FRIENDS and family came from far and wide to surprise twin-towns barefoot water-skiing superstar Brett Sands.
Sands returned from Canada and the IWWF World Barefoot Water-ski Championships a three-time champion of the world.
Representing Australia, Sands took gold in the overall team award, in the senior men’s slalom and in the senior men’s tricks.
He also made the elite open men’s slalom final, finishing fourth.
But the 48-year-old said one of the best surprises of the past few months was a welcome home party on Sunday at the Moama Bowling Club.
Sponsors of Sands, the bowling club hosted a barefoot bowls game and barbecue for nearly 50 of his closest friends and family, all while keeping it hush-hush.
‘‘My wife knows I like a bit of bowling and suggested we have a game on the Sunday after I got back,’’ Sands said.
‘‘We headed down there and there was a group of about 40 to 50 there on the day. I was just super surprised everyone was there, but the support I’ve had before, during and after the worlds was just fantastic,’’ he said.
And it’s back to business as usual for the world champion now.
He will begin his water sports tutoring this weekend — the start of an eight-month season ending in late April.
‘‘We’re back into the boat this weekend for some work, but the next world championships are actually in Sydney in 2020.
‘‘I’m sort of contemplating having another crack at that. It’d be pretty special to go up there and win on home soil,’’ he said.