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News and Reviews

Lennox Head para surfer Joel Taylor wins world title

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Lennox Head para surfer Joel Taylor wins world title

 

By Sarah Waters

Not many people can experience a devastating, lifechanging injury and then go on to be a world champion.

But in a story of unbelievable triumph, Lennox Head para surfer Joel Taylor, 43, has done exactly that.

Joel is now the 2023 ISA World Para Surfing Champion.

The competition, held at Huntington Beach in California, attracted 184 of the world’s best para surfers from 27 countries, who competed over six days for the champion title.

Joel competed in the Men’s Prone 1 Division and got off to a strong start, topping the leaderboard in the two qualifying rounds.

He pushed himself to the limit in round three and the semifinals to qualify for the final, which he finished with an amazing score of 13.17 points out of 20.

Joel Taylor surfed five rounds over six days at Huntington Beach in California against the world’s best para surfers. Credit: ISA / Sean Evans

Joel Taylor surfed five rounds over six days at Huntington Beach in California against the world’s best para surfers. Credit: ISA / Sean Evans

Joel said he dreamt of being a world champion since he was 13 years old, when he first saw Australian bodyboarder Michael ‘Eppo’ Eppelstun win the bodyboarding world championship in 1993.

“I’m so stoked and really proud – and kind of relieved,” he said.

“I’ve been focused on winning this contest pretty much since I started para surfing just over 12 months ago, to do so, with my family on the beach, is a dream come true.”

What made Joel’s victory so remarkable was that up until last year, he hadn’t been in the ocean for two decades.

At 21-years-old he was Australia’s rising star of bodyboarding.

But things went horribly wrong for him in the lead up to the 2001 Pipeline Pro bodyboarding competition in Hawaii.

A ‘shockwave’ flipped him out of control and forced him down feet first onto the shallow reef below him, injuring his spinal cord and leaving him paralysed from the waist down.

He has been confined to a wheelchair ever since.

Surrounded by family, Joel secured his long held dream of winning a world championship title. Credit: ISA / Pablo Franco.

Surrounded by family, Joel secured his long held dream of winning a world championship title. Credit: ISA / Pablo Franco.

Despite the dark years that followed the accident, as Joel tried to process his new reality, he managed to launch a new business venture, Unite Clothing Company.

It has gone on to be one of the country’s top bodyboarding brands and a formidable clothing label in its own right.

The thought of surfing again at a competition level was pushed aside as his life was consumed with work.

Eventually, he met his wife Lorin, and they had two young boys, Jay and Sunny, who he wanted to introduce to the ocean.

“We have world renowned beaches and surf spots here in the Northern Rivers,” Joel said.

“I was lucky enough to grow up here too, so I wanted to give my young sons the same lifestyle that I had growing up.

“That was my main motivation.”

Joel Taylor finished the final round with an impressive score, which put him on the winner’s podium. Credit: ISA / Sean Evans

Joel Taylor finished the final round with an impressive score, which put him on the winner’s podium. Credit: ISA / Sean Evans

Last year, Joel decided to get back on a board and enter the ocean again.

The ocean gave him a renewed sense of freedom and energy that he hadn’t felt for 22 years.

It wasn’t long before his competitive spirit came back and although he may not have been able to bodyboard like he used to, he adapted his style to the next closest thing – para surfing.

Joel trained at the gym almost every day and surfed as much as possible at Northern Rivers beaches, which had similar waves to Huntington Beach in California.

“My arms are pretty strong from pushing a wheelchair around for the past 20 years and chasing my boys around in it,” he said.

“But it took me about four months to get my paddle fitness up again.

“I knew if I trained hard and prepared well, I’d have a good shot at claiming gold, so I did everything I could beforehand to make it happen,” he said.

Lennox Head para surfer Joel Taylor claims the 2023 ISA World Para Surfing Champion title. Credit: ISA / Pablo Franco

Lennox Head para surfer Joel Taylor claims the 2023 ISA World Para Surfing Champion title. Credit: ISA / Pablo Franco

While, claiming the ISA World Para Surfing Championship title may have secured Joel’s long held dream of becoming a world champion, the competition also proved to be a great eye-opener and inspiration for him.

He is now going to enjoy time with his family without the pressure of competition on his shoulders.

He also wants to explore the boundaries of what’s possible for a paraplegic surfer and is looking at adjusting his surfboards so he can ride bigger waves, like the ones he used to as a bodyboarder.

 

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News and Reviews

Angourie, Byron drownings continue horrific trend

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The Green Pool at Angourie was the site of the drownings of a Sydney teenager on January 14. He jumped from a rock ledge and disappeared. Searchers found his body later that night.

