Driving rains, four metre swells and 15 hours in a surfboat is all part and parcel of the George Bass Marathon says Pambula-Tathra combined junior sweep Stuart Manson.
After seven days of rowing, sometimes in conditions Bear Grylls would shy away from, Manson and his young crew enjoyed a “complete whitewash” on Sunday, catching up on sleep.
The Ladz, as they are known, welcomed Tathra surf club members to fill out the ranks and compete in the world’s longest surfboat race as the only junior under 23 crew.
Manson said it had been a hectic race that included exhilarating highs, but more than a few lows: largely non-stop rain and massive swells in Thursday’s leg off Bermagui.
“They punched us out to sea for a kilometre and of course when we turned the can, we turned in to a 30 knot southerly and four-and-a-half metre swells,” Manson said.
For the uninitiated conditions would be downright treacherous, but even for a talented crew it made life tough.
Manson said during change-overs he needed to navigate the boat between his crew that were waiting in the water with little visibility, while controlling the roll of the boat through the frigid waves.
The tough going took its toll.
“It’s incredibly difficult when you’ve got the four rowers in the water and you’re trying to pass between them,” he said.
“We lost Will [Dickinson] to a bit of dehydration, exhaustion and even a touch of hypothermia.”
However, after a strong finish on the final leg in Eden on Saturday, Manson said he and the team felt “absolute euphoria” to complete the race.
“They were so pleased to finish the event and spirits were extremely high to say the least,” he said.
“We’re all proud to have achieved this for each other.”
As members of two clubs, the tough times forged new mateships and camaraderie in the boat.
“We are brothers now, particularly after the hard times, we have a very strong affiliation with Tathra and we always help each other out,” Manson said.
“I made a point of getting all eight guys in the boat for the finish line, so we all got to share that moment.”
Conditions were wildly varied, big swells for day one, while three legs were forced inland on to flat water in the Moruya River and Narooma’s Wagonga Inlet.
“The real contrast of conditions was testing, but it’s all excellent in the end, the overall picture,” Manson said.
“The blisters will heal, but you’ll always keep the memories and that’s what you go away with.”
There is now a bit of downtime for the team, but they’ll return to normal duties as lifesavers on Far South Coast beaches.
Manson said they are lifesavers first and foremost as well as sharing a strong love of the beach and surf.
Early indications are the team will come together again to contest the 2018 George Bass.
But as for Manson being at the helm, he said he would have to ask the wife first.
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