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The Coolangatta Gold

From Openwaterpedia

The Coolangatta Gold is a movie and is one of the premier events in the sport of Ironman (surf lifesaving). The event is organised by Surf Life Saving Australia.


The Coolangatta Gold is a 1984 Australian film which led to the establishment of the Ironman race The Coolangatta Gold.

In the film, Joe Lucas is determined that his son Adam becomes a champion Ironman. He neglects his younger son, Steve, who is an aspiring band manager and enjoys karate, as well as being his brother's training partner. The leading Ironman event is The Coolangatta Road, an arduous competition for $20,000 prize money. The favourite for this event is champion Ironman Grant Kenny. Kenny's father beat Joe Lucas for the Ironman title in 1960. Steve falls in love with a ballet dancer, Kerri, who inspires him to compete with his brother in The Coolangatta Gold.

The Coolangatta Gold was released on DVD by Umbrella Entertainment in November 2012. The DVD is compatible with all region codes and includes special features such as a photo gallery, the making of The Coolangatta Gold and a Good Morning Australia segment.


In 1984, Peter Schrek was writing a movie featuring the talents of ironman legend Grant Kenny, about two brothers competing for their father's love. Needing a dramatic climax for the movie, Schrek was sitting on a Gold Coast beach when he came up with the idea of racing from Surfer's Paradise, all the way down to Coolangatta, and back up again. Schrek ran up to someone on the beach, and after explaining the course, asked if he would do it, to which the person replied, "Hell no". Schreck then asked if he would do it for $20, 000 prize money, to which the person replied, "Hell Yeah".

For the filming of the race, the producers decided to run The Coolangatta Gold as an actual event, rather than film set up shots. Many well-known Ironmen at the time competed at the time, but it was won by the unheralded 18-year-old Guy Leech, from Manly. Leech went on to win the second race in 1985 in conjunction with the movie premiere, and again in 1989 in The Gold Coast Gold. The race was run again in 1991 and 1992, won by Michael King and Darren Mercer respectively, before escalating costs prevented it from being held again.

In 2005, it was on again, this time with a new women's and master's events. In the men's race, Caine Eckstein would mirror the events of the original race and the movie, running past his brother Shannon Eckstein, and defeating much more recognised ironmen in Zane Holmes, Dean Mercer and Jeremy Cotter.

The 2006 race saw Zane Holmes become the only ironman in history to win a series title, and Australian title, a World Championship and the Coolangatta Gold. 2007 continued the tradition of upsets with veteran Rhys Drury making a break in the board leg and taking win. The period from 2008-11 saw a domination from Caine Eckstein. After returning to win his second title in 2008, Eckstein was pushed all the way in 2009 by veteran Dean Mercer, and in doing so, broke race record pace by over ten minutes, and equalled Guy Leech's record of three wins. In 2010, after racing with Cory Hill in the ski leg down to Coolangatta, Eckstein broke away to win by almost ten minutes, and became the first competitor to win three in a row. He extended this record in 2011, and his victories now stands at five.

In the Uncle Toby's Super Series, a similar version of the race was held, called The Gold Coast Gold. While not officially recognised as the same race, The Gold Coast Gold was essentially the same race, and utilised a similar course to that used today. It was the first event of the new breakaway series in November 1989, and was won by Guy Leech, who extended his unbeaten record. In 1991, Jonathon Crowe after breaking away in the swim, just held on in the final run leg. In 1995, Scott Reeves won, and become the only man to win the Gold Coast Gold.

The Course

The course for the 1984 and 85 events were as follows: An 11 km beach run from Surfer's Paradise, over Burliegh Heads to Tallebudegra Creek, a wade across the creek, a short run to the ocean followed by a 4 km ocean swim towards Currumbin, a transition to the board leg at Bilinga, which then took the competitors down to Coolangatta beach, where they turned north and paddled a surf ski all the way back to Coolangatta.

For The Gold Coast Gold, the course was essentially reversed, with a surf ski leg from Surfer's to Coolangatta, followed by a paddle board to Tugun, a short beach run into the Currumbin Alley, an ocean swim, a beach run and then another ocean swim along Palm Beach and around Burleigh Heads, before the final 10 km beach run to Surfer's Paradise.

For the reintroduction of the race in 2005, the course was re-modified again. The 2006 course was 23 km surf ski from Surfers Paradise to Greenmount SLSC, 0.65 km beach run from Greenmount SLSC to Coolangatta SLSC, 3.5 km ocean swim from Coolangatta SLSC to Bilinga SLSC, 4 km beach run from Bilinga SLSC to Currumbin SLSC, 5.5 km paddle board from Currumbin SLSC to Burleigh Heads SLSC, and a 10 km beach run from Burleigh Heads SLSC to Surfers Paradise for a total distance of 46.65 km.

The race has used this format ever since, although since 2010, it has started and finished at Kurrawa beach, and as such, the surf ski and beach run legs now include a loop up to Northcliffe surf club and then back down to Kurrawa.

The Coolangatta Gold

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