Hosting nationals was a big success
Over 1,500 competitors, coaches, officials and parents descended on Mullaghmore beach recently, as Sligo Surf Lifesaving club hosted the Irish Nipper and Junior Lifesaving Championships.
This was the first time the National finals were held in Mullaghmore.
Two days of competition saw athletes from throughout the country compete across water and land based events that are designed to improve the contestants' technical skills and athletic abilities.
Saturday kicked off with the nippers' competitions, which are for boys and girls aged between 8 and 14.
For these young athletes the water based events consist of an ocean swim race, a board paddling race and a 'taplin' relay event combining swimming, boards and a beach run.
On land they compete in beach sprints, sprint relays and beach flags.
The latter event is a fascinating knockout contest where competitors are eliminated one by one until only the winner remains.
Each round consists of a race over 20 metres of soft sand to claim a flag (or baton), the catch being that there is one less flag than contestant in each round.
With at least 20 rounds required to determine a winner this is a gruelling event for those who make it to the latter stages and an enthralling show for spectators.
On Sunday the junior events took place, which is for competitors aged 14 to 18.
The juniors compete in the same events as the nippers, albeit over longer distances, as well as two rescue events, which demonstrate the lifesaving abilities of these athletes.
In board rescue the paddler must paddle out to 'rescue' their team mate from the ocean, while in tube rescue the life saver swims out with a buoyancy aid to pull their team mate ashore.
All competitors qualified for this national competition through regional events in Leinster, Munster and Connacht/Ulster over recent weeks, so the standard of completion was very high across all events. Sligo athletes did very well with a number of local nippers winning national titles and many more claiming medals.
The Sligo club is relatively new compared to many of the more established counties, so it was fantastic to see many of the club's nipper boys and girls winning and showing very strongly in both the water and beach events.
This is a testament to the huge effort put in by an army of volunteer coaches who train these kids every Sunday morning on Rosses Point beach throughout the summer months, but in particular to the very dedicated committee who have built up this club over recent years to ensure the equipment, facilities and support structures are in place to allow these children to compete with the best in Ireland.
With contestants hailing from almost every coastal county in Ireland (as well as a number from Kildare and Kilkenny!) all the visitors were amazed at the spectacular scenery of the Yeats County and were hugely impressed with the quality of the beach and the welcome they received in Mullaghmore and Sligo.
Irish Water Safety oversee Life Saving competitions in Ireland and their officials were also hugely complimentary of the location and in particular the efficient way these championships were organised.
This was only possible due to the efforts of a small group who put huge effort in behind-the-scenes to ensure everything ran smoothly.
The co-operation of Sligo County Council, local landowners and the residents of Mullaghmore was also vital to the running of this event and the regional qualifiers which were also hosted here two weeks previously. For more details about Surf Lifesaving in Sligo see https://sligowatersafety.com/surf-lifesaving/