Popular waterski race, Southern 80, returns to Echuca-Moama after COVID delays

Echuca-Moama is buzzing in the lead up to hosting one of the Murray River area’s most popular tourist attractions after its postponement following the Omicron wave.

Plans to hold Southern 80 in February were thrown into disarray after the new variant saw much of the healthcare sector on its knees due to staff shortages.

“Due to staffing concerns by emergency services, they recommended that we postpone the event, which we did,” Moama Water Sports Club volunteer media and data manager Julie Golledge said.

“We looked at alternative dates that fit it into the ski racing calendar but also fit into Echuca-Moama tourism.

Longest ski race

The new Dungala Bridge over the Murray River, which marks the finish line of the Southern 80.(ABC Central Victoria: Kimberley Price)

The start line for the elite superclass race is in Torrumbarry Weir — 80 kilometres of river and more than124 bends away from the finish line under the new Echuca-Moama Dungala Bridge.

Two skiers race about 60 meters behind the boat on one ski along the Murray River.

Teams are limited to speeds depending on their membership, but the top teams can get up to 120 kph.

Returning to the river

Dylan Stevenson has been skiing ever since he was a young boy growing up in the twin towns.

With a stellar track record in the Southern 80, including first place with TR in the Bakers Blitz and second in the superclass in 2020, Stevenson will be looking to add to his trophy cabinet this year racing behind Sportage with local teammates Cameron Horne (ski partner), Dean Johns (driver) and Anthony O’Reilly (observer).

“It’s a very enduring sport. Imagine any 35–40-minute endurance event and it’s a max effort event.

“You train really hard, work on your cardio and your strength and your skiing ability. It’s all those things in one.”

Wall of photos, old articles and memorabilia framed.
Some of the Southern 80 memorabilia on display at the race offices.(ABC Central Victoria: Kimberley Price)

Jade Pumpa similarly started racing young and will spend his second season in the driver’s seat with Observer in the 70 miles per hour expert class.

“It’s still nerve-racking for me. There’s a lot of things to think about,” he said.

“Although it’s not really physically taxing, there’s a lot to do and a lot to think about.”

Gearing up for quick times

Due to the cooler temperatures for this year’s event, some experts are tipping records could be broken.

“The boats do produce more horsepower in colder weather,” Pumpa said.

Superman in the Southern 80
Teams are limited to speeds, but the top teams can get up to 120 kph.(Supplied: Moama Water Sports Club)

May’s Southern 80 will also round out the King of the Murray series involving the Robinvale-Euston 80, the Mildura 100 and the Murray Darling 110 races.

This year, Superman can win the King of the Murray title, if successful in the Southern 80.

Southern 80 will be held from May 13 to May 15.


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