As the only woman in history to win three major Ironwoman titles in one year, Courtney Hancock is a force to be reckoned with and we Gold Coasters are lucky enough to claim her as one of our own.
We sat down for a chat with the star athlete, smack bang in the middle of her pre season training, about winning the triple crown, how she rates her chances for the upcoming season and how I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here sparked a huge change in her career.
How long have you been a Gold Coast local?
It has been 11 years now. I grew up in Sawtell and moved here to join the surf club. I was already in the Nutri Grain series when I was at school and I wanted to be a part of the best club in the world, BMD Northcliffe and train with the best athletes.
What do you love most about living here?
I think the older you get, the more you appreciate things and within my career I’ve done so much travelling overseas and I do love it but I think it’s a really incredible feeling when you’re excited to come back home no matter where you are in the world. I think the reason is that our beaches are amazing, you can walk anywhere, there are headlands and parks, you always feel safe and you can go out into the bush if you want too, it’s so close. We’ve got the most amazing Sunday markets and really good shopping. I love the people and another thing is that you can travel literally 30 minutes down the road and you feel like you’re in a completely different place. It’s pretty special.
How did you first get into Surf Lifesaving?
Living in Sawtell, there was only one street in the whole town that was right on the beach and Mum and Dad had one of those houses on that street so we were stoked. Living there, they wanted us to be able to learn how to read the ocean and to know when it’s safe. That was the reason I joined, to learn how to swim and read the surf. I also loved surf lifesaving and I just really wanted to win. I charged when I was little.
What made you want to turn it into a career?
When I was probably eight years old one Sunday afternoon I was watching the Nutri Grain series on TV and I saw, when I was just doing the little nippers, what bigger me could do and I just fell in love with it. I recorded it and watched it over and over again. Mum and Dad would drive all of us to watch it and seeing the big guys in real life, I decided that’s what I wanted to do. Even at that age I saw how fit and healthy and happy they were, it seemed like such an amazing life and I thought if I could have my office at the beach I would be happy with life. I was also lucky I was very determined.
Tell us a few defining moments in your life so far…
It’s been an interesting journey. Going back to when I first moved here it was hard living by myself, I didn’t know anyone and I was only 18. It was very difficult and our coach back then made me work hard which was good because a few years later I won my first Nutri Grain series and that really changed things. There was a lot of focus on me and I was still only very young, it was quite hard to deal with at the time, I had to talk to the media, handle sponsorships, there was so much going on and it was really challenging at a young age. I’ve been really lucky with my surf club though; it’s been an awesome ride. I think you get to a point where you’ve achieved everything you want to and go through a bit of ‘where to next’ and it’s hard to keep going. I had about 12 months where I hadn’t won many races and I got an opportunity to go on I’m a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here. I said no the first few times, I really didn’t want to do it but ended up saying yes eventually because I could fit it in. I finished the Nutri Grain, I think I got fourth that year so I was a bit disappointed with my results, but I flew straight over, no one knew, and had a month in the jungle away from the beach which made me realise I absolutely love what I do. It was a spark. I went on and managed to win the Coolangatta Gold that year and the next year. Since then I’ve lit the fire again and I’m really keen. I think you need to go through those things to rekindle that inner fire. In saying that, I’ve been lucky along the way, it’s not easy but you’ve got to have positive people around you to keep you up.
How did it feel to win the triple crown of events in 2011?
That was a very surreal year for me, it was the first Nutri Grain event I won and when I finished I thought, “I could retire now and be happy”. Since then I’ve just said anything other than that I’ll be so happy with. It was nice to then win the Australian Titles and for everyone to be like ‘wow Courtney really did it’ after a bit of negative media around the point score. The media questioned me about the Gold and were saying if you win, you’ll be the first person in history to win all three events in the nine months. That wasn’t the driving factor at the time, I had unfortunately lost my Grandfather the week before so that was the motivation for me to get across the line. It was a sprint finish after three hours of racing so I’ll never forget that one. I was very proud of myself that year and it really made me believe that if you put your mind to something you can really do anything.
If you weren’t doing this, what else would you love to be doing?
Everything. I’m inspired by so many people. If I could I’d want to be on stage, being Taylor Swift singing and dancing, that’s definitely not going to happen but that’s okay. I think at the moment I’m starting to think about my next chapter, unfortunately as an athlete it’s a short career. I want to work with kids, I love that, I’d also love to get involved in mental health, that’s something I’m really interested in. I’d love to get into the media; I think that would be really fun to still be with the sport and other sports. I think my heart lies in still keeping that little bit of sport and travel together.
If you could give one piece of advice to your younger self what would it be?
Don’t worry too much and don’t stress the little things. Try to be the happiest, best person you can be. Do what you love and be with the people you love.
How do you rate your chances for the upcoming season?
At the moment, we’re in pre season training, which comes in as the hardest part of the year so basically it’s just getting yourself prepped and ready to get your foot on the line. I’m feeling really good. It’s hard when you come back from off season but I’m pretty keen to go for that Nutri Grain title this year.
Tell us your favourites on the Coast…
Beach: I like Broadbeach, Miami and Tallebudgera is always beautiful
Café: I eat everywhere, the food on the Gold Coast is so good at the moment. I like Metro in Broadbeach, BSKT is good. Paddock is a good one.
How does your weekend usually look: We do our Ironwoman session Saturday mornings, so that’s always really hard at BMD Northcliffe and finish up about 9.30 and get the rest of the weekend off. I’ll either go to the markets on a Sunday morning, go for a walk on Sunday afternoon, Saturday afternoons I love sitting down and watching the AFL and might go out for a nice dinner. I like going to Collective, that’s one of my favourite spots. That’s a quieter weekend.
