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Rower Roder cruising along

WILSONS River rower Jim Roder doesn't let the metal screws keeping his back together deter him from staying active in retirement.

An ex-champion waterskier, Mr Roder has enjoyed a lifetime of social and competitive sport, and he's not finished yet.

The 75-year-old took up rowing 10 years ago after a chronic back injury and subsequent surgery ruled out any high-impact sports.

Now he rows twice a week with Lismore Rowing Club and even lends his wisdom to young Trinity College rowers mastering their stroke.

"It's relaxing to see the birds and ducks and the wild flowers along the river - a good workout too," Mr Roder said.

Having grown up in Woodburn, and owning a property on the river at Gundurimba, rivers and boats have been a recurring theme in Mr Roder's life.

He took up water skiing at the age of 15 after a local police officer started a jump and slalom course at Woodburn.

He quickly became a top competitor and spent five years travelling up and down the east coast, visiting water skiing meets in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. He even made the 1957 world titles in Florida, coming seventh in the slalom.

"The Americans were way ahead of us in the jump. We were jumping 70 to 80 feet and the Yanks were jumping 120 feet," he recalled. "When I came home I adopted their techniques and started jumping around 100 feet."

Following his marriage, Mr Roder spent 10 years out of the sport, but in 1974 he was able to buy a boat and take up the sport again. "I called it Little Dib after my daughter Kim," he said.

Then during the 1974 flood he had an urgent message to help evacuate the old St Anne's retirement home but only he and one other boat owner responded to the rescue call. "We were flat out getting them out of there, the water was rising that quick," Mr Roder said. "By the time we got them out, the water level was up to their mattresses."

Mr Roder, his children and their children have since spent many memorable afternoons at his property alongside the Wilsons River, where he built a treehouse, slippery dip and a flying fox. "The kids loved it down there, they used to bring all their friends from school," he said.

Now he has four grandchildren - they've all gone to university and he treasures the memory of having taught each one how to waterski. "It's dealt me pretty well. I've had a satisfying life."


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