Angourie, Byron drownings continue horrific trend

 

By Tim Howard

The drowning of Sydney teenager who disappeared after plunging into the Green Pool at Angourie on January 14, is part of a trend of drownings in NSW and Australia this summer.

The teen’s death began a tragic week on the NSW coast with a woman drowning at Shelly Beach, in Sydney a few days later and a man in his 20s drowned at Tallow Beach, Byron Bay the following day.

The number of drownings in Australia since December 1 has topped 50 for the first time in a number of years, horrifying Surf Life Saving Australia officials.

The death at Angourie was the 49th in the period from December 1 to January 14 and with at least three more deaths recorded in the ensuing week.

Surf Life Saving NSW CEO Steve Pearce said the two beach drownings were a warning to all potential beachgoers.

“Every coastal drowning is a tragedy, but to have two in such a short space of time is a tough reflection on how risky it can be to enter the water,” he said.

“Once again, both of these drownings have occurred at unpatrolled locations and we really must reiterate that if you plan to visit the coastline, the safest thing you can do is head to a beach where you see the red and yellow flags flying.”

Clarence Valley mayor Peter Johnstone said the region was saddened at the news of the teen’s death.

“The Clarence Valley has been deeply saddened by news of the tragic loss of life of a Sydney teenager at Angourie on Sunday,” he said in a press release.

“Although no words can soften the blow of such a loss, I wish to offer sincere condolences to the family and friends of the young man, on behalf of myself and the Clarence Valley community.

Clarence Valley Council will continue to work with authorities on any inquiries relating to the incident.”

The death at Angourie occurred after the teen, believed to be on holiday in the area from Sydney, jumped from a rock ledge into the water at about 3pm on January 14.

He was not seen after that, sparking an intensive search involving police divers, surf life savers and the Westpac Rescue Helicopter.

Searchers found his body around 10pm the same day.

Police have not released his identity and they are preparing a report for the Coroner on the incident.

The Green Pool at Angourie was the site of the drowning of a Sydney teenager on January 14. He jumped from a rock ledge and disappeared. Searchers found his body later that night.

The Green Pool at Angourie was the site of the drowning of a Sydney teenager on January 14. He jumped from a rock ledge and disappeared. Searchers found his body later that night.

While drownings at Angourie’s green and blue pools were not common, locals have been worried about the behaviour of people visiting the pools.

In 2008 Angourie resident Grant Dwyer was interviewed in mid-January after a 17-year-old was injured plunging down an eight-metre ledge at the green pool.

Mr Dwyer said he was concerned that something was about to go horribly wrong when he saw kids climbing and jumping from spots he had not seen used in the past 30 years.

“I’ve never seen anything like it. There were literally kids on every part of the cliff face,” he said at the time.

“I knew someone was going to get hurt. Kids were doing backflips without checking the depth of the water to see if it was safe.”

But serious problems have been rare with the only recent death in the pools occurring when the body of a 62-yer-old Yamba woman was found in the Blue Pool in 2008.

Clarence Valley Council has clearly signposted the area, which is close to the beach at Angourie.

“For the safety of all users of this beach, please observe the following warnings, regulations, and information symbols; large waves, strong currents, shallow water, sharks, steep walking track, slippery rocks, cliff edge/drop off, and deep water.

“This beach is unpatrolled, and users should be aware of prevailing dangerous beach conditions,”

“Persons swimming at this beach do so at their own risk.”

In addition the council monitors the water quality in the pools, which contain fresh water, for algal blooms.

In the past 20 years the council has closed the pools to swimmers a number of times because of poisonous algae growing in the water.

When the pools are closed, people can swim in the large saltwater rock pool beside the Blue Pool.

The two pools are man-made, although creating a spot destined to become the scene of rites of passage for the many of the region’s youth, was not something the makers had in mind.

In the 1890s the site was quarried for the massive stone blocks that made up the rock walls at Yamba.

Trains carried the stone to the site of the rock walls until the workers cracked open a fresh-water spring.

Within days the quarries filled with fresh water, halting work and trapping the quarry machinery below the rising water is still there.

Locals reported there were times when the machinery was still visible.

 

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News and Reviews

Supporting a Resilient Cane Industry

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Condong Sugar Mill during the 2022 floods - ‘Supply Chain Support Grant Program’

Supporting a Resilient Cane Industry

 

BY SUNSHINE SUGAR

Sunshine Sugar was recently awarded financial support under the jointly funded State and Federal ‘Supply Chain Support Grant Program’.

The objective of this grant is to enable flood affected agricultural processing businesses and co-operatives to improve their future flood resilience capabilities.

Previously, Sunshine Sugar was successful in receiving flood support under the Anchor Grant program which saw assistance of some $12m under the State and Federal scheme. This funding was a critical contribution towards the immediate rebuild and repair efforts directly following the flood events of 2022.

