Surf Sports


Surf Sports consists of many events or disciplines such swimming, board paddling, surf ski paddling, flags, sprinting, surf boat rowing and the most prestigious of surf events – The Ironman. Traditional events such as the March Past and R&R are making a comeback with an increased number of competitors taking part over the last couple of seasons. There is also First Aid, Patrol competition and the Champion Lifesaver that make up our lifesaving events as well as the every growing Surfboard Riding.

Surf Sports begins in the U8’s with the Junior Activities Program with the number and distance of events increasing as they progress through the Junior program until the U14’s season is completed. Junior athletes must gain a relevant award every year and pass a competition skills evaluation test in order to compete every season.

Once an athlete has turned 15 and attained their Bronze Medallion Award they can then compete as an Open competitor with many more events available to them including ski and surfboat competition. The Illawarra Surf Sports Calendar caters for every athlete from carnivals for Juniors, Masters and Open competitors to special events such as the Oceanseries, Ocean swims, Ironman events and lifesaving events. SLSI recognises the need for variety in surf sports and have set a full calendar with a variety of events to cater for everyone, for e.g the below:

Surf Swimming

Competitors start on the beach, sprint into the surf, negotiate the break, swim an approximate 400m course around a coloured set of buoys and then back to shore, using the surf, then sprint across a finish line on the beach between two green flags. First past the line wins.

Surf Ski Paddling

Fibreglass surf skis are the fastest human powered craft. Paddlers start in the water and head out to sea, rounding three designated buoys laid in a triangular formation, then finish by crossing the finish line at the water’s edge between two flags. The course is usually 700m long. There are single, double and ski relay races.

Board Paddling

From a beach start, competitors paddle a 3.5m fibreglass board through the break, around three buoys and back to shore over a 550m to 700m course. To finish, the competitor must drag/carry their board across a finish line about 10m up the beach. There are board, board rescue and board relay races.

Inflatable Rescue Boat (IRB)

The basic procedure for IRB racing is for crews and their IRBs to start from near the shore, proceed out to the turning buoys, retrieve the patients on the seaward side of the buoys and then return to shore. The main aim of IRB racing is to improve the abilities of IRB drivers and crew members.

Surf Boat Rowing

One of the most exciting events in surf sports. A 5 person surf boat crew negotiates a very, very, very long course in an 8m wood/fibreglass boat.

R & R

The rescue and resuscitation event involves demonstrating that you have mastered traditional rescue methods and resuscitation procedures. Teams must show various skills using the reel, line and belt.

Belt Races

In a surf belt race, the competitors use the reel, line and belt. With a swimmer in the belt a team of lifesavers work the reel to give the swimmer a clean swim out to a designated colour buoy. Upon reaching the buoy the swimmer raises their arm to signal the finish of the race.


These events are the most widely recognised competition events. The race involves running, swimming, board paddling and ski paddling. Some Ironwoman races do not have ski legs. Races can last anywhere between 15 minutes and up to four hours.

Beach Events

The individual beach sprint involves running up to 90m in the sand. The beach flags event involves a sharp turn from a prone position, followed by a sprint over 20m to grab a flag from the sand, where there is one less flag than competitor. Relays are contested between teams of four to twelve from one club, over the 90m sprint track.

Surf Sports provides an opportunity for participants to further develop whether it be as an athlete, official, manager or coach. There are many courses and seminars offered throughout the season to enhance the skills of all our lifesavers.
Surf Sports is there for our lifesavers to have fun, develop better surf skills, keep them active and serves as a major recruitment tool in attracting new members. There is also a high performance pathway for those looking to excel in the surf, more information can be found on this in the following pages.