The stage and the surf are set for this weekend’s Nutri-Grain IronMan and IronWoman Finals Series finale at Sydney’s North Cronulla Beach.
Surf Sports biggest names, led by nine-times champion Shannon Eckstein and dueling Ironwomen Courtney Hancock and Rebecca Creedy were on show today for a sneak preview of what to expect during this weekend’s series.
They are among the top 20 men and 20 women who will battle it out through tomorrow’s endurance round, Saturday’s accumulator and Sunday’s eliminator.
And there were glimpses of some sizeable waves pounding on a shallow low tide sandbank today, running towards a fast-moving rip on North Cronulla’s tricky southern end.
It certainly put smiles on the competitors faces as they unloaded their craft and set their sights on the sizeable sets of waves.
Northcliffe’s Eckstein comes into the Nutri-Grain IronMan Finals Series as fit and confident as he has ever been since winning his first Series in 2003 and says he is not feeling any pressure. The 33-year-old is back on a happy hunting ground which saw him win his fifth title here and his ninth last year.
“The preparation is the key and I have prepared really well for this weekend and I believe if you’ve prepared well then that takes the pressure off,” Eckstein said.
“I have won nine titles and I’m pretty happy with that, so for me the pressure is kind of off, although the expectation is a little bit different when people say your expected to win but that’s just their opinions.
“Winning a tenth would mean a bit in a few more years when I sit back and look at it and think that’s pretty amazing. It will mean a lot, but I have to get the job done.”
Eckstein has a sixth sense when it comes to reading the surf and mastering the challenges that will likely come from Manly’s Louis and Kurrawa pair Bevilacqua and Matt Poole.
Coolangatta Gold winner Hancock (Northcliffe), in her 11th Series and Australian champion Creedy (Kurrawa) in her 10th, are both in good form and will be ready to tackle the conditions and the likes of last round Summer of Surf Nutri-Grain IronWoman Series winner Welborn.
Fellow NSW teenagers Naomi Scott (Manly) and Gemma Smith (Umina) and last minute wildcard inclusion Brielle Cooper from North Burleigh, will also be taking on the veteran stars.
“Coming off the Coolangatta Gold meant I had a different start to the season after taking some time off but I feel like I am coming good at the right time,” said Hancock.
“It is all about timing it right and I’ve arrived here relaxed and ready. I’m used to this kind of surf after being raised in the surf at Sawtell on the NSW north coast but I did have to roll my ski a few times this morning so I hope I’ve got that out of my system.”
Creedy is in great form after winning the Summer of Surf Nutri-Grain IronWoman Series by a point and knows the vagaries of the surf can play such a huge part.
“I will be ready for whatever is thrown up; I’m as relaxed as I think I’ve ever been before a Series final and I can’t wait,” said Creedy.
The action starts at midday Friday, continues at midday Saturday and Sunday, with the two weekend rounds LIVE on fox sports.