The George Bass Surfboat Marathon was cut short in 2020 when bushfires impacted the South Coast, and last year’s event was cancelled due to COVID-19, so organisers are determined to see the race go ahead in January 2023.
Competitors are geared up to take part in the world’s longest and toughest surfboat race which will kick off on 1 January from Corrigan’s Beach in Batemans Bay.
While entry numbers are down by around 50 per cent on previous years, 17 boat crews and 17 individual surf ski competitors from around the country will hit the water for the gruelling seven-day event.
Race director Andrew Holt, who will not be competing for the first time since 1994, is looking forward to an action-packed event, free of fires, COVID-19 and medical emergencies.
“The field is a bit smaller this year. There’s not as many entries because I think people are still a bit wary of travelling and large gatherings,” he said.
“We’ve got a boat crew coming from Mullaloo in Western Australia, a ski paddler from Yeppoon in Far North Queensland and competitors from Victoria. There’s also a few from Sydney.”
Local crews from the Moruya, Broulee, Tathra and Pambula surf life saving clubs will also be vying for line honours.
For Andrew, 2023 is all about finishing the race.
“That’s my goal – to get it finished,” he said.
“The last full event was in 2018. In 2020 we got two legs in when the bushfire hit Cobargo. The race was stopped and everybody, including all the visiting surf clubs ended up helping with evacuations.
“Last year we had to make a call around September and we decided to cancel. It was lucky we did because there was a wave of COVID and many of our local competitors were sick.”
Andrew is also hoping there will be no injuries or medical emergencies this year, after his crew’s sweep suffered a heart attack during the 2018 event. He was revived by a Mollymook doctor who was also competing.
When it comes to competition, organisers are expecting some good racing, with some great lead-up events and previous winning teams taking part.
“There will be plenty of opportunities for spectators to cheer teams on at each finishing point,” Andrew said.
The race will finish up at Eden on 7 January, with a presentation and after-party at the Tathra Country Club.
The George Bass Surfboat Marathon covers 190 kilometres of coastline with men, women, veterans and juniors taking on the swell.
Andrew says you can never predict how the open water race will pan out.
“If you get a nor’-easterly tailwind, it’s a good day. If you get a southerly, it can be pretty gruelling.
“Some days are a lot of fun because you’re catching swells the whole way down. Other days, when you’re punching through the waves, can be pretty tough.
“I take my hat off to the ski paddlers because they’re on their own for two or three hours battling the elements.”
Teams have to keep warm, stay hydrated, and eat well to keep their energy levels up, as well as managing fatigue.
The marathon commenced in 1975 and the surf ski event was added in the 1990s, offering a unique experience for all competitors.
Over the years, entries have come from every state in Australia as well as Great Britain, Wales and New Zealand.
Spectators can find out where to catch the action at the George Bass Surfboat Marathon website.