Out of the sad­dle and into the surf

Multisport Mecca - - News -

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.

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