Siren Collaborator Mary Konstantopoulos speaks to Surf Ironwoman Lizzie Welborn as she prepares for the upcoming IronWoman series which will take place at North Bondi.
Last Thursday, Surf Life Saving Australia announced the upcoming dates for the 2021/22 Nutri-Grain IronMan and IronWoman series.
The Nutri-Grain series will happen over six rounds in January and February and feature 40 of the top surf athletes across the country. In a big moment for the sport, for the first time in 11 years, the first three rounds will take place at North Bondi with rounds four to six taking place at Kurrawa on the Gold Coast.
While for many fans of the series a return to the iconic Bondi Beach will be special for the sport, its significance is not lost on the athletes either.
Lizzie Welborn is one of 11 pre-qualified athletes for the Nutri-Grain IronWoman series and when she runs onto the sand at North Bondi, Welborn will be going back to where it all started for her.
“Hearing the news that the series would start at North Bondi made me a bit emotional actually,” said Welborn. “North Bondi has such a special place in my heart; it’s where I became an IronWoman and it’s where it all started for me.
“To finally go back to racing at that beach where everything started for me and that features some of my most special memories gives me goosebumps just thinking about it.
“North Bondi is such an iconic beach to race it and with Surf Life Saving’s office located there, it’s really at the heart of our sport.”
Welborn came to the sport via nippers, like most athletes. She started doing nippers at Bronte and slowly fell in love with the race element of surf lifesaving.
“I loved pushing my body and training really hard,” said Welborn.
“I didn’t get good results in those early years, but I was a super determined kid and wanted to train really hard.”
That desire to work hard pushed Welborn to make a decision to move to North Bondi at age 15 to train under Scott Thomson. According to Welborn, Thomson is the best coach in the eastern suburbs and is one of the reasons she was able to grow and develop as an athlete.
“Scotty coached me in a different way, I improved dramatically and became quite a good young racer.
“When I was young, I was one of the best youth racers in my age and managed to first qualify for the series at just 16 years old.
“That’s really when my IronWoman career started and here I am still doing it seven years later.”
Welborn certainly achieved a lot at a young age. Not only did her debut in the series at just 16 make her one of the youngest competitors to start on the starting line, but she won the 2018 U19 IronWoman series, achieved first in the 2018 U19 Board Race and third in the 2018 U19 Board Relay. But while Welborn is proud of all that she has achieved, having accomplished so much at such a young age has made the transition to opens a challenge.
“When I was 16, it was one of the best periods of my life because everything I had worked so hard for was just starting to fall into place and I had so much success,” said Welborn.
“I don’t think I will ever have that much success again and it’s something I find hard to deal with now because it is so much harder to get results when you are in opens and I do miss how regularly I used to get good results when I was young.
“But it was a good time for me and for Scotty too; he put a lot of work into helping me be competitive and we got to enjoy those wins together.”
Three years ago, Welborn made the decision to leave Thomson and North Bondi to relocate to Newport surf club to join her boyfriend, and to train with Trent Herring. Heading into the 2022 series, Welborn’s goal remains the same: to win the series.
“I’ve been wanting to win the series since I started and every season I try and set basically the same goal,” said Welborn.
“There aren’t too many women that don’t set the goal to win it because that’s the dream. It’s going to be tough because there are so many incredible female athletes at the moment.
“The field is tough but that motivates me more to want to do well and to beat those other incredible women.”