After missing the grand opening of the Surfing Australia High Performance Centre (HPC) extension, The Business of Surf were excited to get a personal tour of the state of the art facility one week later.
Kim Crane, Surfing Australia’s National High Performance Director was our host, and had just stepped off a plane after a recon visit to Chiba, Japan – the venue of the 2020 Olympic Games where Surfing will make it’s (exhibition) debut.
As is the case with most pro surfing enthusiasts, there is a concern about the venue’s ability to produce quality waves at that time of year. The issue being mainly around the type of showcase that could be beamed across the world for the sport of Surfing and the likelihood of the event taking place in a World Surf League (WSL) KS Wave Co pool becoming less and less likely each week. It’s even been said that the Japanese government is adamant about having an ocean event, a PR move showcasing a clean ocean after years of negative press after the tsunami and associated nuclear fallout.
If the event indeed goes ahead in the ocean waters off Chiba, every team will be (generally) competing in the same conditions, potentially like we’ve seen at the US Open at Huntington Beach, CA this week… but one thing is for sure, the Australian Team will be incredibly well prepared, courtesy (in large part) to the brand new, world leading High Performance Centre in Casuarina, NSW and roll out of the new High Performance Program strategy where everyone is working hard to integrate and add value to the national network.
“It’s a centre that the sport of Surfing is very proud of, “ says Kim Crane as we start our walk through the facility. A sense of legacy permeates the walls of the building with meticulously researched history and valuable memorabilia lining the entrance to the training area – A nod to the past champions who have carved a path for generations to follow.
And the pathway to the podium is an underlying philosophy that drives the Surfing Australia organisation – From entry level, participation-style programmes like the Weet-Bix SurfGroms, to the Nudie Australia Boardriders battle, through to WQS (World Qualifying Series) readiness camps and the goal of producing Australian World Champions… and now you can add to that, the opportunity for Olympic Gold – no stone has been left unturned along the way.
But Kim is quick to point out; it’s not only about the medals as she gestures towards a bold statement written on the back wall of the gym – Supporting Australian Surfers to become the world’s best surfers and people. “The People. I’m most proud of that addition to the statement.” Points out Crane.
Medals are important, but we are also equally motivated by developing people through our programmes.”
The expansion project was made possible by the Australian Government’s investment of $2.536 million in funding through the Building Better Regions Fund and the New South Wales Government represented by Sport and Recreation within the Office of Sport who funded $3 million for the expansion. The balance of the facility funding was through Surfing Australia Investment and through philanthropic donations by Don O’Rorke from Consolidated Properties, Hutchinson Builders support and another private donor.
“The regional grant we received was in recognition of bringing the whole organisation into New South Wales, including 22 full-time staff that were previously based in Queensland.” Said Kim Crane.
While many might think the HPC is only for a chosen group of elite athletes, it’s an assumption that is not entirely true according to Crane.
“The HPC itself is for the progression of surfing for all of Australia”. Says Kim.
“Previously we fell into a trap where the High Performance Program became solely focused on operations only from the High Performance Centre (HPC). The HPC is without doubt a performance advantage facility and is where we are based, but it is not the National High Performance Program, on its own.”
Our state bodies, and our coach/athlete hubs are all empowered to embrace and use the centre and all its facilities.”
And the centre that is recognised as an official Olympic Training facility certainly is impressive. Under one roof you will find foam pits, skateboards, trampolines, state of the art gym, themed accommodation (better than the hotel room I had in Coolangatta), a secret board and fin room and of course an equally impressive line up of people driving the programmes, including the likes of former World Championship Tour surfer Bede Durbidge, top coaches like Kate Wilcomes (nee Skarret), Clancy Dawson and Samba Mann, training guru Nam Baldwin along with access to Sports Psychologists and Physiotherapists.
The facility is so impressive it’s already drawn interest from other sports, like Winter Sport and Skateboarding and Olympic organising committees, all earmarking it for their own future camps.
“It is now a place to come and train and also a place to recognise and celebrate the amazing success of Aussie surfers over the past fifty odd years.” Says outgoing Surfing Australia CEO, Andrew Stark.
This is a true legacy project for Surfing in this country and one that will deliver continued success on the global stage.”
How that success is measured over the coming years will be key to the success of the new facility, and indeed Australian surfing. Medals aren’t the only thing (but they certainly help) and one thing that has been uncovered in the world of sport, is that better people make better athletes, and with that in mind and with the caliber of people involved, it seems like Surfing Australia are on track to indeed create a healthier and happier Australia through surfing… it’s why they exist.
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