Geraldton surf lifesaving: Hard work pays off for Callum Ilich

Zoe KeenanGeraldton Guardian
Callum Ilich competes at this year's Aussies national event in Perth.
Camera IconCallum Ilich competes at this year's Aussies national event in Perth. Credit: Erin Harris

If you’re needing a dose of inspiration, look no further than surf lifesaving guru Callum Ilich.

Ilich put years of thought, hard work and dedication into achieving the one thing he wanted for eight long years — gold in the WA Champion Surf Life Saver event.

Starting out as a swimmer, Ilich later joined the Geraldton Surf Life Saving Club in 2004.

After chasing black lines in the pools, he said the beach was a refreshing challenge.

“I’ve always enjoyed the waves and ocean and with surf lifesaving, you never know what you’re going to get,” he said.

“You have to factor in so many conditions: winds, waves, potholes in the ground. It’s never the same.”

With strong swimming skills, Ilich started to build skills in other areas and became proficient in board paddling.

He competed in Ironman competitions but wanted to find a competition that incorporated his best skills; board and swimming.

Ilich found his niche entering his first champion surf lifesaver event as an under 17.

Champion surf lifesaver uses a points-based system to judge competitors on every aspect of surf lifesaving.

This includes physical activities such as beach sprints, swimming and board races, tube rescues, and most importantly, a theory test and resuscitation scenarios.

Ilich came second two years in a row — missing out on the gold medal by one point in his second year.

“When I came second again, it was like years worth of training and I still wasn’t quite good enough,” Ilich said.

“I’d came second a lot but to miss out by one point was so tough.”

So he pushed harder and gave it another crack.

Ilich said entering the open men’s round for the first time was intimidating.

He managed to come away with a bronze on his first go, which made his second year a breeze.

“I went into the second year a lot more confident,” he said.

“I wasn’t sure if I’d win gold but I knew I’d get a medal and wanted to improve on the year before.”

And that was exactly what he did, coming out of 2017 with a silver medal.

With four years experience in the competition, Ilich worked tirelessly to prepare for this year’s event, training four times a week and studying in between.

It all paid off and he came away as the 2018 WA Champion Surf Life Saver.

“Not achieving the gold medal in that competition has been a regret of mine for a very long time,” he said. “So to finally get it, it’s a huge achievement and a relief.”

With gold in his pocket, Ilich shows no signs of slowing down.

The 26-year-old competed at the Aussies national event for the first time this year and came sixth.

“I’m already prepping for next year’s competition,” he said.

“I can see what I need to improve so I’ll keep working at that. I’m not slowing down anytime soon.”

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