There is not just weighty surfboats navigating the swell drenched terrain of the George Bass Surf Marathon this year.
Twenty-seven-year-old ski paddler Nathan Vipond finished Thursday’s 36 kilometre leg of the Men’s Open Ski marathon in 6th place, and said the tough race can easily break the spirit of competitors.
“It’s been very tough pushing into the winds,” the Maroochydore local said ahead of the shorter, 27 kilometre Day 5 leg from Tathra to Pambula.
“Today will be a calm day though.”
Out on the ocean alone, it’s a very different race for the ski competitors.
“It can really break you as a person, anything can happen,” the former Tathra and Pambula Nipper said.
“It’s a good challenge for most people, and it pushes you as far as you can go.”
Bulli again took top honours in the Open Men’s division on Thursday, claiming the Curly Annabel Hat perpetual trophy for the third consecutive year.
North Cronulla finished ahead of the pack in the Open Women, while Pambula also continued their unbeaten run in the Masters Women, finishing ahead of the Broulee Bats who had crew members returning after suffering mild hypothermia this week.
North Cronulla won the Open Men, while duo Nick Ziviani and Joe Hasley won the Double Ski leg, and Paul Buttle the Open Ski.
Race director Andrew Edmunds said while the glory days of big prize money, international competitors and high profile sponsorship during the 1990s is long gone, this year’s race is the biggest in six years.
“I love it,” he said.
“The comradery, the friendships and all the support is amazing.
“Even on the toughest day everyone gets together at the end of the day and it’s all sweet.”
He said teamwork behind the scenes and the support of local councils and the Annabel family allow the race to keep building each year.
“Every boat has a support boat, there’s 50 boats plus the racing surfboats, 15 paddlers, three jet skis and inflatable rescue boats for safety, one medical officer and a referee,” Mr Edmunds said.
“Everyone provides valuable support,” he said.
“We have nurses and doctors, and every crew has a cook.
“It’s a massive effort.”