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Champions of the past, present and future celebrate 100 years of The Aussies

SURF LIFE SAVING AUSTRALIA: Past, present and future champions have officially launched the Centenary celebrations of the Australian Surf Lifesaving Championships on the Gold Coast.

Symbolically, The Aussies 2015 were welcomed back to Queensland 100 years to the day since the first ever Championships carnival was held at Bondi Beach on March 20, 1915.

More than 7,000 competitors from 311 surf life saving clubs across Australia will be chasing more than 400 national titles on offer at The Aussies 2015. The North Kirra and Tugun Surf Life Saving Clubs will again play hosts for this special anniversary carnival from April 11-19.

This year’s program will feature a youth championships and an ocean swim for the first time.

“The Aussies have long held a special place in the annals of Australian sporting history and with the addition of the youth championships and The Aussie Ocean Swim there is a very exciting and progressive element to the Centenary celebrations,” SLSA president Graham Ford said.

“The Aussies is the pinnacle event on the SLSA sports calendar and given that this is the 100th anniversary, this year should be incredibly special. To be crowned an Australian champion is a status symbol amongst all surf lifesavers and a tag that is worn as a badge of honour in your surf club.”

In his launch address, Mr Ford emphasised the core function of being a lifesaver, issuing a reminder that every competitor at The Aussies 2015 is a volunteer patrolling member at a surf life saving club, giving a minimum of 25 hours of their time to keep Australia’s beaches safe.

“The competitive nature aside, The Aussies are also celebration of the magnificent skills our members are trained with in order to patrol our beaches,” he said.

Modern day stars Shannon Eckstein, Liz Pluimers and Naomi Flood were joined by former junior Ironman champion Thomas Fraser-Holmes to launch The Aussies 2015. Fraser-Holmes has more recently used his surf lifesaving background to become one of the world’s best swimmers, winning 200m freestyle gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.

In a nod to the rich history of The Aussies, the highly successful quartet was joined by the Bondi Surf Life Saving Club girls Rescue and Resuscitation team. It was one of the two inaugural events on the program in 1915 – and was won by Bondi SLSC.

One of the oldest living competitors at The Aussies, 87-year-old former Coffs Harbour and Freshwater SLSC legend John Mills OAM was also in attendance. Mr Mills is a four time Australian R and R Premiership winner who first competed alongside his late brother Les at Manly in 1948. He would go on to win gold medals throughout the 1950’s and 60’s.

He has hardy missed an Aussies carnival since those early years and will be on the beach again this year at North Kirra coaching emerging 16-year-old Ironwoman champion Tahlia Kollen from Sawtell SLSC.

The Aussies 2015 are again supported by major partner Tourism and Events Queensland. Queensland Minister for Tourism and Major Events, Kate Jones welcomed the event back to the Gold Coast for its centenary celebrations.

“A pinnacle event on the Australian Surf Life Saving calendar, the ‘Aussies’ will see the Gold Coast welcome more than 7,000 competitors in 2015,” said Ms Jones.

“The Palaszczuk Government supports the ‘Aussies’ through Tourism and Events Queensland, an event that generates more than 80,000 visitor nights for the state.

“Events play an important role in growing tourism and a strong tourism industry means jobs for Queenslanders.”

The Aussies 2015 begin on April 11 at North Kirra Beach with the youth championships over two days. The Masters will be held on April 13 and 14, immediately followed by the Open events from April 15-19.

For the first time, four days of finals action will be live streamed on the official SLSA website.