Gong lifeguards beat the best

They’re buff and they’re tough, and the team of Wollongong City Council  (WCC) lifeguards beat off stiff competition from the crew from Bondi Rescue and more at a statewide challenge yesterday.

After a gruelling land and sea race - which will be aired on an upcoming episode of the Channel Ten show - the eight-member Wollongong team won the 2013 Bondi Beach Annual Relay Professional Ocean Lifeguard Team Challenge.

The team members - Luke Mittwollen, Dillon Ruiz, Mark Norris, Chanan Clark, Benjamin Griffiths, Nicholas Squiers, Beau Wheeler and Mackenzie Hynard - competed against council teams from across NSW from 7pm last night.

The popular event drew a big crowd at Bondi, though the host team could not match the lads from the Gong.

"It’s a really well-run event," said Mr Norris, 40. "I’ve been with council for 20 years, and have taken part in this competition a number of times and we’ve won a few times before too.

"It’s great to challenge your skills against lifeguards from other councils and it’s always good to have a win - especially against the boys from Bondi!

"It’s certainly competitive, but it’s a lot of fun too and a great bonding experience."

WCC beach services co-ordinator Jason Foye said the event showcased the different skills needed by council lifeguards.

"The team is made up of two swimmers, two surfer plane paddlers, two rescue board paddlers and two beach runners, and members don’t know which leg they have to do," he said.

"So it shows the depth of talent and athleticism that’s needed for this job - and how well-rounded lifeguards need to be in terms of their skill set.

"To win against some of the best lifeguard teams in the state is a great accolade for the team we have here in Wollongong."

It was the first time Mr Ruiz, 26, and Mr Squiers, 30, had entered the challenge, and they said conditions were rough but victory was sweet.

"The course was long and challenging as the tide was full and there weren’t many waves which made it harder," Mr Ruiz said.

"But we’d trained hard for it and it was a great physical challenge."

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