Valley prepares for wild rides

THERE'S a storm brewing in Grafton.

It's not your usual afternoon rumble either ... it's a special kind of storm created when two high-powered water sport events prepare to descend on the town on the same weekend.

This will happen between Thursday, January 14, and Sunday, January 17, when Grafton will host both the Monster Energy ProWake Show along with the belated Grafton Bridge-to-Bridge Ski Classic, which is making a special, one-off January appearance after it was washed-out in October.

The ProWake show will be a one-off demonstration of the growing sport of wake-boarding with the wide, deep Clarence River catching the eye of organisers.

To be held during what's usually a quiet period for local businesses, Grafton is gearing up to cater for the many hundreds of extra visitors expected for these events.

A quick ring-around of Grafton accommodation-providers yesterday revealed many were already booked out for the weekend, with others filling up quickly. Big River Ski Club secretary and organiser of the Bridge-to-Bridge half of the weekend, Mark Stephenson, said it was set to be a wet and wild couple of days.

“It's going to be great for the town; it gives people a good variety of water sports and it's great to see the water being used because it's the best river in the country ... it should be a bumper weekend,” Mr Stephenson said.

Despite the high number of boats set to use the river over the weekend, Mr Stephenson said careful co-ordination between the event organisers would ensure everything ran smoothly.

“I think they (wake-boarders) are running their preliminaries on Thursday, then running their tournament on Friday right through until Saturday night, then our event will start Sunday morning with a 9.30am kick-off,” Mr Stephenson said.

He said he was amazed by the number of entries already confirmed for the Bridge-to-Bridge.

“It's really good; I didn't think our contenders from America would come back, but they put their entries in the other day, so they're coming back for it,” he said.

“I was hoping to get 60 boats back, but we're looking at about 65; so if a few more roll in that's more than I expected.”

Mr Stephenson said both the Wakeboard and Bridge-to-Bridge events would be one-offs on the January weekend.

However, there were preliminary talks under way for the wakeboarders to also attend the Bridge- to-Bridge long weekend held every October, which could mean a major annual weekend of water sports for the town.

Clarence Valley Council Mayor Richie Williamson said it would be a great weekend for the town.

“We're excited about the prospect of a speed/adventure weekend on the Clarence at a time that is traditionally a quieter time in Grafton; we think this will be a great shot in the arm for the local economy,” Cr Williamson said.

“We're also very excited about the prospect of the Clarence River being the drawcard.”

Cr Williamson said the town was no stranger to hosting large sporting events and expected Grafton to cater well for the influx of people.

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