Huge swells and crashing waves are what you would expect from a surf boat race.
But for Canberra-based surf boat crews, training in the calm waters of Lake Burley Griffin has proven to be a winning formula.
At the World Life Saving Championships in Adelaide last month, two Canberra Masters teams defeated coastal teams from around the world to win gold in their respective classes.
Coastal teams may hate losing out to inland rivals, but Canberra’s crews have discovered that the training base is their secret weapon.
“Coast teams are a little better in those conditions because they have to adapt to big waves, storms and other conditions,” said Gary Pettygrove, the club’s coach and sweeper.
“But we can row good technique every day.”
Two Canberra Masters crews, men aged 45+ and women aged 30+, won gold at the World Championships.
“We run a lot of mock races on the beach here,” said women’s coach Jamie Matthews.
“But we’re rowing the boat in different conditions, wind and rain, just getting the girls used to the different conditions they might experience even without waves.”
Monthly beach trip
Five mornings a week, Broulee Capitals wakes up in the dark to train on the lake before work.
I go to the beach only once a month.
“We try to get out here when it’s unsettled, so unless it’s raining too hard and it’s not safe, we’re out on the lake for training,” Pettigrove said.
Matthews added that the World Championship conditions were similar to what they were used to on the lake.
“It was more choppy and windy than a huge ocean swell,” she said.
The five-man crew, including Sweep, rely heavily on each other not to miss training.
“The sea can be very dangerous, so the crew will be very close,” Mathews said.
“For training, but also for survival at sea, crew members need to be very close and rely on each other.
“We are all professionals in other jobs and have families, so balancing that with training requirements can be very difficult.
For these Canberra crews, early starts and hard slogs are worth it when you finish ahead.
“When you hit the line and look around, you’re the first crew member and it’s very emotional,” Pettigrove said.