The first ocean outrigger club on the Sapphire Coast was launched on Sunday, January 16 with a newly refurbished and painted six-person outrigger, new team colours and a trailer to take the 13m canoe, thanks to sponsors in the Bega Valley.
While the club was excited to launch the new canoe, formally thank sponsors and show off the new team strip, it was also a bittersweet moment as members should have been heading to Norfolk Island to compete in their first race as a club, the NOC (Norfolk Ocean Challenge) the Rock.
Club members have been training intensively for the last six months for the 26km race around the island, 12km short course racing and 1km sprints, but on January 6 were told that due to COVID, the event would be cancelled.
President of the Sapphire Coast Outrigger Canoe Club Pete Bowery said they were "all gutted" after doing two to three hour paddling sessions every week in preparation.
It's exciting and it gets the adreneline going and you feel the power of the ocean.- Pete Bowery, president of the Sapphire Coast Outrigger Canoe Club
But now he is focused on encouraging more people to try out the sport and get a taste of paddling the waterways and ocean around the Sapphire Coast and plans to take the canoe to different locations from Bermagui to Eden.
Crew member and sponsorship organiser, Bev Steer said without the major sponsorship from Bega Valley Realty and additional sponsorship from MGM and All Signs and the help from Eagle Embroidery, all of Bega, the club wouldn't be at its current stage of development.
"They've been super generous and easy to work with and I'm excited to see how the club will develop from here," Bev said.
Pete said that the aim was to have boats - the club now has three - stationed along the coast, "so that we can paddle the whole Sapphire Coast". They are planning on keeping one at Mogareeka to entice paddlers from Bega to try the sport.
"It's a great sport; you get amongst the swell and the wind, each paddle is different. It's exciting and it gets the adrenaline going and you feel the power of the ocean," Pete said.
Pete and his wife Fran have been keen outrigger paddlers for some time and when they moved to Merimbula joined Merimbula Water Dragons dragon boating club. After four members purchased a second-hand outrigger, they decided to go through the process of affiliating with the Australian Outrigger Canoe Racing Association and when Pete completed his coaching course they formed the club.
On Sunday sponsors were invited to not only see the launch of the new boat but also to go out with the crew, something owners of Bega Valley Realty, Rob Flynn and Rob Schadel, were happy to do.
"We were approached and were looking for a local sporting group to sponsor and why do things in halves - we decided to be the major sponsor," Rob Flynn said.
Glenn and Kirsty Umbers from MGM had the job of sanding down, fibre glassing and repainting the boat, which took 34 hours of work, Glenn said.
At All Signs, it was one of the first jobs for Jarrod and Tanya Palmer who had only recently bought the business from Grant and Dawn Davis who had owned it for about 25 years.
"It was one of my first jobs; I saw it as a challenge, an unusual job," Jarrod said.
"It was difficult to get it in and under the shelter and then to do the artwork in time, between the showers," he added.
The Sapphire Coast Outrigger Canoe Club has come and try sessions on Sunday mornings from its Pambula River mouth base. Contact Pete on 0417 155 839 to find out more. It's open to anyone aged 10 and above.