A file picture of a Evans Head crew battling the surf in competition.
A file picture of a Evans Head crew battling the surf in competition.

Boaties get ready

By Jamie Brown jamie.brown@northernstar.com.au WITH summer fast approaching, surf boat rowers are turning their gaze longingly to the shorebreak, keen for another season of hard yakka, action and camaraderie.

Brunswick Surf Club's boat rowers are a promising crew of athletic young men and will start their season the hard way with a long drive to Bundaberg this weekend for the start of Queensland's VB surfboat series.

"We're going to put our heart and soul into this series," said Brunswick sweep Stewart White.

The VB circuit is well patronised by Far North Coast clubs, with most competitions taking place on the Gold Coast and a few on the Sunshine Coast.,

Bundaberg is a long way to go for a weekend of rowing, but talented and quietly spoken Stewart says his boys are keen to stamp their mark on the series.

Last year the Brunswick crew finished second in the North Coast Boat Series, with Matt Went in stroke position, Greg White second stroke, Baden East second bow and Luke Alexander in bow. Greg, Stewart's son, won't be making the trip to Bundaberg however because his wife Tanya delivered their first child on Thursday night. In his place will row Sam Condie.

The Brunswick crew haven't always been ace rowers. Three of them jumped in the boat only three years ago and all faced forward, not backward, much to Stewart's amusement.

But the athletic lads are seriously in shape, thanks to a long season of A-Grade hockey. Their team, the Mullumbimby Taipans, finished runner-up to the Burringbar Waratahs.

While they stand a good chance of doing well in the VB series, they have no chance of taking out the big prize money. The final of the VB series falls on the same day as the NSW State Championships, and surf club rules ban boaties from abandoning the State finals in lieu of another series.

The Brunswick boys won't be able to strut their stuff at the Australian titles either.

The titles are in Perth for the second year, and many east coast crews will not be making a second trip of it. So the Brunswick boys would have stood a good chance. But they are pre-booked as their best mate Drew Arthur's best men at his Perth wedding just three weeks before the titles.

None of them have enough holiday time or money to make the trip twice. The wedding was booked a year ago and despite a howl of protests from the rowers, the date remains in place as have the rowers' loyalties: To their mate.

Yamba girls off to a good start Yamba has already tasted competition this season after fielding crews in last month's first North Coast Boat Series carnival at Minnie Water.

Sweep Steve Wiblen said his under 23 women's crew Morgan Bramwell-Baker, Angela Eek, Carlen Holloway and Claire Denise showed serious promise in winning their event from a tough field. Most of those girls will go on to compete in an inter-branch carnival at Umina next weekend and their sweep has high hopes for their success throughout the season.

"The North Coast Boat Series offers the strongest competition for under-23 years women on the East Coast," he said.

"We expect to be very competitive this year and will contest the NSW and Queensland State titles as well as the national titles in Perth."

Minnie Water didn't go entirely to plan for Steve after a short nor'east chop swung his boat sideways in the shorebreak and spilled the girls shoreward. Morgan Bramwell-Baker got bumped by the boat's gunwale and went to hospital with bruises, but she returned to the beach before the afternoon was out, proving her mettle to the rest of her crew.

Wiblen noted that had the girls clung to the high side of the boat, rather than diving shoreward, they might have avoided injury.

Ballina boat captain Brad Lyons is also recovering from injury. Learning the fine art of sweeping he twisted his lower leg during a practice buoy rounding and popped his knee cap sideways.

"I could stick three fingers under the cap," he declared. But he's fortunate because his uncle and former Evans Head sweep Mick Lyons has offered his coaching services free of charge.

Boat rowing is dangerous to a degree, but injuries are few and far between. More people are hauled away by ambulance playing week-night touch footy than rowing surf boats off the beach. And with a bit of technique those few injuries are reduced to bare minimum.

Ready for Coffs Harbour For the rest of the North Coast Branch boaties, Coffs Harbour Craft Carnival on November 24-25 will be their first foray into this year's competition.

Ballina has five crews in training this season and will be at Coffs with a few of the more serious contenders. Evans Head will be there with two crews, one of which did well at last year's national titles. Cudgen should be there, and in fine form too considering they won the North Coast Boat Series last season under the watchful gaze of their sweep Mark Buckman.

Expect Salt to row well. Salt's crew defected from Rainbow Bay, Coolangatta, and should provide some tough local competition. Byron has been slow to form a crew this year, but will make an appearance.

Coffs Craft carnival attracts boat crew from as far away as western Victoria and north to the Sunshine Coast. Prizemoney is serious: $20,000 in total with $1800 for first in the open men's and open women's crews. And the level of talent is equivalent to the national titles. It is a real buzz to see the 80 plus boats lined up along Park Beach.

Stay tuned for more this season!

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