The West

Melissa aims for perfect 10
Queen of the sand Melissa Howard will make a run at a record 10th national beach flags title in Scarborough tomorrow. Picture: Bill Hatto/ The West Australian

Queensland’s queen of the sand Melissa Howard will make a run at a record 10th national beach flags title in Scarborough tomorrow.

The world’s fastest woman on the beach, Howard has won gold in the flags at the past four World Surf Life Saving Championships and nine national championships.

Scarborough beach has been a particularly happy hunting ground for the 27-year-old, with national titles coming in 2007, 2008 and 2009.

The Kurrawa Surf Club star said winning her 10th title in the cauldron-like setting of the Scarborough amphitheatre would be a special moment.

“It’s pretty surreal. It has to be the best venue for the flags,” she said.

“Having that amphitheatre on the beach, it’s pretty crazy in the final when you’ve got everyone around you yelling and screaming.

“It’s a bit like golf, where they have the ‘quiet please’ and it gets very intense.

“It becomes pure silence in the end and you’re just waiting for that whistle, then once that whistle goes you just get the hell out of there and get that flag.”

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Howard has been involved with surf life saving since the age of one, when she joined her older brother at Mollymook Surf Life Saving Club in southern New South Wales.

While she is more than capable in the water, she has made a name for herself on the sand, winning her first national title when she moved to Queensland in 2004.

She is also the reigning world champion in the 90m beach sprint, but her passion is the flags - a frantic 20m dash which lasts about four seconds.

“It’s a combination of reaction time, acceleration and speed,” she said.

“I get nervous leading into a competition, but once it’s event time, all I’m doing is listening for that whistle.

“When I first started doing this, 10 titles just seemed so out there. I thought I could do it though and now I’m here.”

The beach flags finals will be held in the Scarborough amphitheatre from about 3pm tomorrow.

The West Australian

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