On a cool Sunday morning before day break, the women of Rowed to Nowhere meet for their weekly training session. Of the 33 members, a small faction amble around the Brisbane & GPS Boatshed to set up before the two-hour session begins.
The club name, a play on words, represents the hope that the women will reach their goals, but understanding the odds are against them. Creator of the club Suzanne Stark laughs, “We’ll still have a lot of fun along the way.”
What started as a small idea to work on her fitness and explore her love of being on the water has evolved into an all-female rowing team who train hard and enjoy a cup of coffee at Alberto’s afterwards. Rowing is “good for our brains, good for our bodies and good for our souls,” Suzanne said. Most of the women are in their 40s with differing fitness levels but they are all beginners to rowing and love learning the new skill together.
One goal the group has its eye on is the nine kilometre Head of the Yarra competition in Melbourne in late November. Suzanne honestly reveals, “We don’t think we are going to win or anything but if we complete it, we will be euphoric. It’s always good to have a goal to work towards and that’s what we’re doing. I’m hoping it will be a part of our life forever.”
The sky on this particular Sunday is clear blue and the water is calm; a perfect day for beginners. They are making incredible strides as a team, learning the basics of rowing and how to work together as one. Suzanne’s son Will helps the team as the coxswain, keeping them in time and gives advice while they are out on the water. Their coach Andrew McNicol comments that although the women are part of the Brisbane & GPS Club, they are actually a club within a club, “finding their own way and creating their own energy, and targeting Yarra as an outcome”. Andrew confides, “I’m very confident they’ll be able to do the distance in Melbourne. They’re probably not going to win but they’ll be more than capable to do the job.”
Above competing, rowing has become the perfect sanctuary for a gaggle of women struggling to strike balance when it comes to fun and fitness. Now they are stronger than ever, and although the group only planned to train until they reach the Yarra, most of the women have set personal goals to continue. Sophie Naughton loves catching up with her friends while trying something new, taking on the Yarra as her own personal goal but getting better and better with each row. Sangeeta Hunter joined the group to improve after a ski injury last year, finding a love for staying active while trying something new. She laughs, “Yeah, I love it. It’s addictive!”
When Suzanne first advertised the group she promised “fun, fitness and friendship” and she is positive that Rowed to Nowhere has achieved these three key goals. It is why her rowing mates keep coming back. After all, nothing can stop them now.
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