Bay women aim to rule the waves
Bluewater Bay club forms surfboat squad
The Bluewater Bay Surf Lifesaving Club are hoping their women’s quartet of surf boat racers can inspire the next generation of females in the sport.
Former SA surf boat rower, coach and club member Louis Beyers said the sport had always been a male-dominated sport in the country.
“The last time we toured Australia, we saw the growth of the sport among women and, with it being the 50th anniversary of the club, we sat down and thought this would be a fantastic way to celebrate the milestone,” Beyers said.
“It was initially seen as a male-dominated sport, even here in SA.
“However, in many countries there has been considerable growth among female competitors, who row the same size and weight of craft as their male counterparts.”
He said establishment of the crew would hopefully encourage more clubs to follow a similar route.
Kings Beach Surf Lifesaving and Durban’s Pirates Surf Lifesaving are introducing women crews to their ranks.
The local team, which comprises five members, includes rowers Kayla-Lee McGregor, Mercia Morris, Carmen Nel and Cayla Nortje, and the sweep, Herman Dorfling.
The crew will participate in an event which forms part of the club’s 50th anniversary celebrations in May.
Asked why there was a man in an all-women’s team, Beyers said: “In Australian female surf boat crews, almost 90% of the sweeps are male, purely for their upper body strength.
“They [sweeps] are mainly there for guidance, helping rowers to pace themselves during a race, and how to navigate potentially rough sea conditions.
“They are not allowed to row at all.”
The crew, who are the country’s first all-female surfboat rowing team, took part at the recent 2019 General Tire SA Surf Lifesaving Championships in Port Elizabeth.
Despite competing against mostly men, the experience they gained will stick with them for a long time.
“They were allowed to compete, but it did not count for points,” Beyers said.
“But they gave a very good account of themselves and it gave the crew an opportunity to learn about the rigours of competitive surf boat racing and whether or not they were up for it.”
The club itself is steeped in surf boat rowing history, having been chosen to represent South Africa on three occasions.
The first was in 1992, when they claimed gold against the much-fancied Australians, before two more representations in 2002 and 2003, when they again went up against the Australians and New Zealand.
Asked what the end goal was, Beyers said: “We are a voluntary movement and we don’t get paid for what we do, so to encourage people to join our movement, we have to make things exciting for them.
“Despite the members of the crew being involved in lifesaving in some capacity in their early years, we have to make it attractive for people to join lifesaving in general and, at the same time, improve their confidence in the sea.”..