The Photo Doesn’t Do The Story Justice…

March 25, 2023

A piece of wood. A simple piece of plywood is what saved the day for New Brighton surf rowers at nationals, allowing them to continue on their dangerous (and quite insane) quest, in attempting to conquer the massive waves.

Allow me to give you some context: that morning the surf was looking scarily big, nerves high, and an undoubtable anticipation for carnage.

New Brighton beach very rarely sees waves this big. Truth be told—it would have most likely been cancelled or relocated if the majority of crews hadn’t travelled from the North Island.

But how does a piece of wood get drawn into this?

Just ask our under-23’s bows man, James. It was James vs boat in the warm-up row, where a wave caught his oar throwing him into the front of the boat. James did win—but unfortunately, this left the boat in a pretty beat-up state.

But—nothing was stopping these rowers from racing; so begins the boat redesign. A piece of plywood drilled under the bow seat was the seeming solution. The bows prayed they didn’t fall out of their seat and get a splintered butt, and away they went.

Surf rowing is a rare sport in the way when conditions get difficult, it becomes about survival first, then medals. Today was a survival day.

New Brighton was proudly represented by three crews: the under-23 girls, under-23 boys, and the open women. The first 2 races for every crew started strong, no one was significantly injured and all 3 crews placed 1st and 2nd in their first two heats. Adrenaline was high and grins were wide.

One word can be used to describe the third race for all crews: chaos.

With a total of 5 rows this season, the under-23 girls’ crew raced up in the Open women category and did insanely well. Unfortunately, the boat rolled in the last race, injuring 2 of the rowers and making them unable to race the next day. The original open women’s bow was also badly injured with a oar to the shin that took her out of racing and to the hospital.

And the boys’ 3rd race…

The sweep oar was broken before making it to the buoy, leaving them stranded. The boys are lost, clueless. Making it back home safe without a sweep oar is hard enough in average surf, nearly impossible in this surf.

Lachlan Hill, crews captain, heroically volunteers to swim back to the finish line (as this race only requires one member to run past the finish line). So stroke turns swimmer and leaves the lost boys.

Waves are still coming and this is not the place you want to be left in. Logan, the sweep, goes into stroke seat and they attempt to row back in. But this proves difficult when the boat cannot be steered. The boys take a detour to the peer, giving the many on-lookers situated on the peer an up close greeting, also allowing the press a generous opportunity for a lovely photo (as above). 

My words don’t do this race justice—but thankfully, we have it all on go-pro uploaded to you-tube (prime entertainment). I suggest retrieving some popcorn and snacks before playing, as It is a long race.

But I’ll give credit when credit is due, the determination and effort of the under-23 boys crew was undeniably evident. Placing overall 2nd in the short course and 3rd in the long course, a well-deserved result after a committed season.

The surf conditions tested rowers mentally and physically, It took great grit and guts to get there. A big cheers to all athletes who competed, including one of our open women who competed after recently recovering from a broken bone

We except no less chaos next year. Hopefully less broken oars and boats though… 

Canoe report to come.