Ky Hurst takes gold at the 2002 Aussies – Photo: harvpix.com
King Ky ruler of the waves
Over the last 15 years one name has stood head and shoulders above the rest when it comes to surf races titles at the Aussies – “The King” Ky Hurst.
And at 30 years of age, Hurst will again be the man to beat in the blue ribband open surf race at the DHL 2011 Australian Surf Life Saving Championships at Kurrawa (April 2-10).
Since he first burst on to the National surf lifesaving scene as a 15-year-old boy in 1996 to win his first Australian Under 16 Surf Race Championship, Ky has been unbeaten in open competition at 10 Aussie carnivals.
It was the launching pad of a record-breaking dominance of surf race championships, unmatched in Australian Surf Life Saving history.
A history that is decorated with the greats of Surf Life Saving and Olympic and Commonwealth Games competition.
In fact the open surf race gold medal has been presented to more than 12 Olympians – men like Manly pair Ernie Henry in 1927 and the legendary Noel Ryan, a three times winner between 1930 and 1934; the great Graham White who won four titles between 1969 and 1973 and others like Graham Windeatt, Max Metzker, Graeme Brewer, Paul Moorfoot, Ron McKeon, and Deane Pieters amongst others, who have all climbed onto the top podium.
But Hurst’s record is second to none, winning a total of 10 titles, from under 16s, 18s and opens while representing five different clubs: Wamberal (NSW), Manly (NSW), North Burleigh (QLD), Tugun (QLD) and now Kurrawa (QLD).
In 2009, after representing Australia at the 2008 Olympic Games in the 10 kilometre Open Water event, Hurst returned to the surf arena to eclipse the great Bobby Newbiggen (five Open titles between 1940 and 1948) to win his sixth National open surf race championship.
Hurstsits on top of the list when compiling the form guide for this year’s open men’s surf race.
Surf Life Saving Australia’s High Performance Manager and Australian Head Coach Brett Dowker has followed Hurst’s career over his golden reign and admits: “It’s a brave man who tips against Ky in any surf race – he possesses all the skills, all the ability and he reads the surf and can milk waves like no one I know.
“His record stands for itself and there is no doubt the Aussies holds a special place in his life and no matter what kind of conditions Kurrawa throws up he’s the man to beat.”
It is a remarkable record, considering the kind of variables the surf can throw at any given race, on any given day, particularly at Kurrawa.
And those variables will once again stand between Ky and a seventh Australian Open surf race crown when the gun signals the start of the much anticipated surf race final on Sunday afternoon, April 10.
Only two other names have been added to the Open Surf Race champions list since Hurst’s first win in 2001 – Zane Holmes for Kawana Waters in 2005 and for Northcliffe in 2007 and Cronulla’s Chris Allum in 2008 – all occasions when Hurst was away pursuing his Olympic dreams.
Allum – who finished second twice and third once before taking the title in Scarborough three years ago – will be one swimmer chomping at Hurst’s heels or trying to steal his thunder from the outset.
You must always include evergreen Olympian Malcolm Allen – third to Nathan Cotter in 1993; second to Daniel McLellan in 1995 and 1998; third to Holmes in 2005 and second to Hurst in 2006.
But if a new challenger has emerged in the past 12 months it is Sunshine Coast-based Northcliffe international Dev Lahey, who has carved a niche for himself after following a similar path to Hurst.
Lahey, one of the stars of Australia’s all-conquering Trans Tasman Test Series win in New Zealand this year, finished second to Elouera’s powerful swimmer Tom O’Keefe in the under 17 Australian surf race in 2007 before twice winning the under 19 title in 2008 and 2009.
“Dev has had a great season so far, having won all three surf races for Australia in the Trans Tasman Series – if I had to nominate a danger man then Dev would have to be the man,” said Dowker.
But does he have the amour, the guile and the skills to dethrone the King?
Hancock sisters prepare for surf race battle
Courtney Hancock (left) and Bonnie Hancock (right), pictured here with team mate Katie Graham, will be among the favourites in the Surf Race – Photo: harvpix.com
Courtney Hancock would like nothing better than to turn the clock back to 2009 for an instant replay of the Australian Open Women’s surf race when she lines up chasing more surf race gold at Kurrawa – only this year she will have to keep her sister Bonnie at bay.
Back in 2009 Courtney outsped Northcliffe team mate Kristyl Smith to win the open surf race gold medal at Scarborough.
That year it was the Hancock sisters who took home the surf race double, with younger sister Bonnie claiming the under 19 surf race gold.
In 2011 Courtney will be looking over her shoulder, trying to keep an eye on her little sister .
Back in 2009 Bonnie got finals day off to a great start for the family from Sawtell on the NSW Mid North Coast by winning the under-19 surf race from clubmate Brooke Fletcher and Harriet Brown of Ocean Grove, who has since joined the Hancock girls at Northcliffe.
Then Courtney matched the effort, winning the open surf race in a close finish.
She and Ironwoman winner Kristyl Smith went stroke for stroke around the course before a wave brought others into the finish with Hancock holding the wave best to win the sprint up the beach, despite having a little trouble finding the finish flags.
Smith, who has tasted Ironwoman gold in 2005 and 2009, is one of the real improvers in the surf swimming stakes according to Australian High Performance Manager and National Head Coach Brett Dowker.
