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Fast Family Fun

Fast Family Fun

The Tweed River is a beautiful river to ski on. It has many bends and turns, which can be challenging even for the expert classes. And there are also a few straights that can make racing very competitive. Nathan Walker, long term member of Tweed River Water Ski Club (TRWSC), has been skiing on the river since he was a child. He shares his passion for the sport and the many challenges and joys that come with running a club and hosting boat-towing events.


The TRWSC has a broad calendar of activities ranging from social water skiing, ski racing, wakeboarding, barefooting, family fun days, come-try days, coaching clinics, and inter-club days with other water ski clubs on the east coast.

The club also runs the East Coast Ski Racing Series, this yearly series consisting of four Water-Ski Races held in locations throughout the Northern Rivers region.

The first race is the Nev Wilson Memorial Ski Classic held in July on the Tweed River, then the Susan Island Ski Race in Grafton on the Clarance River in September, followed by Coraki Assault on the Richmond River in October, and then the Craig Shepherd Memorial in Coraki in March.

Every ski race caters for all skiing abilities, ranging from absolute beginner ski racers to the elite, with classes of Next Gen, Sub Juniors, Juniors, Novice, Women’s, Social 60 and 70 MPH, Masters and Unlimited Inboards and Outboards. This competition is tailored toward grassroots ski racing, and encourages whole family participation. Skiers can only use social race skis up to 70inches long and ski rope lengths of 140ft, which help to lower speeds and enhance safety.

This series is great fun and an economical way to ski race. It is also a great entry point into the exciting sport of water ski racing. The club always invites new entrants into the sport, and strives to promote the recreational boating use of the river region and encourages water skiing as a family sport. The event’s motto is “Fast Family Fun”.


The two-day event was started in 2000 in honour of Neville Wilson, a prominent member of the TRWSC, and a campaigner for leukemia research, who was known for his long-distance ski efforts, including conquering the Murray River. Neville eventually succumbed to cancer. The race’s main focus continues to raise money to support local charities.

The excitement is always high and participation is strong, as the Nev Wilson event is the first race of four in the East Coast Race Series where each race is part of a points series. So it is important for those competitive teams to be part of each race.

The event has attracted an average of 25-30 boats per year; at its peak there has been 43 boats involved in the race. The boats and teams travel afar from places further north such as Toowoomba and Bundaberg in Queensland, and from down south from Coffs Harbour in NSW. There are also many local boats from the Tweed region, Gold Coast and around Moreton Bay. Like most team sports, coordinating time to train can often be the biggest challenge. Most teams will train leading up to the event, and will have regular on-water training session to fine-tune their skills.

The boats vary in capabilities, with a 22ft powerboat with twin turbo inboard V8 as the largest boat competing, and a 15ft tunnel deck outboard as the smallest. Some outboards are factory high-performance engines, while others are made up of custom components.

The competition attracts all ages, from two-year old Sebastian Arandale who is involved in the Next Generation kids ski event, to several team competitors in their 70s who are water skiers, boat drivers and important observers. Peter Monger, a long-standing member of the club and a club committee member for many years, was one of the first competitors in the Nev Wilson event, and is still competing today. While there is only one official ladies-only race, women can compete across the other events.

The event is a challenge to organise, as it involves the coordination among waterways, council, local and commercial river operators. Every year, all agencies and stakeholders seem to come together to ensure the high-octane thrills of ski racing in a picturesque and technically challenging course runs smoothly.


To keep racing at its safest, the race boats require scrutiny from judges prior to each event, checking that equipment is in good condition. All boats must comply with waterways rules and carry fire extinguishers, bailing buckets, kill switches, paddles, flags, while inboard drivers and observers must wear fire suits.

The skiers wear fluorescent-orange safety helmets, and fluorescent buoyancy race suits, with many fitted with arm restraints and neck restraints. Their skis are fitted with fluorescent orange stickers that make them easily visible in the water. The boat safety crew should wear approved life jackets, helmets and also carry medical and safety flags to alert other race teams, and course boats in case of an incident.

The event utilises the RaceSafe H2O race safety monitoring system, which is an innovative vessel-to-vessel satellite tracking and communication system used to transmit hazard warnings via in-vessel units. All of this latest technology is used to automatically transmit these warnings and vessel status data from one boat to another, and to Race Control as quickly and efficiently as possible. It is constantly being observed by Race Control to monitor speed, location and direction of boats on the course. Being fully automated there is little input required from crew, leaving them to focus on the important task at hand. Instant and automatic detection of hazards reduces reaction and lead times to provide fast response to those in need without the usual confusion surrounding an incident. Along with RaceSafe’s cutting-edge safety features, the technology allows accurate vessel tracking throughout an event and full timing capability.

On 28 July 2018, the race starts at 12pm from the river banks of Tumbulgum, and Sunday’s race starts at 8.30am from the Murwillumbah rowing club through to the Fingal Harbour. The harbour is a great location to bring the family down to watch the boats roar past the finish line. If you are interested in entering contact the Tweed River Water Ski Club 


The ski club was formed in 1985 in the picturesque village of Tumbulgum, located on the banks of the Tweed River. The main objective of the club back then was to actively use the river so as to prevent the closure of sections of the Tweed River to water skiing and bare footing.

Fast-forward to the present day, local councilors are proposing a ban of power boats on the Tweed River. If passed, it will have social and economic losses for local families, businesses and visitors alike. The social and economic impacts of restricting boating activity in particular areas will directly impact tourism revenue generated by these activities, which make a significant contribution to local and regional economies.

The club is the peak organisation from which water skiers, wake boarders, bare footers, and all towed water sports enthusiasts make their voice heard in relation to issues on the Tweed River to ensure the river remains open for towed water sports, now and into the future. To achieve this goal, the club works closely with NSW Maritime (RMS) and the Tweed Shire Council.


By Andy Kancachian



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