Surf event returns to fatal shore
ONE of surf life saving's biggest events is headed back to the deadly Gold Coast beach where three competitors lost their lives.
Next year's Queensland State Championships will be held at Kurrawa, which has not hosted a major competition since Sunshine Coast teenager Matthew Barclay died in a board race during the Australian titles in 2012.
Robert Gatenby, 15, (1996) and Saxon Bird, 19, (2010) also died during competition on the same stretch of sand.
With its spectacular location and wide open spaces, Kurrawa was the spiritual home of the Aussie Titles for almost two decades before officials finally agreed to move the event for good in 2013.
No Australian or Queensland championship event has been held there since, but the Aussies were held at nearby Broadbeach last year and SLSQ has pressed ahead with a return to Kurrawa next year, citing its 'accessibility for all competitors'.
Matthew Barclay's dad Steve, who has vowed never to set foot on the beach again, said he hoped SLSQ had learned valuable lessons from the previous tragedies.
"Geographically it's a great location, but it is a very challenging beach for competitors," he said.
"I can only trust and hope that they have learnt lessons from the three deaths that have occurred there."
He still presents a trophy named in his son's honour at the Australian and Queensland Youth Championships, but neither of those events are being held at Kurrawa.
An inquest in to the Maroochydore 14-year-old's death delivered a number of safety recommendations to surf life saving contests, including the use of helmets and life jackets for junior competitors and the provision of rescue crews to be stationed nearby.
In a statement, SLSQ defended the decision to return to Kurrawa, where thousands of competitors will battle it out next March.
"Safety of all participants at SLSQ sports carnivals is of the highest concern," the statement said.
"If the conditions are determined to be unsafe on the day of the carnival, the carnival will be moved to a different location.
"SLSQ have a number of safety measures in place for all surf sport events, which they strictly adhere to."
Those measures include 'constant dialogue' between athletes and organisers through state panels in the lead-up to an event, while SLSQ conduct thorough risk assessments before and during events.
Surf conditions are monitored by officials throughout the day of the event, while decisions, including the cancellation of an event, can be made throughout the day.
Originally published as Surf event returns to fatal shore