Outriggers welcome social and serious paddlers
IMAGINE paddling out on the ocean, watching whales and dolphins at play.
Or perhaps you'd prefer the exhilaration of the wind in your hair and the splash of the sea as you push yourself as part of a competitive team or as a single paddler.
Whatever your drive, and whatever your expertise, Northcliffe Outriggers wants you to join the club - borrowing the army adage of "no one gets left behind".
Karen Hamel has been a member for 21 years and is keen to see more new blood in the already 40-strong group of men and women ranging in age from 40 to 70-plus.
Karen began paddling in dragon boats but says once she tried outriggers she was hooked.
"I love being out on the ocean; it just captivated me," she said.
This year the club is inviting newcomers to give the sport a try on the first Saturday of each month.
Karen said beginners were kept in a six-person canoe under the guidance of an accredited coach in the Broadwater until they were proficient enough to handle the waves.
Some continue to just enjoy the social side, with paddles every Saturday usually including at least two competitive boats and one social group.
Those interested in competing can train 2-3 times a week at 5am or 5pm in season, with a variety of races from 8-42km on offer, including Northcliffe's annual 30-42km Gold Coast Cup from Greenmount to the Spit.
Club members also compete in interstate and overseas competitions, including Norfolk Island, Hawaii and San Francisco, starting under the Golden Gate Bridge and around Alcatraz.
But Karen said the 22km Sydney Harbour Challenge, which takes competitors from Manly Wharf, across the Heads and under the Sydney Harbour Bridge, past the Opera House and Luna Park, dodging ferries and yachts, was a favourite with competitors world-wide, attracting about 800 paddlers each year.
Northcliffe Outriggers comes under the auspices of the Australian Outrigger Canoe Racing Association, which has a $70 membership fee, but novices can have up to five trials before signing up.
"We're a very social group and we don't take ourselves too seriously, except when a race is coming up," Karen said.
They usually get together for breakfast after Saturday training and hold a barbecue about once a month, with many members also having their own single-person canoes so they can go out together whenever they wish. For fitness, Karen, in her 60s, said it was fantastic for all ages and, after all, how many other sports do you get to do sitting down?
To find out more, go to northcliffeocc.com.au, find them on Facebook or call Karen on 0449251080 or Matt on 0407 882 214.