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Coolangatta Blues master the ocean with experience

The Coolangatta Blues in training - Col Buttenshaw, Graham Matthews, Albie Maxwell, Steve Mason, Greg Ryan and sweep Phil Hammond.
The Coolangatta Blues in training - Col Buttenshaw, Graham Matthews, Albie Maxwell, Steve Mason, Greg Ryan and sweep Phil Hammond.

WITH a combined age of about 250 years, the Coolangatta Surf Club masters rowing team hoped experience would count big-time at the Team Navy Australian Surf Rowers League national season launch.

They were up against more than 100 crews from surf life saving clubs across Queensland and the top crews from NSW and Victoria at Surfers Paradise on December 5.

The Coolangatta Blues team were competing in the "240s" section of the ASRL.

Unfortunately, they couldn't predict the wild weather and big seas which were responsible for cancellation of the event on the Saturday.

Rower Graham Matthews said while it was disappointing the Blues didn't get to compete, conditions were too dangerous.

"I love big seas but that's the way it goes," Matthews said.

"It was really rough and, after trying to go ahead, it was just too wild."

Their regular "sweep" was taking time out but was still handling rescue and training as the "technical officer".

Albie Maxwell, 82, is "the oldest active sweep in the world", according to his teammates.

He says a "sweep" coaches and guides the team.

"I've been rowing since 1951," Albie said. "And I've been sweeping since 1956.

"You've got to be able to read the surf because the rowers have got their eyes on the beach.

"You've got to have good balance and be strong.

"It's fantastic, the camaraderie.

"I give them a hand and make sure everything's on track."

Matthews said the team trained in the boat three times a week in the lead-up to the ASRL.

They'll now focus on the next race event, which will be at Tugun on January 16.


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