While Broadbeach is a fair hike for a small club from the NSW Lower North Coast, the Cape Hawke SLSC Masters female surfboat crew made the trek to Aussies 2019 well worth the effort.
Not content to take out their own division in the 220+ Yrs, the Cape Hawke Pearls also outperformed the other five crews racing in the younger 200+ division.
The crew of Annette Sanders, Natalie Kelly, Anne Curtis, Leanne Irving and sweep David Rankin secured a third and two firsts in the three-rounds of racing to take gold in very challenging conditions.
“The girls did exceptionally well,” said the proud sweep. “The conditions today were pretty horrendous. Wind in surf boat racing can be almost as treacherous as big waves.
“The wind and the current here are quite strong. Everyone had the same conditions to contend with but our girls handled it just that little bit better,” said Rankin.
The Cape Hawke Pearls have been together as a team for eight years and love the sport and the challenge of surfboat rowing.
“We are loving the way each other rows, we love the support we all give each other and we also have a great time. The fitness we get is amazing but it’s the comradery, the mateship and we love our roadtrips,” said Anne Curtis.
Many of the crews racing in the Aussies Masters surfboat championships were upset by the conditions and leading a race could very quickly turn to coming last if the boat slewed, or worse, rolled over.
The Cape Hawke crew kept their calm and held their nerve, using almost every skill they had in the tricky conditions.
“The conditions were challenging, very challenging actually,” said Anne. “In one race we used quite a few skills. We had to come back, go forward, there was quite a bit of technical stuff in that race. But it was great, we really appreciate Dave our sweep who looks after us and keeps us safe.
“To see we were coming first was a bit of a surprise, but there was no panic, we just had our head in the boat, but it did spur us on and we thought, ‘wow, let’s do this’!”
While a bunch of older ladies rowing a surfboat often raises a few eyebrows, the Cape Hawke crew say it’s actually far safer than it looks.
“It is all about safety,” said Dave. “There have been times in those eight years where we walk up and it’s five foot and pretty hairy and the girls weren’t happy and we just won’t row. And that’s the thing, you’ve still got a lot of control.
“People think surfboat rowing is ‘wow, look at that big, heavy, cumbersome boat, imagine that’. Well there’s more injuries on the sand than in the water. Surfboat rowing can be very safe, because you can choose whether you push into those dangerous situations.
“In competition you might choose to go for it, and in the last heat we decided not to take the wave for safety reasons, and we still ended up winning the heat.”
And befitting their glamorous name, the Pearls look the part, on the beach or on the water. Their matching outfits are always noticed and Anne says it’s important to look like a team.
“When we first started rowing, we weren’t that great and I said ‘as long as we look ok’, but now it’s become a bit of a trademark. It makes us feel more of a team,” laughed Anne.
And the teamwork is what it’s all about.
“The ultimate for any rowing coach is to get four people to row as one, whether it’s men or women,” said Dave.
“When the heat is on the swear words can come out, but what goes on in the boat, stays in the boat and as soon as you step out of the boat, the rest is history.”