Carr: Nothing compares to the Hamilton Island triathlon Posted by Delly Carr - 21 November 2016 It has been a manic travel and photography work schedule for me as of late. Since mid July, I’ve been to Alabama with the Australian Dolphins Swim Team, the Rio Olympics, Mooloolaba, back to Rio for the Paralympics, Mexico for the World Triathlon Championships, Hawaii, Gold Coast, Korea, Japan, and Brisbane last weekend. And now, Hamilton Island, the book-end to a bagful of frequent flyer miles and airline catering. Four days on island. 2 days of work. If my math ability still serves me strong, I have another 2 days to unwind just a little. Checking-in to qualia with a welcome glass of Champagne and a deep tissue massage was a great start to smoothing out some of my Travel Flyer and Big City anxiety. My masseur said that my shoulders were as inflexible as two granite boulders; it seems that all the professional weighty camera lenses and baggage over the past four months have taken their toll on my back, neck and shoulders. Another glass or two of bubbly after the massage, a stunning fresh seafood share platter dinner beachside, and those granite shoulders of mine had started to crumble just a little prior to retiring for the night. Passage Peak as the day breaks. I woke up early on Saturday. The day of the Fujifilm Hamilton Island Triathlon was soon to dawn in tandem with the sun that was about to peek up over the watery horizon at any minute. I jumped into the electric golf buggy and started my quiet, dark ride to Catseye Beach. So so quiet. So still. And the temperature so balmy. So tropical. The calm at transition before the race begins. I arrived at transition where the competitors, both team and individual, were calmly and casually going about their business preparing their triathlon tools of the trade. And all with a relaxed smile and a giggle. This race is stunningly unique, there is no other like it in the world. I estimate that I have photographed approximately 900 triathlons over my 30-year career, and I can say that there is no comparison to what the Hamilton Island Fujifilm Triathlon offers. For instance, racing on the airport runway is both daunting, yet visually exciting at the same time. It’s not often that you find a seaplane parked just curbside to the cycle course! Not everyday the markers for the course are seaplanes! Since my travels began in late June, I have photographed two Olympic Triathlons, two Paralympic Triathlons, three Tri-World Championships of different distances, and the final two races of the ITU Triathlon World Cup Series. So, it’s refreshing to be here, where today’s Fujifilm Triathlon is simply about what the competitor wants to make of it; fun or for the personal physical challenge. This was exactly what the sport of triathlon preached in its early days of existence. Things are a little more serious nowadays. I began photographing triathlon around its infancy, so being here felt familiar and comforting. Like an old pair of slippers. And this time with sand in my toes. The race starts just as day is breaking with the swim at Catseye Beach commencing. The sun was rendering its golden glow over the aqua of Catseye Beach as the first wave of women charged off on their 750 metre swim. The teams, then the men’s wave quickly followed them. As they began their 20 kimometre pedal, I jumped on the back of a motorbike and chased them out to the airport. The unique course takes riders around the airport runway. Then it’s on to the 5 kilometre run through the marina, through the resorts, and finishing with a soft sand run, which is made just that little bit harder today when the heat sets in. The sun was high up in the blue, blazing down and spreading its warmth. Yet the bonus to having the finish line on Catseye Beach is it’s only a hop, skip and a jump into the water, to cool off and refresh the mind and core. That’s of course, if you don’t first take the detour to the post-recovery area to welcome the island hydration of cold fresh tropical fruit. Which is what I did. Running along the lush tropical paths. I went about my triathlon work day as I always do, trying to tell a story out of the sporting event with my Nikon and my eyes. The Fujifilm Hamilton Island Triathlon’s story is quite simple, for it is so unique. The race is a contrast to what your mind would expect and anticipate. You have such lush vegetation. A cooling breeze... the calm and protected crystal clear 750 metre swim lures you into false sense of security. It quickly changes into a tough technical triathlon. The bike course; long and straight at times, but other times, the climbs and descents require stern concentration and good technical bike skills. Just a few hills for the riders to climb on the cycle stage. The 5 kilometre undulating run course we mentioned earlier finishes with a soft sand run along Catseye Beach. One competitor called out to the heavens as he strode off the pathway and onto the beach, “Sand… this so ain’t fair!!”