Black Pearls tough it out in Piha surf
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.