Organisers of this weekend’s Tweed Coast Pro surfing event say there was no talk of calling it off, despite a fatal shark attack 20 kilometres north.
- The Tweed Coast Pro is the first professional surfing competition to be held in Australia since coronavirus lockdowns
- Extra shark mitigation measures will be used, including drones and a dedicated jet ski for every competitor
- 18 athletes from the World Surf League Championship Tour will compete, including Stephanie Gilmore and Julian Wilson
Competitors, including seven-time World Champion Stephanie Gilmore, will surf Cabarita Beach in northern New South Wales on Sunday and Monday.
It follows the death of recreational surfer Nick Slater, who was mauled by a suspected great white shark at Greenmount Beach on the Gold Coast on Tuesday.
“We already had very strong shark mitigation protocols in place in terms of protecting athletes from a water safety perspective so we have ramped that up in light of what has just happened,” said Andrew Stark, the World Surf League’s Asia Pacific General Manager.
“The World Surf League runs events all over the world, including places like Jeffreys Bay in South Africa, and we are used to managing shark mitigation protocols.
Mr Stark said there would be a dedicated jet ski in the water for every athlete, a shark spotting drone and extra surveillance on the beaches.
An event without spectators
On top of shark mitigation, event organisers have had to manage COVID requirements, with the Tweed Coast Pro declared a broadcast-only event.
All competitors will be tested for coronavirus, with access to the area heavily restricted and a heightened police presence in place.
“It is a sensitive time, and it is important that people understand that.”
Pro-surfers in peak fitness
With the international World Surf League Tour cancelled due to coronavirus, the Tweed Coast Pro is Australia’s first professional surf competition in several months.
Banora Point-based pro-surfer Isabella Nichols said she was excited about returning to high-pressure heats.
“It has been six months since I put on a rashie for a contest, so I have mixed emotions. It is a little bit excitement, a little bit nerves,” she said.
“It will be cool to finally feel those emotions again after so many months.”
Ms Nicholls said the forced break from the hectic world tour timetable had given her the chance to fine-tune her technique and fitness, with an unexpected outcome.
“My boards ended up being too small for me.
“It’s good, more spray, more power. It is what I have been wanting to do for so long, but whenever I have contests and the nerves get to me \, I shed weight really quickly so it has been nice to settle down and add a bit more power to my surfing.”