“Kristyl’s skills in the lifesaving events in the pool I believe have already carried through to surf racing with a vast improvement on holding her breath underwater longer – if she is confronted with a big set at Kurrawa she will certainly be better prepared to handle it after the work she has done in the pool,” said Dowker.
Smith won two of the three surf races for Australia at this year’s Trans Tasman Series in New Zealand, winning the first Test ahead of Miranda Bell, with Manly’s Australian under 21 representative Devon Halligan fourth.
In Smith’s absence in the second test it was Halligan, daughter of New Zealand’s former Canterbury Bulldog sharpshooter Daryl Halligan who showed she will be a force to be reckoned with, beating Courtney Hancock, with Bell fourth.
Then with Halligan and Hancock rested it was left up to Smith to show her class to win
the third and final Test ahead of Harriet Brown (third) and Bell (fourth).
Cronulla aim to relive glory days
In the mid to late 90s it was Sydney Branch club Cronulla who ruled the Surf Life Saving roost – particularly in the men’s open swimming events with names like Daniel McLellan, Adam Weir, Tanian Goode and Cameron Gibbs leading the charge.
For three years between 1996 and 1998 Cronulla remained unbeaten in the open men’s surf teams with McLellan also winning three open surf races and Gibbs, Goode, Weir and Paul McLachlan all chalking up individual surf or belt titles.
Such was the dominance that in 1998 the club filled all three placegetters in the open surf belt final – Goode, Weir and McLellan.
But with the emergence of the Queensland super clubs, the gold medals cupboard has been somewhat bare in recent years with Maroochydore and Northcliffe stealing the surf teams limelight in the men and Northcliffe dominating in the women.
But it hasn’t been for a lack of trying from a determined Cronulla outfit in particular, who would love nothing more than to nudge Northcliffe off their perch in the men’s surf teams.
For the first time in several years Northcliffe appear to be somewhat vulnerable with injuries to key personel threatening to weaken their lineup.
It could well leave the door ajar for Cronulla’s 2009 State and 2010 Sydney Branch champions, Chris and Hayden Allum, Cameron Pyett and Mark Simpson to finally unsettle the Queensland superpower.
Cronulla have been knocking on the Northcliffe door for five of the past six years; finishing fourth in 2004; second in 2005; third in 2006; second in 2007 and third in 2008.
Chris Allum, the 2008 Australian open surf race champion has been the one constant in those teams between 2005 and 2008 and would love nothing more than to shake up the Northcliffe team.
Honour roll since 2000
Surf Race – Open Men's
2000-01: K.Hurst (Tugun)
2001-02: K.Hurst (Tugun)
2002-03: K.Hurst (Tugun)
2003-04: K.Hurst (Tugun)
2004-05: Z.Holmes (Kawana Waters)
2005-06: K.Hurst (Tugun)
2006-07: Z.Holmes (Northcliffe)
2007-08: C.Allum (Cronulla)
2008-09: K.Hurst (Kurrawa)
2009-10: Not held
Surf Race – Open Women's
2000-01: K.Gilbert (Surfers Paradise)
2001-02: K.Krywulycz (North Cronulla)
2002-03: K.Ogilvie (Bulli)
2003-04: A.White (Terrigal)
2004-05: A.White (Terrigal)
2005-06: M.Nay (Kurrawa)
2006-07: B.Fletcher (Northcliffe)
2007-08: A.Marriott (City of Perth)
2008-09: C.Hancock (Northcliffe)
2009-10: Not held
Surf Teams – Open Men's
2000-01:Kawana Waters (H.Smith, B.Stokes, M.Ringuet, Z.Holmes)
2001-02:Mooloolaba (T.Peach, S.Meredith, Dean Mercer, G.Anderson)
2002-03:Maroochydore (S.Greig, R.Layt, J.O’Pray, S.Short)
2003-04: Maroochydore (R.Layt, S.McBean, J.O’Pray, S.Short)
2004-05:Maroochydore (S.Bright, S.Greig, R.Layt, K.Schofield)
2005-06:Northcliffe (S.Eckstein, P.Leonard, J.Cotter, C.Eckstein)
2006-07:Northcliffe (S.Eckstein, P.Leonard, Z Holmes, C.Eckstein)
2007-08: Northcliffe (S.Eckstein, P.Leonard, Z.Holmes, B.Cummins)
2008-09:Northcliffe (S.Eckstein, P.Leonard, Z.Holmes, N.Smith)
Surf Teams – Open Women's
2000-01:Surfers Paradise (K. Gilbert, A.Sharp, P.Turner, F.Wallace)
2001-02:Maroochydore (B.Collie, J.Parry, K.Thomas, S.Windsor)
2002-03:Surfers Paradise (K.Gilbert, P.Turner, *K.Cameron, M.Mills)
2003-04:Northcliffe (*K.Cameron, B.Collie, K.Smith, L.Vrolyks)
2004-05:Northcliffe (B.Collie, *K.Cameron, K.Smith, J.Warlock)
2005-06:Northcliffe (*K.Cameron, K.Smith, B.Collie, B.Fletcher)
2006-07:Northcliffe (B.Fletcher, *K.Harris, K.Smith, H.Jacobsen)
2007-08:Northcliffe (B.Hancock, E.Pluimers, K.Ulmer, C.Hancock)
2008-09:City Of Perth (M.Benson, C.Falzon, M.Graham, A.Marriott)
2009-10:Northcliffe (E.Pluimers, K.Smith, B.Hancock, C.Hancock)