It was a hot competition for Gin Gin State High School students as they hit the scorching sand at Elliott Heads for the Queensland Beach Volleyball Tour.
Eight competitors from land-locked Gin Gin showed what they were made of at the two-day event, going up against some of the best beach volleyball players in the state.
The six girls and two boys from Gin Gin didn’t let living in the country hold them back as they gave it everything they had.
Kelsey Button and Violet Lange fought hard to make it to the finals for the junior competition, but up against experienced competitors they found it tough.
However, Violet’s mum Nicole Lange eagerly, and proudly, watched every point from the relative comfort of the shade off the court.
Nicole said it was only last year when the girls decided to try beach volleyball, and she was proud of what they had achieved in such a short period of time.
“They came down for the comp last year, and it was their first go at it,” Nicole said.
“They actually won the juniors last year, and they loved it so they’ve done the full tour this time, through Rocky and Sunshine Coast etc.
“It’s nice to have the local tournament.
“After travelling around quite a bit it's good to come home and have one here as it makes it easier for us to get to.”
Nicole said she believed beach volleyball was a growing sport in the Bundaberg Region, and that it would be beneficial to have more local competitions.
“There is quite a lot of interest, especially from Gin Gin, so it would be great to see it grow more,” she said.
Queensland Beach Volleyball Tour Director Shanon Zunker said he was pleased with the number of attendees at the two-day carnival that was held as part of this year's Wind Slasher Beach Festival.
Born and bred in Bundaberg, Shanon said it was good to host the Queensland competition’s ninth round in his hometown.
He agreed with Nicole’s sentiment, saying the sport was growing in the Bundaberg Region and this tournament had a lot of quality players attend.
Shanon said the Queensland Beach Volleyball Tour has two levels in the open age group, the top division (premier) and second division (challenger), as well as an Under-19 division.
The different levels were designed to encourage new players to take part in the sport.
“We use the levels as a stepping stone and encourage players, like the players here who play in town, to come out and experience beach volleyball,” he said.
Shanon said the girls from Gin Gin may be new to the sport but had already shown what they were made of when attending other beach volleyball tournaments.
“There is a real opportunity for young ones,” he said.
“I guess, compared to other sports, it is still a little under participated, but there is a very direct and established pathway to the top level, so if kids are keen on beach volleyball there’s every opportunity for them with Under-17, Under-19 and Under-21 world championships.
“There is a chance to go on and represent the world.”
Elliott Heads ideal location for volleyball tour
He said Elliott Heads was an ideal location to host the Queensland Beach Volleyball Tour, and the set-up was replicated as if it was played in a bigger region such as Mooloolaba on the Sunshine Coast.
He had received a lot of positive comments about the Elliott Heads foreshore redevelopment.
“A lot of these guys were here last year, and they are quite impressed with the refurb,” Shanon said.
“When I run my other events, down the Goldie etc, I pick locations with amenities close by and with people around to create a vibe, so having this event with the Wind Slasher event has been great for us.”
Shanon said 45 teams played in the Queensland Beach Volleyball Tour at Elliott Heads this year, and he foresees it returning to the region next year.
“Joel Berry who is probably number one in Queensland at the moment is playing here,” Shanon said.
“And there are four or five strong teams here and plenty of local teams as well.
“It really is a great location for us to run the event, and to be honest if I was still living in Bundaberg, I would be looking to open a beach volleyball facility here myself.”
- Earlier report: Elliott Heads hosting beach volleyball tour