The surf lifesaving sport called Ironman first got its start in Australia, 1964, when it was developed by Valentine Trainor. Ironman involves the 4 key disciplines in surf lifesaving (swimming, ski, running and paddling) all in a single gruelling race. This sport should not be compared to the widely popular Ironman endurance triathlon.
The most recognized winner of the Ironman event was a lad by the name of Grant Kenny, who made history at the tender age of 16 by winning both the the Australian Open Ironman and Australian Junior championships in 1980. What made him more incredible is that he won both of them in less than an hour. This made Grant a national hero in Australia, his face appearing in on cereal boxes and in television commercials. He was seen as the apex of all the Australian sportsmen. Until now, the Ironman event still remains as one of the most watched event in all surf carnivals.
In the 1980’s, due the popularity of the Ironman event, a movie was made in Australia called “The Coolangatta Gold”. The movie portrays an Ironman event that obligated the competing athletes to complete a tortuous 46 kilometre course that was set along Queensland’s Gold Coast. The movie in turn inspired a real Ironman circuit which totalled to a course that spans almost 46 kilometres.
The course that was plotted included skiing 23 kilometres, 15 kilometres of running, swimming for 3 and a half kilometres, and paddle boarding 5 kilometres. And the hard part of it is that the running event is divided into three legs, making the whole race seem longer and much more difficult.
In 1989, the sport was made more accessible to the public when an elite group of Ironman competitors created the whole event for showing in television. The event was referred to as the Uncle Toby’s Super Series (Uncle Toby’s is a popular cereal brand in Australia and was the major sponsor of the event). And now all the major events are being televised and shared all over the globe, contributing to the ever growing popularity of the sporting event.
Injuries are not uncommon during these events, but there are rarely any fatalities. But still, the popularity of the Ironman event does not diminish. It’s an accepted fact that injuries and the occasional casualty will happen sooner or later. But the thrill people get while watching these competitors give it their all to just even finish the course is astounding.