Out of the saddle and into the surf
CONQUERING the Coolangatta Gold’s 10.5km ski, 2km swim, 5km board and 5.5km run isn’t the worry for Samantha Hemsley. It is the conditions which place doubt in the 32-year-old’s mind.
A noted cyclist who has also enjoyed success in triathlon, Sammy mothballed the bike six months ago to concentrate on the iconic surf event.
Having dabbled in surf sports over the past five years, taking part in the Gold last year as part of a team inspired her decision to tackle the event solo.
"Coolangatta Gold is one of those things everyone talks about in the surf fraternity," Sammy said.
"The longer distance is more my style having come form the multisport and triathlon background.
"The distance isn’t concerning me. You just don’t know what the conditions will be like on the day.
"At Mooloolaba you only have that one break to get through. At Coolangatta there could be two or three. It’s hard to replicate the conditions."
While missing the bike, Sammy has remained disciplined in surf training.
Being her first attempt she must initially tackle the short course (the long course features a 23km ski, 2.1km run, 3.5km swim, 6.1km board and a 7.1km run), and she has embraced going outside her comfort zone.
"Surf life saving is something people start when they’re young," she said.
"For me that didn’t happen so I find it challenging but I’m always looking for a challenge so this is the perfect one for me."
Sam was originally a successful outrigger paddler, and moved to Canberra from Townsville. She was part of a national talent identification squad for flat-water kayaking in the lead-up to the London Olympics and was based on the Sunshine Coast in 2009, before returning to Canberra six months later.
That was when she took up road riding, and transferred from the kayaking squad to the Australian Sports Commission cycling program.
The lure of the Coast saw her return, and in the past five years she has trained ad hoc at Mooloolaba Surf Club.
Yet it has been training with the likes of Matt Stewart, Brett Williams, Jared Pailthorpe and Quentin Poulsen which has ignited a new competitive passion.
"The people I train with are the biggest buzz. We have a really good group training for the Gold. That’s what gets me up in the morning," Sammy said.
"Coming into the sport so late so I was definitely on the back foot. I didn't have the technical skills.
"Things like reading the waves and knowing the surf and being able to control your craft in rough conditions.
"I have never felt so nervous on a start line than I do in surf carnivals."
After facing the Gold on October 7 Sammy will return to the bike and prepare for the gruelling Buderim 9.
Sammy Hemsley is preparing for the Coolangatta Gold that will be staged on October 7. Top left, completing the Buderim 9 last year.