Cruisy coast becoming a top outrigging destination

Thu, 4th May 2017
PREVIEW

The Sunshine Coast is gearing up to host the annual National Outrigger Marathon Titles with more than 1200 people descending on the region on May 21 to 22 for the event. 

First held in Mooloolaba during 2009, the event brings together the best paddlers from across the country to compete for national honours in various marathon events ranging in distance from 10 to 22 kilometres. 

It provides Australian Outrigger Canoe Racing Association’s 84 national clubs, which comprise 3724 registered paddlers, an opportunity to compete in the only national marathon event that AOCRA sanctions, making it the most prestigious of its kind in Australia.

AOCRA president, and Coast resident, Mark Forbes says this year, the marathon titles will follow the Aussie Aito, an exciting one-day event for long distance ocean paddling in a single rudderless outrigger canoe, otherwise known as a V1.

“This is the equivalent of an international surfing carnival, because most countries have Aito and we tie them all together and support one another. Like last year, teams from New Caledonia came over for Aito and stayed on for the marathon and we expect to see some more international teams enter this year,” Forbes says.

“We approached the Sunshine Coast Council and they backed it straight up”

Get in the Game and Get Playing grants from the State Government have secured 140 GPS trackers for this year’s event, meaning the thousands of spectators on the beach will be able to feel more a part of the race than ever before.

“With marathons, once you start to get going, the canoes disappear out to sea or down the coast and people on the beach have to wait until they return, but with these GPS trackers attached to each canoe, they can see on the screen where the teams are placing and it really takes it to the next level,” Forbes says.

“We are witnessing the growth of our sport and the growth of participation is very satisfying. I expect that to continue and the popularity of this event highlights that.”

With the Sunshine Coast Airport close by and the region being centrally located when you consider competitors are venturing from Tasmania right up to Townsville, Forbes says Mooloolaba is the best place for the titles.

“We approached the Sunshine Coast Council three years ago with the objective of turning this region into the best outrigging destination in Australia, and even the world, and they backed it straight up,” he says.

The successes haven’t stopped there.

The inaugural World Distance Championships will be held in Tahiti in June, signaling the start of a new era for the sport.

As a testament to its strength and capability, AOCRA has already managed to secure the second ever WDC for Mooloolaba in 2019. Competitors from 35 countries will come to the Coast for this prestigious event. 

The region’s four outrigging clubs are fast becoming national and international powerhouses. Forbes says Mooloolaba is the biggest club in Australia, with Noosa coming a close second.

When combined with Caloundra and Panamuna, which is based in Minyama, the Sunshine Coast will field around 15 crews at the National Outrigger Marathon Titles later this month.

“Our calendar is pretty full for paddling throughout the year, and the marathon titles are certainly the pinnacle of our six-man racing schedule,” Forbes says.