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River holds no mysteries for Moama boys

Locals Dylan Stephenson (left) and Jade Pumpa are back for the Southern 80. Photo: Steve Huntley Photo by Steve Huntley

Across the 124 bends of the Southern 80 course, experience counts for everything.

Local Southern 80 competitors Dylan Stephenson and Jade Pumpa have been racing the prestigious ski race for up to 14 years, and it’s that experience that holds them in good stead for the first running of the event in two years.

Stephenson highlight came in 2016 skiing behind Southern 80 winner Mistress, admitting its an unrivalled feeling to salute at the 80 in front of a home crowd.

“Nothing will ever top that,” Stephenson said.

“It’s the best thing ever, winning at your home race in the sport you love doing.”

After placing second outright with TR in 2020, Stephenson will ski behind Sportspage with Dean Johns (driver), Anthony O’Reilly (observer) and Cameron Horne (skier).

The local team has experienced a bumpy ski season so far, but Stephenson says there’s no better time to turn things around.

“We haven’t got through a dash so far. We’ll turn it around in our home race, that’s for sure,” Stephenson said.

Beyond the technical aspect, Stephenson offered an insight into the work that goes into trailing behind the speedboats, especially in Superclass when skiers are dragged at speeds of 120mph.

“On top of the amount of skiing you have to do, it’s also the gym work, the strength work, the cardio work,” he said.

“Like any elite sport, you have to put in the time.

“You don’t quite get the recognition you do in other sports, but we do it because we love it.”

Pumpa, a former skier himself, has been racing in the Southern 80 since 2008, but has traded the skis for a spot in the boat in recent races.

Pumpa is observing for Tuff N Ruff in the 70mph category this year along with driver Paul Tannenberg and skiers Tyler Tannenberg and Michelle Pumpa.

For Pumpa, preparation is key.

“Just being prepared is the best thing out here,” Pumpa said.

“Basically, the more work you put in obviously the better you’re going to go.

“It’s a long way and there’s no breaks in the middle.

“There’s a lot of people that do it just for a bit of fun, but I think with everyone there is a level of competitiveness. That’s what keeps bringing you back each year.

“It’s a good sport to be around, you make a lot of good mates and to be racing around home is a great pleasure.”

Despite the colder weather, both agree the town will be pumping for the 2022 race.

“Going off the last two races in Robinvale and Mildura there’s been huge crowd turnout,” Stephenson said.

“If we got anything similar to that the town will be booming like it always is in February.

“It won’t be quite as warm, but I think it’s going to be a great event.”