Tags: Bribie Island Outrigger Canoe Club. Groups. Canoeing. Queensland
Bribie Island Mahalo Outrigger Canoe Club member Raelene describes herself as a wife and mother who has been a nurse and a youth worker as who, for a time, was the coordinator of a drug and alcohol rehabilitation centre in the Northern Territory and she also told me that she has just begun a new chapter in her life as a proud Nana to three weeks old Billy Marsh. What is missing from the above description is that she is also a medal-winning dragon boat and outrigger canoe crew member and wife to John Marsh who features in this series back in 2017.
Featured Image(above): A late afternoon training session for the outrigger canoe paddlers
Raelene was born in the South Australian town of Tumby Bay and as one would expect with someone who grew up in a seaside town, she has been involved in water sports for most of her life. Raelene told me that she achieved her Bronze Medallion at the age of twelve and went swimming most days. ‘My dad was a member of the local yacht club and was a competitor in the yacht races,’ said Raelene. ‘I was given a Holdfast Trainer for my twelfth birthday and raced it every Sunday,’ she added.
After marrying John, Raelene became very actively involved in the sport of netball and, even though her husband was a dragon boat crew member, she did not begin her association with that part of John’s interests until they moved to Darwin. ‘I was eventually talked into trying out dragon boat racing and after giving it a go, I went on to compete at the national events in every state except Queensland and I ended up with fourteen medals,’ explained Raelene.
‘In 2003, I was in the Australian Masters Mixed Team that went to Poland and that was really special because it was the first time that an Australian dragon boat team had been allowed to wear the Olympic emblem on their shirts,’ she told me. Raelene said that in order to be competitive in the Poland event, they trained six days each week. Obviously, due to her level of commitment to the sport being recognised, Raelene was also chosen to be on the teams that competed in events in Canada and China but was unable to go due to personal circumstances at the time.
She told me that as well as being a keen paddler in the dragon boat events, she also took on the role of sweeper (the one who steers a dragon boat) in some of the men’s events and steered one of those teams to a gold medal. When first arriving in our beautiful part of the world, Raelene and John investigated the availability of dragon boat clubs but, due to there being none in close proximity and not wanting to commit to travelling for early morning or evening practice sessions, they concentrated on other activities until the Mahalo Club came to their attention.
Champion Mahalo paddlers Raelene Marsh (R) and Rose Innes with their medals
‘I was riding my bike along the waterfront when I spotted some people with an outrigger canoe and I had tried this a few times with some friends in Darwin,’ said Raelene. ‘One thing led to another and I ended up as a member of the club. That was back when there were only about twelve members and now there almost fifty,’ she said. I guess that Raelene’s involvement was the catalyst for John to become involved as well and now they are both competitive paddlers and John is also the coach.
From when she joined the club, Raelene has once again demonstrated her competitive spirit as part of a six-person team of paddlers who have won gold in events at the Gold Coast and Raby Bay as well as silver at a Noosa event. Raelene pointed out that as opposed to dragon boat races being held in reasonably calm waters, the outrigger canoe events are usually over a twelve-kilometre distance in open water and, although the rough water does take some getting used to, experienced paddlers don’t even flinch at the waves.
The Bribie Island Mahalo Outrigger Canoe Club is on the water in the mornings and evenings on most days and their weekly club day is on Sundays. They operate from their premises next to Bribie VMR and hold a club day every Sunday from 9 am. Anyone who would like to try their hand at outrigger canoeing is welcome to attend on the Sunday and for more information, those interested can call Mahalo President CC Wilson on 0418 450701.