Another punishing George Bass Surf Marathon was run and won, with more than 15 crews combatting big seas and strong southerly swells in the 190km race from Batemans Bay to Eden.
Run over seven days (1-7 January 2023), the George Bass Surf Marathon race director Andrew Holt said that the Bass is the toughest event on any rowing calendar anywhere in the world.
“Crews of both men and women in surf boats and individuals on surf and ocean skis compete over seven gruelling days in every element that the ocean can throw at them,” said Holt.
The race is usually held every two years, however Covid disrupted schedules and it has been three years since the event was held. In dramatic style, the last race in 2020 was cancelled after only two days when raging bushfires descended on the state’s south coast and competitors turned their hand to supporting local clubs to setup as evacuation centres and refuges for the community.
“With missed starts due to bushfire and COVID-19, it’s been five years since we managed to complete a Bass,” said Holt.
A strong tradition among far south coast clubs, this year’s event attracted crews from North Steyne and North Cronulla in Sydney, as well as the perennial favorites in the Men’s division from Bulli SLSC.
The Far South Coast Branch threw its weight behind the event, coordinating logistics and ensuring water safety provisions were met, with volunteers enduring long days at sea on jetskis and IRBs to keep competitors safe.
Heavy conditions and big seas on some days saw the race route amended in some cases and by day 5 and 6, some competitors were describing the conditions as the worst they have ever rowed in.
It’s not billed as the toughest, longest surf boat race in the world for nothing, with competitors intent on finishing the race, despite the conditions. The standout crew for the 2023 Bass was the Moruya Vikings, who toughed it out to claim the Open Male category in a master display of athleticism and skill. Another Open Male Moruya SLSC crew finished second to give the club the gold and silver.
Another local crew from Tathra SLSC not only won the Male Veteran Boat category, but was the second-fastest surfboat overall.
North Cronulla SLSC won the Male Super Vet, North Steyne the Female Super Vet, Tathra the Female Vet and Portsea won the Open Female division.
In the ski division, Nathan Haythorpe won the Male spec ski and Mark Murray the Ocean ski. A gutsy effort from the race’s two female paddlers saw Kym O’Halloran win the Female Ski and Mel Meaker from Tathra finished second.
Organisers are hoping the event in two years’ time will be the biggest Bass ever, as the race celebrates its 50th anniversary.
Wednesday 11 January 2023