'Soft' Ash Buls wins world flags title
Flag bearer: Ash Buls rediscovered his love of competing in beach sprints to win gold at the lifesaving world championships. Picture: TOM LEE.
HE was "soft" as a teenager. Now that Ash Buls is 41 he is finally living up to his potential.The Raging Thunder river guide and Ellis Beach Surf Club member this week arrived home from Adelaide where he won beach flags gold in the 40-44 years masters age group at the lifesaving world championships.
It was a strange journey to gold for Mr Buls, who first got into beach sprinting to supplement his teenage rowing career and always regretted not taking the sport more seriously.
"I went to a few national and state regattas but I didn't do much with my rowing," Mr Buls said.
"I was soft. I didn't really want it. I wasn't willing to take it.
"I always regretted not giving surf lifesaving a better crack."
Regret can eat away at you.
Bars are full of wouldabeens, couldabeens and shouldabeens, boring whoever is sitting next to them with tales of unfulfilled potential and cruel fate.
Mr Buls was not destined to be one of them. He got back into the sport three years ago, when his daughters -- now aged 13, 11 and 10 -- took up surf lifesaving.
His skills had not left him and his adult frame made him a more dominant force in the physical world of flags racing.
Locally, he dominated the open men's flags but he was not prepared for what faced him on his debut on the big stage of surf lifesaving at the world championships in Adelaide.
In each race there was one flag and a line of fully grown men who would do anything to be the first one to get their hands on it.
"Every year I get a little slower," Mr Buls said.
"You notice it after you turn 40.
"I think that's why the guys were so physical. I couldn't believe it.
"I thought I might get a couple of easy runs early on but it was tough right from the outset.
"These are full-grown men and they use that to try and knock you to the beach and try to get any advantage they can.
"I hadn't prepared for that."
Mr Buls barged, pushed and sprinted his way into the top three -- the goal he had set himself.
"I was spent," he remembered.
"The younger me probably would have thought 'that's okay, you've done what you set out to do'," he said.
"But I wanted to push through this time."
No one was more shocked than Mr Buls when he claimed the final flag of the exhausting day. He hadn't prepared for that moment.
There was no photographer there to capture it. "I would have liked that; something for the scrapbook."
But he got the gold medal, and that's not a bad memento at all.