Surf’s up

Photo: Penny Tamblyn

Joining a surfboat crew is a great way to get fit and meet people, according to Dr Jessica Dalton of Macleay Valley Veterinary Services, Kempsey, NSW

“When I started working in Kempsey, I was new to the area and didn’t know anyone. A colleague mentioned there was a local surfboat crew and I thought it would be a good way to meet some of the locals.

“I’d done some rowing at school so I just rocked up to the surf club one weekend and asked if I could join. It’s a really small club but they were very welcoming. They actively encourage members and if you’re part of the team, you’re also part of the surf patrol. Crescent Head beach is very popular with locals and tourists so the voluntary surf patrols are really important.

“The first thing I had to do was get my surf lifesaving bronze medallion, a requirement for every patrol member. Then I started training in the boats with surf sessions and training on the Macleay River every week. On the river, we might do three short, sharp sets of eight minutes. In the surf, we might go for a big long row right out to the headland and back. This would be followed by ins and outs—going out through the surf break, turning the boat just past the break and rowing it back in. The surfboats weigh about 200 kilos plus the crew so it’s pretty hard work, especially when the waves are attacking.

“I row for the Crescent Head surfboat team and our local competition is the Mid North Coast. It ranges from Evans Head down to Cape Hawke in Forster. There are local clubs up and down the east coast that we compete against in state carnivals. Then there’s the Australian carnival where some of our crews have done very well.

“My crew won the Mid North Coast Cup in 2013/14 and 2014/15. We came third last year and I’ve given surfboating a break this year. I’m still doing surf patrols but I just wanted to free up my weekends a bit.

“Surfboating really appeals to me because it’s so different to work. It attracts a real variety of people—tradesmen, uni students, school teachers, mums, just a whole mixed bag. The carnivals are great fun and a good way to socialise.

“I hardly knew anyone when I first moved to Kempsey but now I see boaties everywhere. You call a plumber and he’ll be a boatie. You play a game of soccer and there’ll be a woman rower on the other team. They’re just all over the place. It’s great!”

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