SURF STUDIO: Episode 13 – Coolangatta Gold
On this week’s episode of Surf Studio we take a look at the Coolangatta Gold – the most challenging endurance race in surf sports. With the event unable to take place in 2020 and the Virtual Coolangatta Gold in full swing, we talk to three competitors who have taken part in multiple Coolangatta Golds over the years.
First up with chat with Guy Leech who won the inaugural Coolangatta Gold in 1984 and again the following year …. we chat with Tiarne Smith from the famous Smith Surf Sports family about her 14-year journey from handler in 2006, to playing a pivotal role for women being able to compete in the long course, something she has done eight times …
And finally, we chat to Tasmanian veteran Coolangatta Gold competitor Don Marsh who has made the annual pilgrimage to the Gold Coast to compete in the iconic event almost every year since 2008.
Two-time Coolangatta Gold champion Guy Leech won the inaugural 1984 Coolangatta Gold as 19-year-old from Manly SLSC. From unknown young gun, that race etched Leech into the history books as the first even winner of the one of the world’s toughest and most gruelling endurance surf races.
“I turned up with no clue that I could win it, with no desire to do anything other than to just get through the race, do my best and not embarrass myself,” Leech said.
“I walked on to that beach not known, they had odds on me that were 40 to 1… I was an outside chance… I had never won an Ironman race before because I had never really done it before.
“The irony is that I walked off the beach four and half hours later and I went from being not known to being one of the most famous people in Australia at that time.”
Next we chat to Tiarne Smith about her 14-year journey from handler in 2006, to playing a pivotal role for women being able to compete in the Coolangatta Gold long course to successfully competing in her eighth long course and thirteenth Coolangatta Gold in 2019.
“I’m not at least going to stop until I get to 15, because I can’t stop at 13, can’t stop at 14, so 15 that’s my aim I guess,” Smith said of her next goal.
“My goal was to finish the short course, then it was to win my age group, then it was to do the long course and then it was to better my time in the long course and then it got to the point where I wanted to do 10 and then I just kept going.
“So, I think 15 might be my max and 15 is the goal, it’s just two more years, so we’ll see how we go after that.”
And finally, we head to Tasmania to chat to veteran Coolangatta Gold competitor Don Marsh from Carlton Park SLSC who has made the pilgrimage to compete in the iconic event almost every year since 2008 and will this year be competing in the Virtual Coolangatta Gold.
“It was a goal I set myself when I retired from paid work and I always wanted to do it and I never had the opportunity in terms of my workload so I set that as a goal when I retired,” Don said of tackling the Coolangatta Gold.
“And I’ve continued to do it. I just think it’s a great event and I think for more mature athletes, it’s something they can do.
“You don’t get pounded by the surf like you do in the short course racing, you’ve got the opportunity to get off the beach pretty cleanly and work your way through the event.”
To find out more about each of these stories make sure to tune into Episode Thirteen of Surf Studio this Wednesday night on the SLSA website and SLSA Facebook page.
Surf Studio is regular online show with each episode featuring stories from around Australia and covering a range of topics such as sport, lifesaving, leadership, education etc and Surf Life Saving Australia encourages everyone to be involved. If you, or anyone you know has a story that you would like to share via Surf Studio please email firstname.lastname@example.org