WARRNAMBOOL surf life saving talent Matt Hardiman hopes to ride a wave of confidence into his second national championships campaign.
Hardiman, 17, will represent Victoria in Queensland next week in the open board category – 12 months after making his state debut in the under 19 section.
The Emmanuel College student, who has honed his skills under the tutelage of Warrnambool Surf Life Saving Club coach and multiple Victorian representative Steve Kerr, is excited to test himself against the country’s best.
He will call on his experience at under 19 level to help him make his mark in the open division.
“I was a bit young last year so I competed in the under 19 age group,” Hardiman said.
“It was a good experience to race against the best in the state and all around Australia.
“The Queensland paddlers are always pretty good.”
Hardiman, who works full-time as a surf life saver during summer, has refined his board technique in the past 12 months.
“We’ve been working on starts, our first half of the race,” he said of his Warrnambool team.
“I think this year I have started a lot quicker off the beach than in previous years.
“As I am getting older and fitter, I am starting to get a bit quicker and more results come your way.”
Hardiman will take winning form into the nationals after winning the open board section from Kerr and fellow Warrnambool paddler Paddy Carr at the Fairhaven carnival on Sunday.
He also claimed the under 19 board title from Carr and was part of the successful Warrnambool open board relay team with Harry McNamara and Brayden Casamento.
“I did my main event – the open board – and managed to win all three rounds which was a bonus,” Hardiman said.
“My coach Steve came second to me. It’s always good to race him and have him coach me.
“He’s always helping the Warrnambool boat crew out, which is great to see.”
Conor Cook was the south-west club’s other male winner at Fairhaven, continuing its stranglehold on the board, winning the under 15 crown.
Sophie Thomas was dominant too, snaring the open swim and iron women’s events. She was also runner-up in the women’s open board category and teamed with Jane McMeel and Shayla Casamento to finish second in the board relay. Emma Ragg placed second in the under 15 board section.