Ballina nipper Kelsey Wheatland exits the water during the under-14 board race at the Ballina Con Asmussen Championship day.
Ballina nipper Kelsey Wheatland exits the water during the under-14 board race at the Ballina Con Asmussen Championship day. Marc Stapelberg

Nippers warm up for title tilt

BALLINA Lighthouse and Lismore junior surf lifesavers warmed up for the Far North Coast Championships by taking part in the Con Asmussen Championship yesterday.

The Ballina club championships have been named in honour of life member Asmussen, who died last year. The club chose to recognise the work Asmussen did for the movement, including on a local level since retiring to the area and on a state, national and international level.

Turners Beach at Yamba will be the venue for the FNC two-day championships next weekend with youngsters from eights through to 14s taking part in water and beach events.

The NSW State Age Championships will be staged at Kingscliff one week later.

Ballina teenagers Isabella Jones and Kelsey Wheatland have opted out of the beach events, preferring to concentrate all their efforts on the water events at the state championships in what will be their last year in the nipper ranks.

Jones represented the Far North Coast at the Inter-Branch championships in December at Redhead Beach near Newcastle and was a member of the Ballina squad that went to South West Rocks for the Country Championships.

The 14-year-old knows she has plenty of hard work in front of her to capture a medal at the state championships but if smiles win gold medals then she will travel home with plenty.

"The Inter-Branch was a lot of fun, the bus trip was long ... lots of lollies, lots of talking," Jones said.

"The ironwoman is my favourite event because it is a mixture of both (swim and board).

"This is my last year in nippers, I'm the oldest (in the nippers).

"I'd love to get on the ironwoman series and do a (surf) patrol at Bondi.

"I'm going to see if I can do an exchange this year at the Bondi club.

"Go down there for a while, do their patrols, stay with a family and do their training. It would be fun."

When asked about her idols on the Nutri-Grain circuit Jones said: "I've met Alyce Bennett, she's really nice but probably Hugh Dougherty."

Wheatland was modest when asked about her chances, claiming it was more about having fun.

"I do it because it is a challenge," the 13-year-old said.

"Yeah it is fun ... my favourite events are board, swim and (beach) flags.

"I'll only do water at state, you have to choose.

"This is my last year in nippers and I'm probably going to do seniors (open age) next season."

The beach at Kingscliff has battled erosion in recent weeks but contest organisers have assured competitors the championships will go ahead regardless.



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