It's safe to say that Ivy Miller will have an ace up her sleeve when the Sydney Water Surf Series moves to Kiama Downs this weekend.
The teenager lives just a couple of hundred metres from Jones Beach - home to the Kiama Downs Surf Life Saving Club - where she has spent countless hours soaking up the sun over the years. Saturday marks the second round of the Illawarra-based series, which kicked off a fortnight ago in Warilla.
Ivy, who competes in the female under-17s class, said it was a special homecoming in round two.
"It's absolutely amazing, I love having it down at the local beach. And Jones's is such a good beach, we go down there every now and then, so it's a little bit of an advantage for myself," Ivy told the Mercury.
"Jones's usually has tricky conditions which will be really good this weekend, as it will throw a challenge out for all of the competitors. So it will be interesting to see what it puts on for us."
Ivy, who started her surf lifesaving journey as a nipper with Kiama Downs SLSC, is now representing Warilla-Barrack Point Surf Life Saving Club in the Sydney Water series.
The 16-year-old will head into Saturday's event sitting in third spot in the female U/17s point-score standings, behind Elouera's Mikaela Mead and her Warilla clubmate Claire Spicknall. In tough conditions at Warilla Beach, Ivy particularly powered through the surf and board disciplines.
However, she believes there's room for improvement.
"It was the first carnival of the season, so you can't put your expectations too high. I might have wanted to do a little bit better, but I was quite stoked that I was able to get out and around in the ski and other events as well," Ivy said.
"Sydney Water was actually the first carnival that I ever competed in, back in 2014 I think, so it's a yearly event for me. It's genuinely a great event, it's not your typical surf club format, as it's a round-based carnival.
"And it gets people from all the way up to Sydney to come down to the South Coast and Illawarra branches which is good to see, as typically we're heading up to Sydney to compete at their beaches."
The Miller family has a strong pedigree in surf life saving.
Ivy's father Graham was a world-ranked bodyboarder who competed on the international tour, while her aunty Lilli and uncle Greg were professional Ironman and Ironwoman competitors. Her grandmother Geraldine was also a pioneering women's coach and was last year recognised as a Surf Life Saving Australia life member.
Ivy is now excited to see her younger brother Max, 14, also participating in the Sydney Water Surf Series. Max is competing in the under-15s male category and sits in 12th spot after round one.
"It's really good to see him competing. It's interesting to watch him compete and see what he can do better, and he can help me as well," she said.
"And my Dad has a lot of experience in the surf, so he's really helped us with our surf sense and being able to develop our skills in the surf to know where to go, what's the best spot to come in and our strategy to race."
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