. A runner takes on the last part of the race along the sand of Catseye Beach. Yes, you may be on a tranquil and idyllic island with 5-star dining and island life, but triathlons were meant to be tough. Triathlons were meant to be a personal challenge. Don't kid yourself, that’s always been the case. If triathlons were meant to be easy they would be called table tennis. Yet the realistic sprint distances of all three tri disciplines, make it oh so achievable. I packed up my camera gear, jumped into the electric golf buggy, and headed to my pavilion for a couple more hours of computer work, streaming images out on Wi-Fi to satisfy the island’s social media objectives and the photo demands of the local media. The Triathlon ends on the stunning Catseye Beach at Hamilton Island. Driving back to qualia, as I reached the summit of One Tree Hill, I took my foot off the accelerator to stop, pause and admire what I saw before me. The rays of the sun and the blue of the cloudless sky were being absorbed and reflected back off the sea, giving colours of aqua goodness, deep blues melding with light blues and in turn then melding with so many shades of green. It reminded me of a famous performance artist in Tokyo who I met earlier in the year. The evening prior she had perused through my website portfolio to get to know me better before our planned photo-shoot. She mentioned my work was about ‘Blues and Greens’ and the wardrobe she brought that day to our shoot reflected what she could see in my work and ability. Taking in the views of the island. So it was there on top of One Tree Hill, with eyes open and my photo mind absorbing, when it suddenly occurred to me that this is exactly why we all come to Hamilton Island to play. I needed no more evidence than simply to take in the colours that surrounded and encased the island. I enjoyed a long long dip in the pool that afternoon, another deep tissue massage, a cheeky half bottle of white wine, takeaway pizza, and a pay-per-view movie, all of which helped to chip away some more at those granite boulder shoulders of mine. The crystal clear waters of Catseye Beach. Sunday was the Fujifilm Ocean Swim, which included four waves of swimmers. The kids, the 750 metre swim, the ‘anything goes’ swim, and the more ‘serious’ ocean swimmers who were taking on the 2 kilometre course. My photo story today was again quite simple, but this time it was all about the colour. Those marvelous blues and greens. The junior race is off to a flying start. The water was brilliant, not only due to its colour but its clarity as well. I overheard so many post-race stories while waiting for the presentations. The sighting of fish and turtles as the competitors swam. So much so, some wanted to do the swim again. And the Ocean Swim is off and racing in the perfect surf. I photographed Mack Horton on the evening he won his Gold Medal at the Rio Olympics. The biggest sporting stage on the planet. Three months later he lined himself up on the beach for the 2 kilometre swim; joking, laughing and chatting with the others alongside him. He was so relaxed and calm, no doubt a completely different man to when he stepped on the Lane 4 blocks prior to racing for his Gold. Mack Horton was a crowd favourite competing in the 2km Ocean swim. Mack ended up winning the swim. When he was asked at the post race interview if there was no pressure as the Olympic champ when taking part in the Hamilton Island Ocean Swim, he laughed that there was “always pressure as the Olympic champ and that he knew he had to win it or it might be a bit embarrassing!” It was now time again to pack up my cameras and head back to my pavilion. I had yet another massage booked, a share platter of cooked seafood planned, and I thought I may sample a few martinis or cocktails… as I had no work the next day. Nothing but beautiful blue sea as far as the eye can see. As I walked away from Catseye, I heard the race announcer Kurt Hanson say over the PA ‘This is the race in Paradise, but with just a little pain.’ Damnit, I wish I had thought of that line first! About the Author Delly Carr is an Australian sports photographer who is best known for his work with Triathlons. Winner of the AIPP "2016 Sports Photographer of the Year" award, Delly visited Hamilton Island for some rest and relaxtion, while taking the opportunity to photograph the Fujifilm Hamilton Island Triathlon and Ocean Swim.