MDIA2003_18 MDIA2003Profile MDIA2003Wed1.00 Sport

Ellie’s Short Row to Success

Phoebe Anderson z5116842 and Olivia Seller z5115661


Ellie’s Short Row to Success

When you first meet Ellie Larnach, you may think she’s your typical twenty-year-old student; hitting the books and going out with her friends. Although partly true, Ellie is a determined athlete who has achieved a successful breakthrough in surfboat rowing, pushing her team to the finish line through some turbulent waters.

Ellie grew up in a family of water sports champions. “I know what it’s all about… I know that you get smashed and you get ruined,” said Ellie. With her family winning gold in the Australian Surf Life Saving Titles and being heavily involved in Surf Rescue, The North Bondi Surf community was like her second home

With some big shoes to fill, it wasn’t until the age of nineteen when Ellie found her calling. “I’ve never rowed in my life before…I’ve just grown up with it…I never thought that I would ever do it or be able to do it,” said Ellie.

Surf Boat Rowing is a rigorous sport that involves the navigation of powerful surf boats against strong waters. The sport involves a strict training regime that is harsh on the body and demands a lot of sacrifices. These are the sacrifices that Ellie is willing to make in order to get her team to the Australian Titles in Perth. “It’s hard. I go to sleep very early at night and I don’t really go out anymore, I don’t really drink alcohol. Sometimes I have to be up at 4:30 am,” she says.

Figure 1 Ellie Larnach and team at competition. Photo by Phoebe Anderson. 

Whilst Ellie sits in the empty coffee shop holding her tea that has now been forgotten, her passion is evident as she attests to the unique set of challenges that may arise in day-to-day training and competitions.

With treacherous weather conditions, the sport is touch and go, with just last weekend while competing at the State Titles, Ellie recounts two girls having to be jet skied rescued when their boat capsized. “We nose-dived and all fell out, the boat rolled right in the impact zone. Two of the girls came up under the boat, one of them had a panic attack and the other had to be jet skied in,” said Ellie.

Figure 2 Ellie Larnach and team at competition. Photo by Phoebe Anderson.

Facing not only the physical strain but the underlying reservations of those closest to her, the sport is defiantly not for the faint-hearted. Ellie admits that her father had particular reservations, going as far to drop them, as their original sweeper and boat captain, with the fear of the crew’s inexperience not being good enough to compete in the current season.

“My dad being the boat captain wasn’t sure if we could be ready to compete this season, wasn’t sure about us going to the state titles or the Australian because if you aren’t very good it can be really dangerous and look bad for the club,” she says.

The crew’s challenges have not stopped there, with the sport being largely male-dominated the number of women competitors is extremely low. “There is such a shortage of female rowers… we couldn’t find anyone,” Ellie said.

It’s about time that the Australian sports landscape had a shake-up, and crew’s like Ellie’s are certainly testing the waters. Ellie recounts just last weekend when competing at the State Titles that the shore break was over 6 foot, giving the officials reason enough to cancel the women’s under twenty-three’s and under nineteen’s crew events but not the men’s. Ellie isn’t afraid to voice her ill-consent for the gap between men and women in the sport: “It’s just a bit like, really?”

With the season quickly coming to an end, Ellie and her team are determined to prove them wrong, as they prepare themselves for the Australian Titles in Perth. “If you’re not good enough and you don’t think you have a good chance of winning then you’re not going to go,” Ellie said.

Surfboat rowing, like many sports, however, does not come without its risks. “I think to myself during the race, ‘Why do I do this?’ Like I actually don’t why I do this. This is horrible,” said Ellie.

Despite the inherent risks of ocean conditions, Ellie and her crew understand this to be all part of the sport and encourage more woman to take it up. “Early in the season we dropped a girl because she was a bit like scared of the waves and we could not find anyone,” she says.

Figure 3 Ellie Larnach and team at competition. Photo by Phoebe Anderson.

Ellie notes this as the main motivator for herself and her team when preparing for upcoming events, “We try not to be fearful of big waves, you just have to be excited about it. [To] be ready for it,” she says.

After a turbulent start to the sport in terms of unexpected obstacles, Ellie is unapologetic for testing the waters and paving the way for other women to be recognised for their sporting achievements. Not letting anyone stand between her and the surf.

Ellie has no regrets about her late start to rowing, insisting that the sport came to her at the right time in her life. So when asking Ellie where she would be if she hadn’t found her calling; she admits that she would probably be a fish out of the water: “Just working and studying, probably very pale, a lot less fit. But still not bad, life without rowing wouldn’t be bad – just not as good”.

Audio Package: 

0 – 20sec’: A few days ago, my colleague and I sat down with Ellie Larnach, a 20-year-old taking on surf boat rowing like a pro. With her team on their way towards the Australian Titles in April this year. Ellie gives us at the Beast Magazine the exclusive and behind the scenes look at the turbulent sport that is surf boat rowing. Keep listening to hear the highlights of that interview.

What was your previous experience/impression of the sport?

20 – 33sec’: I’ve never rowed in my life before, but my dad has been the captain of North Bondi (club) for the past 10 years and I’ve just grown up with it. So I knew all about it but I never thought I would do it or be able to do it.

Were you intimidated coming into this with no experience, because that sounds very daunting?

37 – 41sec’: I know you get smashed and ruined…

Were you scared about the fitness?

42- 53sec’: I’m scared before every race cause I know what it feels like at the end. It’s just that during the race I think to myself ‘why do I do this?’ like I actually don’t know why I do this. This is like horrible.

54 – 1’04: We train seriously and we want to win. Because we train hard we want it to be worth it. But we aren’t upset if we lose.

1’05 – 1’25: We got absolutely smashed by a wave. We were winning the race and we missed the wave before it so we took a wave a bit short. And it was a big one. We nosed dived and we all fell out, the boat rolled right in the impact zone. Two of them came up under the boat and one of them had a panic attack, one of them had to be jet skied in.

Is it really worth it?

1’27-1’34: No I like it. I feel like it’s a real test to be able to get really smashed and be ready for the next race.

Have you guys had to overcome any adversities?

1’37 – 1’50: Yeah, early on in the season we dropped a girl because she was a bit scared of the waves. And we could not find anyone…there is such a shortage of female rowers our age in the eastern suburbs not even just Bondi and we couldn’t find anyone.

Are there a lot of opportunities for women in the sport?

1’56- 2’17: It is a male-dominated sport because it’s so dangerous and they’re like: “oh, only the men can handle it. But like.” But like yesterday was the State Titles and it was just massive, the short break was like 6-foot so they cancelled the woman under twenty-three crews and the female under nineteen races but not the men’s. It’s just a bit like, really?

Do you currently study and if so how do you balance training with work and a social life?

2’24-2’31: Yeah I study Nutrition. It’s hard, I go to sleep very early at night and I don’t really go out anymore.

Where would you be now if you hadn’t taken up the sport?

2’35-2’45: Just working and studying, probably very pale, a lot less fit. But still not bad, life without rowing wouldn’t be bad- just not as good.