Black Pearls tough it out in Piha surf

Auckland City Harbour News - - SPORT - By JU­LIAN RAETHEL

If the thought of get­ting up at 5am dur­ing win­ter to train on the wa­ter makes you shud­der – spare a thought for the Piha Black Pearls.

The surf life­sav­ing crew are on their way to France in Septem­ber to com­pete in the Res­cue 2014 Life­sav­ing World Cham­pi­onships.

And while the of­fi­cial sea­son is fin­ished in New Zealand, the crew of six are just warm­ing up.

Crew mem­ber and stroke An­nelies Visser, 30, has been a life­guard since she was 15.

The French com­pe­ti­tion will be a trip down mem­ory lane for the Grey Lynn res­i­dent.

‘‘I used to work on the su­pery­achts in An­tibes. That was five years ago’’

Now she’s turn­ing her at­ten­tion to bat­tling the surf with her mates. The crew gather at Westhaven at 5.45am for train­ings and, if the surf is good, they will head to Piha on week­ends.

‘‘We def­i­nitely thrive on the big surf, that’s what makes it so ex­cit­ing for us,’’ Visser says. ‘‘We’ve had a cou­ple of slips but noth­ing ma­jor. In the big waves we wear hel­mets.’’

In­cluded in the crew is sweep Mark Bourneville. The for­mer rugby league hard man is fear­less when it comes to the waves, Visser says.

‘‘There’s no mess­ing around with him. He gives out a strong sense of con­fi­dence in the surf.’’

En­joy­ing a num­ber of wins in the 2013-2014 sea­son, the Black Pearls won the Piha Big Wave and Muri­wai Clas­sic, help­ing to crown them New Zealand Open Women’s Surf Boat Se­ries Cham­pi­ons.

To get to Europe they need a huge push for fund­ing, with the crew busy rais­ing money in their spare time.

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