event is COVID-safe for competitors, officials and spectators alike.
"We are leaving nothing to chance this year in ensuring that we will be compliant with the existing health orders," chief operating officer, Phil Ayres said.
"We will be recommending teams, when in tents or in close proximity, use face masks, and there will be ample supplies of sanitiser available for participants and attendees.
"For officials, they will be required to take a Rapid Anitgen Test each morning prior to coming on-site, and all briefings and gatherings will be outdoors.
"Importantly, there are also contingency plans in place should any key personnel develop symptoms during the event, with deputies on hand to replace them in the lead up or during competition."
MidCoast Council mayor, Claire Pontin said there was a lot of excitement around hosting and was looking forward to seeing thousands of people enjoying everything the region has to offer.
"We are proud to support surf life saving events and I am proud our region will play host to the 2022 championships," Cr Pontin said.
"We welcome competitors and spectators to our beautiful region, to both compete and enjoy their time here on the Barrington Coast.
"We urge the local community to get behind this event and wish the organisers and the competitors well for the weekend."
MidCoast Council, which contributed $13,500 towards the event, assured members of the public could continue to swim at the beach throughout competition.
"There is no beach in the area which could hold an event of this size and still keep the beach open," general manager, Adrian Panuccio said.
As the name implies, the beach stretches for one mile or more than 1.6km.
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