Members of Inverloch’s victorious Women’s Masters Surfboat Team at the Lifesaving Victoria Masters Championship at Lorne, holding sweep Geoff Allum. From left are Sarah Jane Mead, Michelle Roberts, Nicole Hassall, Fiona McMahon-Hughes and Tania Dods-Cumming.
THE Inverloch Women’s Masters Surfboat Team tasted the ultimate success when it won the Lifesaving Victoria Masters Championship at Lorne recently.
The team was the oldest women’s team competing but that didn’t stop them from becoming the first Masters team from the Inverloch Surf Lifesaving Club to enter the competition and the first to win the championship.
The team included captain Michelle Roberts, Sarah Jane Mead, Michelle Roberts, Nicole Hassall, Fiona McMahon-Hughes, Tania Dods-Cumming and male sweep Geoff Allum.
Michelle said the team is both proud and satisfied by the result.
“The Masters Championship was the biggest goal that the team set for ourselves this year and to come home with gold was the icing on the cake,” she said.
“It is a tough sport that requires strength, fitness, agility and determination; there are lots of bruises and injuries along the way. You can’t really row a surfboat if you are worried about being bumped or bruised.
“We are probably the only team in Australia to start surfboat rowing without any history or experience within the club – we had to teach ourselves how to row, to look after a boat, to sweep, to catch waves, to row out through the break and to compete.”
The age groups at the Masters Championships were determined by the total age of the four rowers, and with the Inverloch team ranging in age from 43 to 51, the team totalled 192, placing it in the 180s section.
As the Masters Championships had no other teams entered in the 180s, the team was forced to compete against teams from the 140s and 160s age groups.
Michelle said winning the championship as women aged in their 40s and 50s is “pretty extraordinary”.
“It’s quite a dangerous and physical sport that not many women beyond their 20s compete in,” she said.
“We started out as a group of Nipper mums who ran the Nipper program at Inverloch who decided we wanted to row a surfboat for fun.
“In normal surfboat competitions we are competing against much younger teams, so it was really great to both compete against similar ages and also see other master athletes continuing to enjoy the challenges of their sport.”
To be eligible to compete in Surfboat Championships, all members of teams must be active volunteer lifesavers.
Volunteer lifesavers must patrol the beach and update their lifesaving qualifications each year.
The four-year quest for the Masters Championship was helped by the support of fellow lifesaving clubs, including Lakes Entrance, Woolamai, Mornington and St Kilda.
The Inverloch team has members who live in Inverloch, Traralgon, Bundoora and Blackburn, with team training often difficult to organise.
This makes the achievement even more impressive for the determined team.