The late Matt Barclay, pictured at his beloved Maroochydore Surf Life Saving Club in 2011. A safety regime introduced following a coronial inquest into his death will go a long way to protecting competitors in future.
The late Matt Barclay, pictured at his beloved Maroochydore Surf Life Saving Club in 2011. A safety regime introduced following a coronial inquest into his death will go a long way to protecting competitors in future. Cade Mooney

Matt's safety legacy

THE 2014 Australian Surf Life Saving Championships, which begin this week, could be considered the safest in history, largely due to the legacy left by Maroochydore's Matt Barclay.

Thousands of competitors from under-15s to masters will hit Perth's Scarborough Beach in Western Australia to compete in the titles, which mark two years since the 14-year-old lifesaver died while competing in the 2012 event at Kurrawa on the Gold Coast.

The entire lifesaving fraternity has helped support the Barclay family and his Sunshine Coast club since the tragic accident.

But perhaps Matt's greatest contribution to the surf

lifesaving movement will be through the measures that have, and will, be implemented in an effort to optimise

safety during surf sports competition.

Matt died on March 28, 2012, when he came off his board during a race and failed to resurface. His death followed two others at the same beach while competing in the corresponding event: Robert Gatenby in 1996 and Saxon Bird in 2010.

Surf Life Saving Australia came under fire for its hand

ling of the rough conditions and building swell on that fateful day.

Full details of the events leading up to the tragedy came to light during a coronial inquest into his death.

This week's national championships will mark a number of firsts in safety initiatives for surf lifesaving.

Surf Life Saving Australia sport manager Nathan Hight said perhaps the most beneficial change to come from the unimaginable tragedy was the growing culture of safety.

"The biggest positive, moving forward, is the whole landscape of safety ... and how we review safety in terms of competition, which has had a complete re-build," Mr Hight said.

"Surf Life Saving Australia has a different perception to risk and safety management and it's a changing culture towards safety, which is the biggest enhancement you could ever make."

Other measures include the introduction of compulsory high-visibility pink Lycra vests and the presence of an on-site risk manager who can assess the suitability of competition conditions and have the authority to suspend any event on the spot.

The mandatory wearing of helmets during surf boat races has been postponed from January 1 to October this year, however, to allow for independent testing.

"You can't remove risk entirely from this sport," Mr Hight said.

"We are working in a change able dynamic aquatic environment.

"It's about educating members about the risks. If we can build a collective culture of risk management and make good decisions, then plans and equipment become a structure of that which is really underpinned by safety."

Risk-response officers and supervisors will be assigned to each event area in Perth this week and data will be fed through iPads to a chief workplace health and safety supervisor.

Back at the Maroochydore club, Matt and his love for surf lifesaving will never be forgotten by supporters.

Club president Tim Ryan said a clock in Matt's memory, taking pride surf.

In Matt's memory, a reflective bench sits near the beach - where his parents Steve and Donna often sat and watched their son train.of place on the clubhouse, reminded junior lifesavers of Matt every time they checked the time while out in the Mr Ryan said Steve had joined a few people at the club on Thursday to quietly remember his son.

"We'll be keeping things low-profile this year," Mr Ryan said.

"A few of us will get together and remember Matty. But he'll never be forgotten.

"It's been a long and hard two years.

"The club is extremely pleased with the new safety initiatives and those are a big part of the day-to-day routine at the club."


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