Woopi Barracudas peaking at the right time
WATER SPORTS: Being an elite athlete is no easy task.
You must travel a long, hard road to become an 'overnight success'.
The Woolgoolga Surf Life Saving Club is currently harvesting the fruits of its journey as the club's surf boat crews find themselves in the midst of a purple patch.
The open men's team, nicknamed the Woopi Barracudas, have been in intensive training under the watchful eye of coach Rob Burgess for months, which culminated in a fourth-place finish in the final round of the Ocean Thunder series in Sydney last weekend.
"We're over the moon, it's just fantastic,” Burgess said.
"We're a new crew and a lot of the other crews have been together five years plus.
"It's their breakthrough result, they've been in training for a long time in preparation for that performance.”
The Ocean Thunder series pits the best 24 surf boat teams in men's and women's against each other at Dee Why Beach.
"So they've basically come fourth in a national final,” Burgess said.
The men's squad consists of captain Neil Baker, Zade Goodenough, Geyne Feeney, Dan Stuart, Damien McSkimming and Byron Casey.
In an incredible display of toughness, Feeney broke his nose during the quarter final but still rowed in the semi and final.
For Burgess, the satisfaction of having his masterplan come to life was written all over his face.
"They had a month off after the Australian titles last year to recharge and then began training really hard in September.
"They raced well in the World Championships in November but weren't quite there.
"But the program we had was aiming for them to peak last Saturday and it hit the mark.”
Burgess, himself a former national champion, said it was great to mentor such a hungry group.
"Their best quality is they're a really tight team and they do everything I ask of them.
"The main goal now is the Australian titles at the Gold Coast on April 9.
"We're on track. This last result has given the boys great confidence.
"It's hard to compete with city crews because they have Olympic rowers, but the Barracuda team spirit is going to be a big factor.”
To prepare for the Australian titles the team will race in high-class lead-up events including the Australian Surf Rowers League Open at Elouera Beach.
It's not just the Woopi Barracudas who have had a great run of results, with the open women's squad, nicknamed the Sweet Tarts, also performing strongly during Ocean Thunder.
On top of this the club secured three gold and a bronze medal at the NSW Country Championships in Cudgen last weekend.
"We raced in four divisions and won four medals,” boat captain Trevor Clark said.
"We've been very successful at the Country Championships, so it was nice to be up there again.
"It's a significant achievement considering half of our team were down in Sydney and the other half were at the top of the state.”