Maroochydore Surf Club members console each other during the search for Matt Barclay at Kurrawa.
Maroochydore Surf Club members console each other during the search for Matt Barclay at Kurrawa. CONTRIBUTED

Rising star following his heroes

MATT Barclay was at the top of his game, a surf lifesaving legend in the making.

He was following in the footsteps of Sunshine Coast ironmen Matt Poole and Ali Day.

It was his dream to compete at the Australian Surf Life Saving Championships on the Gold Coast this week.

That goal might have tragically taken his talented young life.

Police spent more than three frantic daylight hours yesterday searching for the 14-year-old, who was knocked from his board during competition at Kurrawa about 3.45pm and failed to resurface.

His trademark board, which features coloured Southern Stars, was recovered.

The search was called off about 6.40pm and was expected to continue at first light.

It is the same notorious stretch of beach where Sydney ironman Saxon Bird drowned in wild seas in 2010. Saxon was knocked off his surf ski by a wayward surf ski, prompting an inquest.

Matt's tight-knit Wurtulla family, who were reported to be at Kurrawa yesterday, are struggling to come to terms with the freak accident.

His dad Steve had told the Daily on previous occasions his son had "natural talent".

Members of the Maroochydore Surf Life Saving Club, where Matt was a member, comforted each other on the shore, clearly distraught.

Earlier yesterday, dangerous surf conditions prompted organisers to move the surfboat competition from Kurrawa Beach to Coomera Lake.

Matt was part of the Cyclones State Team dedicated to the development of rising stars.

He trained alongside big names in the sport, including Elizabeth Pluimers and Kristyl Smith.

The Siena Catholic College student had won a number of prestigious events, including the Junior Coolangatta Gold and the Future Champions Surf Carnival.

At the Coolangatta Gold last year he had such a lead on the other competitors that he had finished the race before the second placegetter had started the final leg.

Social media sites were full of tributes last night to a talented young man.

Former Olympic swimmer Ky Hurst said on Twitter his "heart goes out to the family and friends of the young boy who lost his life today. A sad day for lifesaving".

Ironman Mitchell Miller, from Noosa, said: "My heart goes out to the family and friends of the young boy who was sadly lost at Aussies today! Closer to home, Matt was such a great kid!"

Professional Coast athlete Matt Poole said: "Speechless! The silence on the beach said it all, my thoughts & prayers go out to the family of the young boy and to the Maroochy surf club!"

A prominent Maroochydore nipper coach, Nathan Greig, has been repeatedly quoted as describing Matt as a "fantastic swimmer."



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