Up the creek

Rowing up the creek with Dr Fiona Wallace

Six in the morning is the perfect time to be rowing a boat, according to Dr Fiona Wallace of New Lambton Veterinary Clinic in Broadmeadow, NSW.

“Recently I was given a single scull made from cedar and originally built in the 1940s by the legendary George Towns, the world champion rower turned boat-builder. I had it restored faithfully by Allan Phillips at Race1 in Sydney and it looks a million dollars. We’re working through a few teething problems at the moment as it hasn’t been in the water for close to 10 years, but I’m planning to race it later this year.

“I rowed briefly at Wesley College but started seriously seven years ago when the Newcastle Rowing Club constructed a new shed on Throsby Creek. They were looking for members and I joined with my three daughters. We rowed together in a quad scull for a while but the early mornings defeated them fairly quickly!

“I row throughout the year. The only time I miss a session is if it’s windy as that can be dangerous. Actually, if I’m completely honest, I also don’t row in the rain—it’s just too uncomfortable!

“I love being out on the water at 6am—it’s the best time of the day. It’s never easy to get out of bed but once you’re on the creek, watching the sun rise, it’s beautiful—God’s own time, we call it.

“I’ve been rowing single, double and quad sculls with pretty much the same group of women for the past seven years. We can get into any boat and row together without a problem. There’s no doubt we have a connection; it’s a feeling, muscle memory type of thing.

“We compete in local Masters competitions over the summer. The women we compete against are often bigger, fitter and stronger, but there’s more to it than just strength. You’ve got to think about every stroke, how you are holding the oars and getting the correct rhythm. And as they say, it’s not the dog in the fight…

“There’s so much I love about this sport. It’s very social but also very physical. You’ve got to be fit and committed to training. I went down to the Sydney International Regatta Centre last year and there was a man in his nineties who was rowing in an eight. It’s a low-impact sport so there isn’t a use-by date. As long as you can get out of bed at 5.30 in the morning, you can keep rowing. I actually quite like the idea of 90-year-old Fiona Wallace pottering about in her single scull on Throsby Creek.”

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