Zane Holmes: Making waves

Founder of Wave Warriors discusses why he created the event, his career, and tips when at the beach.

There’s something uniquely refreshing about getting active in the surf. As a champion Ironman, Zane Holmes knows this well – and now, he wants to pass on this love for the waves to the next generation.

In 2011, Zane founded Wave Warriors, a junior surf lifesaving event designed to introduce kids to the joys and challenges of this iconic Australian sport. The series is now a much loved fixture on the sporting calendar, and is renowned for its fun, social and welcoming atmosphere.

As this year’s surf lifesaving season kicks off, we had a chat with Zane about all things beachy.

What inspired you to start Wave Warriors?

The concept of Wave Warriors was born out of a frustration for the lack of quality events on offer for nippers across the country. As a former nipper myself, I was used to the usual nipper carnivals running extremely slow and being quite boring.

As I neared the end of my professional Ironman career, I could see that nothing had changed with the junior events since I was a nipper 20 years before! I wanted to provide a vehicle for young aspiring athletes to compete and showcase their skill – ultimately to retain them in surf lifesaving rather than lose them to other sports.

What feedback do you hear from kids and their parents about the event?

The common trend with our feedback from parents is that our event is the most professionally and efficiently run event they have been to. From the kids it is all about how much fun they have in comparison to other events they go to.

This year we’re particularly excited about our brand new swim/run event we’re adding to the program which is open to the general public. This will be conducted the morning of the Wave Warriors event and will be a 200 m swim and a 2 km run. We hope to see people of all ages getting up early and coming down for an active and healthy start to their day.

Tell us about your own start as a youngster in the sport? 

I started at the age of five in nippers. I followed in the footsteps of my two older sisters and also my father who was one of the first ironmen in Australia.

How have you found your transition following retirement from the Ironman circuit?

I’ve been working full time in my business Dolphin Surf Craft since 2004 while I was competing on the professional Ironman circuit so the transition has been fairly seamless. I have just been able to spend more time on my business now since retiring. I miss the competition and also being as fit as I was. I still try to stay reasonably fit by training a few times a week and eating healthy.

Most challenging period during competitive racing?

I suffered a lower back injury in my last few years of racing which ultimately forced my early retirement. I had two bulging discs which required surgery on two separate occasions so this was by far the most challenging time in my career. Trying to manage the injury without overdoing it while still trying to be at the top of my game was hard – especially against my rivals who were mostly younger and injury free.

Biggest highlight of your career? 

Winning the 2006 Coolangatta Gold. I was predominantly a short course specialist so to win a 4.5-hour endurance race was a huge surprise for me and very rewarding, especially being the Coolangatta Gold which is such an iconic race in Australia.

5 top tips for beach and water safety? 

1. Swim at a patrolled beach between the red and yellow flags.

2. Slip, slop slap! This old saying is still as important as ever. Always wear sunscreen and a hat.

3. Watch your kids – the lifesavers and lifeguards have a busy job keeping everyone safe so make extra sure that your kids are watched at all times.

4. Know your limits – never go out beyond the depth of your ability.

5. Hydrate well – drink plenty of water.

The Medibank Wave Warriors 2015/16 series runs from October to February. Find out more at

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