Lifesavers from South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, the USA, Spain and Japan will be in action at the International Surf Rescue Challenge at North Beach Picture: Graham TopFoto/ Gameplan Media

Durban - South African lifesaving hosts international competition for the first time in a decade when the International Surf Rescue Challenge takes place at North Beach on Saturday, Sunday and Wednesday.

The event hosts the three juggernauts in world surf lifesaving - Australia, New Zealand and South Africa - and the challengers from the USA, Japan and Spain, and simultaneously hosts the Trans-Tasman and Tri Nations Challenges.

The three tests will require the men and women in the senior and junior teams to earn points in all the traditional lifesaving disciplines on the beach - flags and sprints - as well as the ocean based board. surfski and rescue events.

Each day will end with the blue ribbon Ocean Woman and Ocean Man events testing the traditional all round Iron Man skills of the athletes.

New Zealand and Australia have sent full strength sides to the event, highlighting the importance of the International Surf Rescue Challenge and the rivalries involved, and every event will feature world champions and national champions being challenged by hungry emerging stars.

Australia comes into the event as defending champions in both the senior and youth divisions after their win in the last event in Mount Wanganui in New Zealand in 2017, but the consensus is that the major nations have closed the gap on the Australians in the two years since that competition.

In 2017 The New Zealand Youth side caused a shock when they toppled the Australian youngsters in one of the three tests for the first time since the ISRC started in 1999.

The senior Kiwi side are keen to improve on that feat and stress that they have prepared to win the competition outright in 2019, and include the new surfski world champion Danielle Mackenzie in their ranks.

The South African side is out to use their home ground advantage to the full, a benefit that they haven't had for a decade, and have selected a very strong senior and youth squad.

Their beach squad has a number of world beaters including flags and beach sprint stars Mandy Maritz and Ryle de Morny who has in recent weeks signed up with Durban Surf SLC after making his name out of the False Bay club in the Cape.

The squad includes a strong contingent of surfski paddlers, including Dom and Nick Notten, strong surf swimmers like Amica de Jager and Martin Binnedell and vital all-rounders like Sasha-Lee Corris-Nordengen and the Carmel Billson – who anchors the team with her skills and experience.

The North beach area will provide a Coliseum venue for the races, allowing fans to enjoy the racing from the beach and the from the two piers that frame the competition venue.

"It is a great opportunity for the public to enjoy international lifesaving action," said South African team manager Josh Kreft. "These are the guys and girls who protect our beaches all year round.

"They are all racing sharp and testing the skills that they practice and use to keep our beaches safe. This is why these competitions are so important," he added. "They help the athletes keep their skills sharp so that we can save lives."

Durban looks set to dish up different ocean conditions for each of the three tests, with the second test on Sunday likely to have some testing surf.

"This is surf lifesaving," said Kreft. "We are not in a pool or a dam. We are surf lifeguards, so the rougher the better."

Programme of events: 
Saturday 28 September - International Surf Rescue Challenge Test 1
Sunday 29 September - International Surf Rescue Challenge Test 2
Wednesday 2 October - International Surf Rescue Challenge Test 3

Daily test programme:
Surf Race
Mixed Board Relay
Mixed Surf Ski Relay
Beach Sprint
Surf Teams Race
Surf Ski Race
Board Race
Rescue Tube Rescue
Beach Relay
Board Rescue
Beach Flags
Ocean Women
Ocean Man

Venue : North Beach, Durban
Nations represented: South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Spain, Japan, USA.

The Mercury