For those who aren't sure

What is Surf Boat Racing?

Surf boat racing is an adrenaline based extreme sport.

The race starts with each five strong crew standing waist deep in the sea, holding their boat head on into the waves as they wait, like coiled springs, in anticipation of the starter’s whistle. As the whistle’s blown, each team jumps into their seats and battles their way through the surf, before lengthening their strokes to get to their buoy, 400 metres out to sea. With each synchronized long powerful stroke the buoys gets ever closer before the rowers turn hairpins around the ‘cans.’ After the turns, the teams shorten their strokes to get up speed, trying to seize a ride on green swell, then catching a wave and surfing into the shallows. Before they hit the sand, one or more rowers jump out of each boat to sprint up the beach to touch their flag ending their race.

Strength is important but ultimately plays second place to technique and timing. Each of the five positions in the boat plays their own individual role but must row as a highly trained cohesive team. More than anything else, surf boat competitions are won through skill and teamwork. Team training, both on the water and in the gym is essential.

PIHA 2946Rowing boats specifically designed to travel through surf have been used for thousands of years. From the ancient Greeks to the present day, boats with lines of rowers and a steersman, or sweep, at the back have battled their way through surf and across seas.

Surf boats were first developed in New South Wales, Australia and were used by the local Surf Life Saving Clubs as rescue boats.

The first surf boat race was held in Manly, NSW in 1908, using boats borrowed from ships in the harbour and the first purpose - built surf boat race was held at the Freshwater Surf Carnival in 1915. Improvements to the specifications and design of these first surf boats were made over the next couple of years but soon became recognisable as the design we see today. With the introduction of inflatable rescue boats and outboard motors, the days of the surf boat should perhaps have been numbered but due to the commitment and enthusiasm of the Australian SLSCs and its boating participants the sport has gone from strength to strength.

BIARITZ2008Surf boats are by no means new to the UK. Between 1900 and 1939, 20,000 surf boats were manufactured in Birkenhead for export. The boats were shipped to Ghana where, due to the lack of proper ports, they were used to transfer cargo from ships to the shore. These boats were built for ten rowers plus the steersman and were much larger than the ones used for racing today. The first modern surf boat arrived in the UK in 1965 and over the years this number has slowly risen. The UK League was started in 1999 and consisted of four Cornish Surf Life Saving crews. (Bude, Perranporth, Porthtowan, Portreath and Tolcarne.) The popularity of the sport has continued to increase and in the 2008 league, twenty five teams competed.