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Behind the Scenes with the 2017/18 Nutri-Grain Ironman & Ironwoman

Kurrawa's Matt Bevilacqua and Brielle Cooper give us an insight into the preparation required to win the title of Nutri-Grain Ironman and Ironwoman.

What started you off into Surf Sports?

Brielle (B): I spent a lot of time at the beach growing up and I loved every second of it. One of my friends from school needed someone to fill some team events. After convincing my Mum and Dad that giving up their Sunday morning is a good idea I joined Kurrawa Nippers.

Matt (M): A love of the beach, even though I did Nippers in Tasmania and it was freezing, I still loved getting an excuse to go to the beach every week and jump in the surf.

What was involved in your training leading up to the Ocean 6 Series and what areas did you really want to focus on?

B: Our weeks are very jam packed we have to fit swimming, board and ski paddling as well as gym and running. Fitting all of this into one week means we are training 6 days a week, 2-3 times per day. My biggest weakness is my ski paddling. Coming into this season that was a huge focus especially during the off season. I was trying to do as many kilometres as I could.

M: Typical 2 - 3 times per day training week, with Sundays off. However a specific focus for me was improving my swimming/surf swimming skills. I cut out a few pool swim sessions so I could jump in the surf to swim. Also tried to beat Brielle in a body surf comp after every session... didn't always happen. 

How has Kurrawa Surf Club supported you throughout the racing seasons and how long have you been part of the Club?

B: Kurrawa has supported me throughout my whole life whether it was as a Nipper looking to borrow a Club board all the way through to now where they help me race all across the country. They believe in us and are willing to do anything they can to help. Kurrawa go above and beyond what any other surf club will do; they provide us with the best squad, athletes, coaches, facilities and support staff in Australia.  

M: Kurrawa Surf Club provides the best facilities in Australia to train. A supportive and talented squad as well as the best coaches that will go over and above their calling to help you however they can. Not only do Kurrawa help get me all around Australia to compete but they encourage all athletes to get around the Oceans 6 Series which creates an awesome team atmosphere and aids us all in performance.

Who were your idols throughout your younger years in the sport?

B: Growing up my idols we're Liz Plumiers and the Hancock sisters. And in the more recent years definitely Harriet Brown. 

M: In the sport... probably Ky Hurst i looked up to the most. But also Shannon Eckstein and Zane Holmes. Those guys were massive and like giants for me when I was a kid. 

Everyone has a least favourite part of their training regime. What’s yours?

B:  Mine would definitely be running! It’s something we have to do but poor Baz (Barry Newman and Head Coach) listens to me complain every week.  

M: Pool swimming is the most horrible, boring, and painful thing ever. The early morning alarm out of bed in the middle of winter in the dark is my stuff of nightmares, but is also when you get the leg up on your competitors. 

What’s your favourite carnival of the year and why?

B: The Nutri-Grain Ironwoman Series this year has obviously been very exciting for me and I've loved every round. It’s an opportunity where we get to race the best in our sport in so many incredible places. It's what you dream of as a Nipper running out in the pink swimmers with your name across your bum. The feeling never gets old. The Aussies (Australian Surf Life Saving Championships) would definitely have to be next in line. The feeling of racing in teams for your Club is very special. 

M: Any of the Nutri-Grain Ironman Series rounds! Nothing compares, it's a thrill like no other. Ever since I was a kid i dreamed of getting a shot at a NG Race and even now I've done a few, I take every opportunity to race in the NG Series as a gift because it is so awesome. Aussies would be a close second!!

Winning a double 2018 Nutri-Grain Ironman and Ironwoman for Kurrawa would have felt pretty awesome, more so as the reigning Ironman champion (Matt Poole) is also of Kurrawa stock. Matt, how did it feel to take over the trophy from a team mate?

M: I felt like I was surrounded by champions on the finish line, and I suppose that's probably why I won! When you surround yourself with winning, awesome people, like the squad at Kurrawa as well as Brielle and Pooley, you take on that winning feeling and repeat it yourself. I've always looked up to Pooley and trained side by side with him and it was an awesome, proud feeling to do it. As well as to prove to everyone how hard we train together and with Kurrawa and to reward Barry with another win! 

Brielle, as you climbed through the ranks over the Series, when was the moment when you thought, ‘I might actually win this?’

B: Leading into the final round there was lots of talk about Matt and I both sitting in second. Everyone around the Club was so excited, the media wanted to know all about our preparations. This made me think that maybe I could win the series, I knew I’d done the work it was just going to come down to how I handled the pressure and the race. To be honest I was very happy to finish on the podium it was a huge improvement on last year - and to win was a huge bonus! Even a week on I’m not sure it’s sunk in. I don’t think it will until we finally slow down after Aussies in April.

You certainly were exposed to some wild weather during the Series – in what conditions do you find you thrive in?

B: I love racing in the big surf. It’s a feeling like no other. It gives you a little adrenaline rush, you put yourself in positions where you need to make quick decisions under pressure - that’s what I love about our sport.

M: I definitely race well in a nice low tide . In both rounds in big messy, windy surf I went pretty well, (same as Brielle) and I definitely love racing in big surf as it's exciting. That is above all why I enjoy racing... for the enjoyment more than the results!

With both of you being not just Kurrawa team mates, but also partners, how did that level of support you gave each other affect both of you throughout the Series?

B: For us it made the world of difference (I think anyway haha). We don't necessarily talk about racing or training all the time it's more knowing you have the support there no matter how you go. It's exciting sharing all of our success and adventures, win or lose it never mattered - we had fun every round. We joke, we laugh and it makes everything less stressful, especially for me. Matt has a world of knowledge and is forever sharing it with me - this has definitely supported me and helped me succeed this year.

M: It was everything. I think we were (especially Brielle) definitely going to win a Series one day. But being able to support each other this year like we have been just accelerated that result. There was no nerves, pressure or stress because we could share every feeling and emotion with each other and get it off our back. One of the most difficult aspects of this sport is mental strength; with so many variables and a long drawn out Series it can be hard to stay positive.. but together it was easy! 

Who had the worst habit on the Kurrawa team that constantly annoyed you?

B: Bevy’s unwillingness to unload his own craft. Lani’s continuous dabbing, Karla’s obsession with all male swimmers. Nick parading his dad bod at running and the non stop Top Dog Under 17 boys banter. Just to name few….

M:  Brielle always losing her ski... Will always doing the last effort hard... Kaan always jagging... Liam never making it out the back... Jack losing his board... Telling Pooley the set 10 times. Do I need to keep going? Haha!


Matt and Brielle will next be competing at the Queensland Surf Life Saving Championships on 16-18 March at Maroochydore, QLD.

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