Ironman icon fires up for return to Coolum
SURF LIFESAVING: Ironman series enforcer Shannon Eckstein is stinging after the opening round of the 2017/2018 campaign and he's determined to strike back at a venue he knows very well this weekend.
The nine-time overall champion was a notable absence from the podium at Queenscliff last month, when the sport ushered in young gun TJ Hendy.
So he's eager to get amid the action at Coolum, where he has won on the past four occasions.
"It is always a good beach for me to race at," he said.
"I liken it to where I'm from at Northcliffe. It's a pretty open beach where there's two breaks and it's a good test of skill."
Renowned for his racing nous, Eckstein has competed there for more than 15 years.
"It's not just about being the fastest paddler or swimmer. It's a lot more to do with surf skills and I think that's why I have a good record there," he said.
"If you make good decisions and don't make mistakes then usually you're going to end up winning or on the podium.
"I'm looking forward to getting back up there, getting back on the podium and hopefully in contention for the series."
He also welcomed the longer format, over an M-shaped course.
"We'll be in the water for 30-40 minutes whereas round one was probably only 10 minutes so it will be better for me," he said.
He said there could be a changing of the guard this season, with the likes of Hendy coming through.
But he'll try to do what he can to keep the young brigade at bay "for another year at least".
"I was disappointed with a fifth in the first round (last month) but I'm nearly 35 now...and I'm coming back from the (gruelling) Coolangatta Gold (where he was runner-up to Ali Day in October)," he said.
"I know I can't go around winning everything at my age but I'd like to get back on the podium and fight for the series and this weekend is a big part of that.
"It looks like there's going to be a bit of swell so that's really good for me with my experience."
Eckstein was runner-up to Matt Poole in the overall standings last summer.
"If I get 10 (series wins) I'll be stoked but if I don't I'm pretty happy with nine. It doesn't really faze me too much," he said.
"I'm just going out there trying to win as many races as possible."
The Coolum event is the second of six stops on the Kellogg's Nutri-Grain Ironnan and Ironwoman Series, which has undergone a revamp.
The top six men and women from last season are assured spots for each of the first three events this campaign, with qualifying races to determine the make-up of the rest of the 20-strong fields.
It's all part of the Ocean6 Series, which includes races for a variety of disciplines, on the sand and in the surf.