TIME might have slowed them but competitive fire still burns inside the bodies of the athletes in the Masters Championships at the Australian Surf Lifesaving Championships at Scarborough beach in Perth.
A walk along the beachfront during the two days of the Masters carnival is both a step back in time and a social catch-up, with surf stars such as Grant Kenny, Nathan Smith and Guy Andrews enjoying the chance to speak to old friends and rivals as much as they still love to race.
Andrews, the 1993 Australian Ironman champion, became the 2018 45-49 years Australian Ironman champion today, beating Jason Cross (Thirroul) and Glenn Eldon (Cottesloe) to take the gold medal.
Wearing the colours of Tallebudgera, he was also a placegetter in the surf and board races but winning the Ironman title was his main aim for the day.
“It’s great fun being back competing in surf sports,” Andrews said.
“I’m coaching at Tallebudgera so I’m in with the kids a bit so it was a no brainer to start competing again.
“When I went to the state championships for the first carnival I did all year, I paddled out past the apex cans and thought this feels so familiar.
“I’ve been doing a few triathlons and races that have a start and a finish and then you are done but here I’m getting back into that carnival atmosphere with lots of races you can have a go at.”
The 47-year-old says the skills developed over years of racing at the highest level have quickly come back to him and allowed him to enjoy racing in the surf again.
“I’m really enjoying being back in the surf club and it’s something I’m so familiar with,” he said
“It’s nice to unlock all the knowledge that I’ve got and pass it on to some kids because it would be a shame to waste it.”
Andrews placed second in the 45-49 year’s surf race behind another great of the past, West Australian Deane Pieters.
It was 27 years ago at Scarborough that Pieters won the Australian open belt race championship – his second in succession – wearing the sky blue cap of Manly.
At Scarborough in 1991 he also won gold for Manly in the open surf teams, combining with Scott Miller, Simon Upton and Craig Riddington in one of the all-time great surf swimming quartets.
Pieters is now back in the red, white and green of Trigg Island and enjoying putting his skills to the test.
“I don’t think the competitive instinct ever goes,” the 49-year-old said.
“I’m pretty meticulous with my preparation – if I’m going to commit, I commit and don’t come in half done.”
Pieters still tries to swim daily, covering about 30km a week, while working as an executive with the West Coast Eagles, and won a second gold medal with Robert Innocent in the board rescue and will be back in the water tomorrow with surf and Taplin relay teams.
In the 35-39 year age group, 2005 Australian Ironman champion Nathan Smith proved a handful for his rivals, winning gold for Wanda in the surf race and with Paul Buttel in the board rescue.
It was just a year ago that Smith was winning the restricted surf race at the Aussies open carnival and it is only a short time since he was competing in open Ironman finals and the Nutri-Grain series.
For Kenny, it is 35 years since his fourth Australian Ironman championship but he never seems to tire of winning Aussies medals and took the silver medal for Alexandra Headland in the 50-54 years’ board rescue with Jeff Lemarseny, finishing behind Freshwater’s Michael Kirkby and John de Mestre.
Kenny placed fourth in his Ironman final, which was won by the prolific Masters gold medallist Paul Lemmon of Terrigal ahead of Craig Chapman (Surfers Paradise) and Scott Thomson (North Bondi).
Lemmon also won gold in the board and surf races but in something of a surprise was beaten by Scarboro’s Warren Jones in the rescue tube race final.
Another who always seems to leave the Masters with a swag of gold, Northcliffe’s Lee Vrolyks, again dominated in the 35-39 years age group, winning five gold medals in the Ironwoman, board, surf, rescue tube and board rescue events.