CEO of Sunshine Sugar, Chris Connors explained; “The first phase of support under the Anchor Grant played an important role in our immediate efforts to get our three sugar mills up and running and our growers’ crops crushed as quickly as possible following the floods. The total cost of this phase was more than $40m, with the balance of funding coming from a combination of insurance and our own funds.”

This recently announced Supply Chain Support Grant (SCSG) will be targeted toward flood mitigation works at the Condong Sugar Mill in the Tweed region. The flood mitigation works at the Condong Sugar Mill are likely to include the construction of levee walls and mounds, along with raising of at-risk equipment.

“We have secured the maximum amount of $2m that we are eligible for under the SCSG, which we will match with an additional $2m,” said Mr Connors.

Condong Sugar Mill during the 2022 floods - ‘Supply Chain Support Grant Program’

Condong Sugar Mill during the 2022 floods.

The utilisation of the grant for such flood mitigation works demonstrates a strategic approach to addressing the challenges posed by floods, and given the limitations of the one-off grant, prioritising one site is the most pragmatic decision to maximise the impact of the available funds.

Done properly, a comprehensive flood mitigation program across all three sugar mills and the refinery would likely take multiple years and cost upwards of $30m.

Mr Connors’ emphasised the significance of flood mitigation in the absence of viable insurance coverage as the best approach to protecting the business and its assets long term.

As such, Sunshine Sugar will continue advocating for and exploring additional funding avenues to implement comprehensive flood resilience measures across all its facilities.

“Overall, we feel this proactive approach along with the support received from government grants are essential steps in safeguarding the cane industry against the impact of floods and ensuring the long-term sustainability of the business and the communities it serves.”

Sunshine Sugar stands out as the sole 100% Australian grown, made, and owned sugar manufacturer, operating in partnership with the grower-owned NSW Sugar Milling Co-operative and the family-owned Manildra Group.

 

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News and Reviews

Lismore secures global tourism ranking for 2024

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Lismore has taken out a top tourism gong, listed as one of the world’s “Coolest Places to visit in 2024” by Qantas Travel Insider magazine.

Lismore secures global tourism ranking for 2024

 

Lismore has taken out a top tourism gong, listed as one of the world’s  “Coolest Places to visit in 2024” by Qantas Travel Insider magazine.

The global carrier and iconic airline ranked Lismore as No 11, alongside New York, Shanghai, London and Venice as 25 must-see tourist destinations.

Acting Mayor Jeri Hall said it was a humbling but not surprising accolade which spoke to the renowned experiences Lismore offers through its vibrant arts and culture scene, and stunning natural environment.

“I was not surprised to see Lismore up there with some of the world’s most popular destinations,” Acting Mayor Hall said.

“Lismore is becoming more and more vibrant with its ever-evolving dining scene, creative arts, culture and unique venues offering everything from live music to theatre and performance.

“Lismore City recently hosted thousands of festival goers from right across the country who travelled here specifically for the legendary Tropical Fruits New Year’s Eve Festival. They all left with smiles on their faces and keen plans to return.”

Acting Mayor Hall said despite recent weather in parts of the State, the Lismore region was largely unaffected, and is well and truly open and thriving.

Lismore has taken out a top tourism gong, listed as one of the world’s “Coolest Places to visit in 2024” by Qantas Travel Insider magazine.

Lismore has taken out a top tourism gong, listed as one of the world’s “Coolest Places to visit in 2024” by Qantas Travel Insider magazine.

“Over January, we have horse races, the speedway, cricket carnivals and Cinema Under the Stars, just to touch on a few,” she said.

“If you are a food lover, enjoy a taste trail through the stunning hinterland, visiting the region’s villages and local markets with fresh produce, arts and crafts along the way.

“You can also discover Lismore’s quirky and stylish laneways by taking the ArtVenture Trail, stumbling upon many of the city’s art galleries and hidden gems.

“Visitors can also explore our wonderful villages. Drop in for a beer and meal at the renowned Eltham Hotel, enjoy great live music, or stay at the hotel’s boutique accommodation which recently featured in Vogue Magazine.

“The Channon Tavern sits at the gateway to Protesters Falls located in the World Heritage Nightcap National Park and is another must visit.

“And of course, you can’t forget the alternative capital of Australia, Nimbin.

“Located within easy reach of the Ballina-Byron Gateway and Gold Coast Airports, and only two hours from Brisbane, it is also no surprise that Lismore was also recently listed as one of the most welcoming towns in Australia.

“We encourage everyone to back Lismore these holidays as one of the most renowned destinations in NSW and Australia,” she said.

For more information on What’s On in Lismore, Nimbin & Villages, visitlismore.com.au

 

For more local Lismore news, click here.

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