By TONY WHITE
THE 'Yamba connection' has performed with distinction at the World Surf Life Saving Championships in Lorne, Victoria.
Former Yamba Surf Life Saving Club members Hugh Dougherty, now with Tugun on the Gold Coast, and Bennett, a member of North Burleigh, made respective finals of the ironman, ironwoman and board events.
Dougherty, 20, finished fifth in the blue-riband ironman to Kawana Waters star Zane Holmes, the defending world champion from Italy and 2004 Queensland and Australian champion.
Dougherty also finished fourth in a dramatic board final, won by Shannon Eckstein (Northcliffe); second (Tugun SLSC) in the prestigious taplin relay behind Northcliffe and fourth with team-mate Sam Hamilton in the board rescue, won by Shannon Eckstein and Leonard Pierce (Northcliffe).
Bennett, who recently made the final of the Kellogg's Nutri-Grain Series, finished a great fifth to Kristy Munroe, from Alexandra Headlands, in the ironwoman and sixth to her in the board event.
It was Dougherty's second and Bennett's first world championships competition.
"I went down as a 15-year-old to a world championships, but this was my first time having a proper go," Dougherty said.
"I was really happy with my performance in the ironman and our club in the taplin relay.
"The board was a bit disappointing. I actually thought I could have won that. I got a shocker of a start and had to paddle through the field.
"Jacob (Lollback), who got a flyer, and I were running second and third near the end when a little wave came and some of the other competitors got on it as well. The surf was virtually flat and unfortunately Jacob missed the wave.
"Four went for a sprint up the beach and there wasn't much in it.
"Overall, I'm really pleased with my performance. We've still got the State and Australian championships to go. Hopefully, I can do a bit better."
Lollback, who has been in dynamic form in Under-17 board events, eventually finished 12th in the open board event in what was a blanket finish.
Competing against elder competitors, the experience will do him the world of good as he continues to progress through the ranks.
Lollback and fellow Yamba competitor Martin Dougherty made the quarter-finals of the board rescue and Dougherty (Martin) was knocked out in a heat of the board event.