It’s quite the conundrum because sometimes you’re just hanging to be immersed in water. SURPRISE, we’ve got a solution. Here are five (soon to be not-so) secret local swimming spots that’ll solve all of your hankering for breaking out those ‘kini’s.
This one is so secret even we (knowers of all) hadn’t heard of it until now. Found underneath the towering peaks of Mount Cougal, the cascades are serenity in a swimming spot. Think creeks that flow into rock pools and cool, freshwater that’ll soothe even the saltiest of souls.
Where: The end of Currumbin Valley Road
Two good things are always better than one good thing (profound yes). Which is great because TWIN Falls guys. A short little (4km) circuit will take you through the national park, behind the waterfalls and through some rock caves before you’ll feel the need to strip off for a dip. It’s a feast for both the eyes and your heat-affected, cool water-craving skin.
Where: At the Natural Bridge via the Nerang-Murwillumbah Road car park
Araluen Swimming Hole
The biggest secret since Cougal Cascades, Araluen is a Tallebudgera locals’ favourite and one they probably wish we didn’t mention. But, since sharing is caring, here it is on the list. It’s a fresh water hole and it’s pretty much the epitome of Gold Coast fun. Take a picnic and your best fun-loving attitude.
Where: Close to the corner of Araluen Road and Tallebudgera Creek Road
While Froggy’s is perhaps a little less secret than some spots, it’s no less golden. Between Snapper Rocks and Point Danger, it’s the perfect place for a spot of sunbaking if being seen by hordes of people ain’t your thing. Froggy’s is protected from the elements so perfect for a day of fun in the sun.
Elabana Falls on Box Forest Circuit
Lamington National Park is the local legend that keeps on giving. It’s a bit of a trek to get there but on the brightside, you’ll have earned your swim and there are plenty of Insta-worthy spots to stop for a snap. The water is clear and the vibes are chill, pack your walking shoes!
Where: Start at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat
Words by Carly Snodgrass.
Us Gold Coasters can find ourselves a little, well, lost when the rain falls and the mercury drops below 26.4 degrees. During the cooler months, the whole “beautiful one day, perfect the next” theory can exit stage left (for like, 4 days per year…or 304 days per year if it’s 2022), so when you find yourself looking to fill your to-do list, we have some feel-good rainy day activities coming your way!
We’ve done the hard yards and compiled a list of fail-safe ideas to keep you dry, entertained and smiling when you’re missing that natural vitamin D and reaching for your brolly. These activities prove that the drizzly days on the GC can be just as fun as the sunny days!
Eat your weight in pasta
If the cooler weather makes us want to do one thing, it’s eat pasta. And lots of it. So if you can’t be stuffed DYI-ing (us), head out to one of our many local Italian nosheries for some epic pasta pigouts! We’re dreaming of marinaras and carbonaras, but you can see our full list of soul-satisfying Gold Coast pastas here.
Eat your way through chocolate desserts
Ok so we’re still on the topic of eating but at the risk of sounding food-obsessed (we plead guilty), come on – who doesn’t love themselves a comforting choccy dessert on a wet wintery day and/or night. Whether it’s a slab of morish mud cake, choc dipped churros, or a decadent chocolate éclair, find your death by chocolate experience here.
Snuggle by the fire
Nawww, does this not make you feel all warm and fuzzy? Possibly not if you’re single or phyrophobic, but we digress, because we’re not talking significant others or raging bushfires, we’re referring to the many cozy GC restaurants boasting winter-friendly eats and a homely fireplace ambience to boot. Find them here.
Catch up with friends at a watering hole
Okay so this is something we’re partial to irrespective of what the weather’s doing, but on a rainy day or night, there’s added appeal to bunkering down in a bar with your mates. Whether you’re channeling a shiraz, pint of Guinness or a mojito so you can pretend it’s summer, hit up top spots to sink a brew or taste a tipple.
Get your soak and float on
Are your muscles and joints giving you grief in the cooler weather? At the risk of sounding like a bunch of middle-aged whining Karen’s, is it just us, or do your joints and muscles seem to cease up and ache way more when the temperature drops and the rain sets in? Cause same! And we think we have to treat ourselves to a little R&R to give you back that pep in your step! Check out a wellness centre or be pampered at a spa – either way, we are in!
Visit a winery
Look, wineries, like watering holes, speak to us all year round, but a drive (or Uber…) out to one of our beautiful local grape farms for a feed and a tipple is the perfect way to spend a rainy day. We’re feeling reds and moscatos to wash down a mouth-watering lunch infused with local ingredients. Don’t know where to go? Call off the search, because we have your one-stop-shop to wineries here.
Fancy yourself as a bit of an artist? Why not explore your arty-farty side and what better time of year to do it! Whether you’re into sculpting, pottery, photography, drawing, jewellery making, painting, painting whilst wining (ding ding!), or gallery hopping, you can do all that and more in your own backyard. Check out your options here.
Make a charcuterie board and chill out with your friends
You had us and cheese, deli meats and antipasto. And look, basically anything that appears on a charcuterie board belongs in our stomachs. The rain makes it seem totally acceptable to indulge in such guilty pleasures so why not call in your squad and a make day of it.
Try a new workout class
With all this talk of chocolate, cheese, watering holes and wine, we’re thinking it’s wise to add a new workout class to your rainy-day must-try list. There are plenty of places to get your deep burn on, and donning your activewear is still entirely acceptable when it’s a bit frosty (bonus – excuse to buy that Jaggad sweater you’ve been eyeing off).
Words by Bianca Trathen.