FOSTER_RACE_WEEKEND_LOGO_2023 with date and midcoast logo



Written by Ingrid Roepers Public Relations

Ocean ski racing returns to the Barrington Coast this April 22-23 for Shaw and Partners Forster Race Weekend with two big paddling races on the agenda – the Nine Mile and the Forster Ocean Classic –  and a bumper field headed by Australia’s paddling elite.

In its third year, Forster’s two-day paddle fest will see over 200 competitors converge on the Barrington Coast for round two of the national Shaw and Partners Australian Ocean Racing Series. 

While some will be Olympians and the leading names of the kayaking and surf lifesaving ranks, ironmen of the past and even Master-chefs, most of the field will be men and women aged as young as 15 through to 70+ with a few things in common – a love of paddling, of training hard and the thrill of competition.   They’ll race on ocean skis, paddleboards, canoes and SUPS to tackle the seas off Forster in two challenging battles, all vying for their slice of the sizeable $25,000 prize pool.

Racing on the Barrington Coast kicks off Saturday, April 22, around 1pm, with the field facing the Nine Mile, a 13 km course from Black Head to Forster Beach*.    

The competitors back up Sunday for the big one in the open ocean – the 20 km enduro, the Forster Ocean Classic.   With a planned start time of 1pm Sunday*, the field leaves from Elizabeth Beach to confront the challenges of the open ocean in a 12 km journey north up the coast to round Cape Hawke, before entering calmer waters for the final 8km paddle to the Forster Beach finish line*.

Hannah Minogue, Jemma Smith and Hannah Sculley at the 2022 event.
Cory Hill


A first-class field heads to Forster, including last year’s dominant force, the Gold Coast’s Cory Hill who won both the Nine Mile and Ocean Classic, and the Central Coast’s paddling supremo, Jemma Smith, who took out the Ocean Classic. 

Since her last appearance in Forster,  Smith has made her name on the world stage, winning the 2022 ICF Ocean Ski Racing World Championship in Portugal last September and backing it up with a series of victories at WA Race Week last November against a world-class field.

“I’m super happy to be returning to the Barrington Coast.  It’s such a beautiful part of the Australian coastline and I have some special memories there from childhood holidays in the region,” said the current world champion, 24-year-old Jemma Smith. 

“Last year’s Ocean Classic victory laid the foundation for a great year for me.   The world title win in Portugal was obviously the highlight of my paddling career. 

“I’ve had a good start for the year.  A second place in the Open Ski at Nationals and at the Australian Kayaking Champs I took 2nd in the K1 1000m, so I’m hyped for Forster and ready to race hard,” said Smith.

Other names in the women’s field include Thirroul’s fierce competitor Hannah Minogue; Newport’s young gun, Sascha Taurins; and ironwoman gun, Emily Doyle, who originally hails from Manly but races for Northcliffe on the Gold Coast.

2022-04 Jemma Smith in for the win in FOC
Jemma Smith taking out the 2022 Shaw and Partners Forster Race Weekend.
Jemma Smith sprinting to the finish line in 2022.

In the men’s field, defending Forster champion, Cory Hill,  knows all too well the standard of competition he’ll encounter. Tasmania’s Tom Norton, who won both races in the inaugural Forster event in 2021, is training the house down in readiness for Hawaii’s Molokai enduro in May and will be a force to be reckoned with.     

“Looking forward to getting back to the Barrington Coast,” said new dad, Norton.  “Forster is perfect prep for the Molokai Challenge, which is just five weeks away.

“I’ve been competing on my spec ski of late at the surf-lifesaving championships, but am back on my ocean craft now and powering up for Forster.  Am ready to race.” 

The young Morris brothers – Zach and Mitch – who moved from Newport to the all-powerful Northcliffe club last year, are relishing their life and training conditions on the Gold Coast, and are keen to take victory against the established big names of ocean paddling.    Also pushing for a podium presence, will be Newport’s Luke Morrison and Manly’s Oscar Jones.

“The Shaw and Partners Forster Race Weekend is the year’s first really big hit-out,” said defending champion, Cory Hill.   “We’re through the ski sprints of surf-lifesaving, and Sunday’s 20km Barrington Coast race is particularly gruelling.  It’s a good indicator of your fitness and strength leading into the big races that are ahead of us. 

“Last year I was stoked to have won both Forster races.  It let me know what I was doing in the off-season was sufficient, and I was able to have a good back end of the season based on my Forster performance.   Let’s hope this weekend works out as well for me.” 

Tom Norton winning the 2022 Shaw and Partners Forster Race Weekend.
Mens start in Forster Ocean Classic from Elizabeth Beach
Start of the 2022 Forster Ocean Classic.

There’s lots of other names to watch from the training ranks, ironman legend Guy Leech and Master-chef star, Hayden Quinn, who loves paddling to add to his surfing and cooking skiils.  From the Olympic ranks comes pentathlete Colin Hamilton; Atlanta Olympian and surf ski champ 51 year old Jimmy Walker from North Bondi; and veteran husband and wife squad – Olympic rower Julia Bell and canoe slalom’s Rob Bell.   

Not to be outdone is the over-70 brigade, led “Paddlepop” Gillett as he is affectionately known, from Frenchs Forest in Sydney.

Jimmy Walker and Guy Leech
Start off Elizabeth Beach


“We’re excited to return to Forster.  If you are a Barrington Coast local and are an experienced paddler, you’re welcome to enter,” said event director, Dean Gardiner.  

“Nine Mile is a great hit-out, while the Ocean Classic can be gruelling.  But once you cross that finish line, there’s a great sense of achievement that all that training has paid rewards, even for old blokes like me,” said Gardiner, who at age 58 years still paddles on a daily basis.    

For entries and further details go to

Previous Forster Race Week results

In 2021’s inaugural Barrington Coast event, the Gold Coast’s Tom Norton won both races, with Cory Hill and Michael Booth also making the podium. In the women’s field, Georgia Laird took gold in the Nine Mile and the Central Coast’s Jemma Smith won the 20km Forster Ocean Classic. 

In 2022, the spoils went to a dominant Cory Hill in both the Nine Mile and Forster Ocean Classic, with Smith winning the Nine Mile and Danielle McKenzie the Ocean Classic. 


*Direction of racing subject to wind direction

Saturday April 22 at 1pm; expected finish 1.50-2pmThe Nine Mile – between Black Head an Forster Beach *  (13 km distance) 

Sunday April 23 at 1pm; expected finish 2.15-2.30pmForster Ocean Classic – between Elizabeth Beach and Forster Beach *  (20 km distance)     

*Direction of racing subject to wind direction

Ffi   Ingrid Roepers at  on mobile 04 111 989 44 

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