The first day of the Australian CrossFit Championship will open with a beach event on the Gold Coast, and Queensland Ironman, Matt Bevilacqua, will be helping out on the day to brief the athletes.
The Tasmanian born athlete has built up an impressive resume since relocating to Queensland to compete on the Ironman circuit. Bevilacqua has spent six seasons on the Nutri-Grain Ironman & Ironwoman Series circuit, taking out a series win last year for the 2017/2018 series.
Other career highlights include a second place finish at the iconic Coolangatta Gold race in 2016, and winning the Molokai 2 Oahu Paddleboard World Championships an impressive four years in a row. In 2016, he set a Molokai course record by completing the epic 42 kilometre paddle across the Ka’iwi Channel in just 4 hours 29 minutes and 20 seconds.
The ACC had a chat to the Ironman to find out his top tips for CrossFit athletes heading to the beach on Day 1 of the sanctioned event. With the event details not yet released, Bevilacqua spoke generally about the three basic elements of surf sports (swimming, board paddling and beach running) that might show up on the day.
With several swimming events popping up at high profile competitions over the past few years there are probably very few CrossFit athletes who haven’t added an occasional splash in the pool into their training program.
However, Bevilacqua says there are a few things that athletes will need to consider when they take their aquatic skills into the surf.
‘You want to be holding that body position in the water – with your legs up, and kicking at least a little bit to keep a good body position that will make swimming so much more efficient and effective (and not as draining)’ he says.
‘A lot of the CrossFit athletes are going to have a lot of upper body strength, so it’s all about keeping that kick throughout to maintain that ‘legs up’ body position. Once you throw that into the surf it becomes a lot more important because there’s a lot more aerated water, more white water, and less buoyancy. A lot of the surf swimmers are good at keeping that body position up [as they would] in flat water’.
The beach elements add an extra challenge and Bevilacqua recommends that athletes take a look at the conditions.
‘It is all about managing your course so I’d suggest if they could, to get out there before [the event] to feel the water and see what’s going where’ he explains.
‘Try not to focus on swimming as hard and fast – swimming in the surf is all about course management and figuring out where to go and where you should be, and hitting those points’.
In the surf, he suggests that success will not always go to the fastest swimmer and that a quick swimmer who is not thinking about what they are doing may not do as well as ‘the next person who has kept their eye on the buoy, kept their head up through the break, hit those sections of the rip where they wanted to and managed to get out in the right position… rather than someone who is two metres to their right getting smoked on the bank all the way out and has missed the buoy by a little bit’.
While it can be helpful to locate a rip (sections of water that are moving out to sea, usually identified by a break in the waves) on the way out, Bevilacqua says that athletes need to be swimming in with the breaking waves on the way in to shore.
‘All along the Gold Coast it’s just rip – sandbar – rip – sandbar so the course is not usually going to be simply on a sandbar. You do need to look out for those rips – keep your head up, locate that buoy and then as soon as you’re heading back in, pick a location such as a tower or a tree that’s behind your finish line and shoot for that so that your course management is really on point’.
Bevilacqua says that the advice on course management also applies to board paddling and suggests that if there is a board component that athletes should keep an eye on the buoys on the way out and make sure that they are paddling in through the breaking waves on the way back to shore (with an eye on a fixed location to keep them on track).
Athletes will need to focus on their position on the board to maximise efficiency.
‘Boards are very tricky and I definitely suggest just laying down – don’t even bother trying to get up on your knees. That’s a great thing to be able to do but stay efficient and effective. Most CrossFitters I’ve seen are better off staying on their stomach and navigating their way through [from a prone position]’.
‘It’s all about getting your body weight on that perfect plane so that there’s a nice bow wave coming off of the nose of the board. That’s the perfect position’ he explains.
‘When you go to catch a wave you want to make sure you’ve caught that wave and then you slide back so that you’re not nosediving or losing your board on the way in, which could cost you a lot of time’.
He suggests that a cautious approach is the way to go.
‘It is better safe than sorry on the board. You’re better off playing it safe. Getting around the course without getting smoked and getting back to shore with your board is very nice’.
Running on the soft sand can be a very different experience to running on a track or the road, particularly during transitions out of the water.
Bevilacqua explains how athletes can maximise efficiency and reduce the feeling of ‘jelly legs’.
‘Athletes want to utilise that upper body strength that they have – whatever your legs are doing, your arms need to be doing. So you warm up your arms, you get them swinging out of the water and lift your legs. Your arm [movement will help] lift your legs up’.
‘Sand running is all about toes first. You’re running on your tippy toes so you can get your feet down into that harder sand’ says Bevilacqua.
‘You can’t run on the sand flat footed so it’s basically the same running technique – CrossFitters are pretty good runners – but it’s all about getting the toes in deep, keeping those arms moving and keeping that momentum because you really don’t want to be slowing up in that soft sand up the top of the bank’.
Spectators will be able to check out all of the Australian CrossFit Championship athletes in action at Kurrawa Beach on 24 January 2019. Keep an eye on our socials closer to the date for start times and updates.
Photo credit: Trent Callaghan Photography