Girls taking on surfboat danger


SURFBOAT rower Anna Harvey knows something her new crew members don’t: It’s a dangerous sport!

The 22-year-old is the stroke of the Evans Head women’s Under-23 surfboat crew who are preparing for their first competitive event at Byron Bay tomorrow in the Far North Coast branch surf lifesaving championships.

Harvey has been rowing for eight years and second bow Emilie Clayton, 20, has been in the sport for about five years but second stroke Alana Montgomery, 16, and bow Sandie Haden, 18, have a steep learning curve ahead.

“We’ve only been rowing together for about four weeks,” Harvey said.

“Emilie and I have rowed together in past years but this is the first time we’ve come together as a team.

“We’ve improved a lot and we are a bit surprised with ourselves.”

But the crew are yet to face a rough water test.

“We practise in the river,” she said.

“Sandie hasn’t been in the surf yet and Alana has only been in a couple of times.”

And it is in the surf that the danger lies.

“It is fairly dangerous and physically demanding,” she said.

“You can get thrown out. The oars are really powerful and can throw you out, or in to the bottom of the boat.

“It has happened to me in the past. I haven’t been thrown out, but I have been thrown around.

“I got taken in by the duck (motor boat) once for jarring both my ankles but that’s pretty minor for boat rowing. People break bones.

“On your way out you can get hit by a wave, or on your way in the boat can go sideways – it’s a really unpredictable sport.”

Helping the girls out will be experienced sweep Peter Hickey.

“I don’t think many women have the physical power to sweep,” Harvey said.

“It’s a pretty hard job as far as upper body strength goes.

“There are only a couple of women who competitively sweep in Australia.”

And until recently there were only a few women who rowed.

“When I first started rowing it was just us and Byron Bay,” she said.

“Now you go to the Aussies (Australian championships) and there might be 100 crews and some of the crews are just incredible.

“There used to be a fear factor that kept a lot of women away. Fear of waves and that a lot of boats flip.

“In the time that I’ve been rowing, women’s rowing has just gone berserk.

“I can’t work out why it has become so popular but just the past few years it has grown enormously.”

Tomorrow Harvey expects to race against up to 10 women’s crews representing clubs between Yamba and Fingal.

“I don’t know how we’ll go,” she said.

“When you have a couple of girls coming in who’ve never rowed before you’re all over the shop with timing and technique.

“There’s a lot to learn.

“But everything has improved.

“I think we’ll do better than we expect – as long as we don’t panic.”

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