The Australian Surf Lifesaving Championships, better known as The Aussies, celebrated its 100th anniversary at the weekend. The event programme also included the inaugural Aussie Ocean Swim, a 2.5km open race along the Gold Coast.
Marathon swimmer George O’Brien dominated the competition, winning both the Ocean Swim and the men’s open surf race on Saturday for his club Kurrawa.
“The surf race is such a great event,” O’Brien said. “It is always so hard to win. A lot of people were saying this was the best field in a long time so I’m really happy with the win, especially with a field like that.”
The field included past champions Shannon Eckstein, Ky Hurst and Olympian Thomas Fraser-Holmes.
O’Brien will now head to Cozumel in Mexico for the FINA 10km Open Water World Cup at the start of May. He will be one of three Australian men competing for two World Championships places.
“Any experience I can get racing in open water is really valuable,” said O’Brien. “I seem to learn something new from every race. Little things like pack positioning, navigation, and swimming in choppy conditions all come into play in the surf as much as they do in open water. Sometimes the pack in a surf race is not far off what you experience in a World Cup Race. So I think this has been a good hit out for me before Mexico.”
Fraser-Holmes was competing for Manly Surf Club after a big week in the pool at the Hancock Prospecting Australian Swimming Championships, where he secured his qualification for the World Championships.
“It was great,” Fraser-Holmes said. “I haven’t had that much fun competing in ages. It was serious when it was on, and then as soon as we crossed the line it was a bunch of mates all laughing together.”
Fraser-Holmes was third to Eckstein, edging past Hurst in a frantic photo finish.