Falls Creek Regatta aka Best Weekend Ever

When I lived back in Canberra, there was always one regatta that I loved the most – That was the Flowing Festival regatta held in Jindabyne, New South Wales. It was a ski town in the mountains with the most pristine water to paddle in, and the atmosphere was amazing too; markets and carnival rides all lined up along the shoreline, with music blaring from the start line and a great festival feel about it. Each of the dragon heads used on the boats had different colours and different faces – some with jewels, some with ribbons, and the boats were nicknamed “bathtubs” as they were so old, and as a drummer I had to sit on the nose of the boat without a chair. It was the best weekend away with my team mates, and it was my absolute favourite regatta.

Moving to Melbourne I knew I’d miss that regatta the most, but I definitely still travel around a lot with the team. However I was super excited when The Falls Creek regatta was announced because it was incredibly similar to Jindabyne. Falls Creek, a little ski town, up in the mountains, with pristine waters and a good 5 hour drive away from Melbourne requiring an overnight stay – meaning a great opportunity to bond with my coach and team mates.

My boyfriend, Reece, and I drove down to Falls Creek on Friday night after work, dodging wombats, and winding around the mountain roads after our GPS took us on a delightful detour out to Sunbury. Luckily, we were both amused by this and laughed about how we a) ended up in Sunbury, b) ended up on a rollercoaster of a country road (literally. Steepest descent ever!) and c) trekked along dirt roads before d) driving down the shadiest looking road ever and finding our accommodation at Falls Creek around 11pm.

Reece and I bunked down with in the boys cabin with Darren, Tim, Armin and John and we were delighted by the abundance of hot tubs and saunas within our accommodation. We set out for the regatta early the next morning and drove down to the race course, which reminded me so much of Jindabyne. That made me so happy! Beautiful mountain scenery, crystal blue water, clear skies …. Yup, being in the mountains was gorgeous enough, let alone being able to paddle my first regatta in such great water.

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Look at this view! And this water! It’s got nothing on the Yarra River!

Yes, you heard right folks …. I just paddled my very first regatta EVER in the 6 years of me doing this sport! I drummed two crews, the opens and the women’s and paddled in the mixed which was action packed.

My first race paddling, I shared with a lovely girl from Yarra River Dragons, Jordie, who had kindly filled in some seats on our team for us. For Jordie and I it was our first regatta paddling, and indeed our first race EVER and what should happen? Another boat runs into the side of us! I’m not even kidding … I’m doing my thang, paddlin’ my little heart out and in my peripheral vision I see this dragon head getting closer to me and I begin to think “Oh they’re gaining on us”, but then this dragon head gets a little bit closer, and then TOO close and before I know it, it’s hit the side of the boat I’m paddling on. Jordie and I have our paddles in the air, Darren (who was steering) was trying to push the other boat away from us, and we could feel the boat do this LURCH which only happens when you’re about to capsize … I remember thinking “That’d be right! My first race paddling and we capsize!” but we all somehow managed to hold on and finish the race in our lane and without any injuries. See? DRAMA. And it wasn’t even a 2km race!

Our opens crew missed out on making the finals, but they had some wicked competition, and the team we took down was only a small one. Yarra River Dragons were again out in force and looking fiiiiiiine on the water. They’re going to be HOT at Nationals this year, I can tell.

Our Women’s crew … Now this was awesome. We called ourselves the Flaming Storm because we were 1/2 boat Melbourne Flames and 1/2 Southern Storm paddlers.  Despite the fact that we had never paddled together before, and indeed never met each other before being put into a boat together,  we raced fast and hard and ended up walking away with a second place. Second to, you guessed it, Yarra River Dragons. So a pretty damn good effort!

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2nd place! Winners are grinners!

Look at that beautiful trophy!  And look at this new group of friends!

So after we wrapped up the regatta it was time for the after party. Y’all like party stories, right? Well, we started off by having a few drinks in the hot tubs and reminiscing on other regattas and Nationals and afterparties. Again, I bunked down with the boys (I had to be the girl that broke up the sausage fest in the hot tub. The “Chickie Buffer” if you please) and after our delightful hot tub and drinks, we got ready for dinner.

We had a team dinner at a little Italian joint up in the mountains which was amazing – I had to try hard not to eat everything everything that wasn’t nailed down. The pizza smelled amazing but I went for pasta instead. After cheers’ing to a great regatta and having some food, we met up with Yarra River Dragons and played some soccer, before moving on to playing some Bocce.

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Playing Bocce with rivals and friends, Yarra River Dragons. What a night!

After chilling out in the evening light, we decided to move back to the accommodation for some more fun. Everyone came down to our bunk, and we decided to crack out some drinks and some cards and have ourselves a Melbourne Flames party!

To start with, I want to say that our coach is a VERY bad influence on me when it comes to drinking vodka (3 shots in a row, Serge! Na Zdorovie!) and secondly I want to say that he is also very good at playing cards. I, on the other hand …. DISMAL. I can’t remember the name of the game we were playing, but the only object of the game was NOT to lose, and you bet your ass I lost ever time lol. We had a great time playing several rounds of this mystery game, which Reece ended up winning every time he played. (that’s how games usually work in our house! Reece wins, I lose!)

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This picture accurately represents what it is like to play this game.

So after our evening wrapped up we all rolled into bed. You really can’t argue with that for an after party … Drinks, hot tubs, games and cards. 10 out of 10: Would recommend.

You can check out some of the photos I took at Falls Creek on the Melbourne Flames Instagram page, and indeed other pictures I take! I am, afterall, part of their social media team!

Next thing coming up? State team trials. Then the Chinese New Year Regatta in Footscray! Two very exciting things coming up. I’ll keep you posted on how everything pans out.

Until then, this little drummer girl has one hell of a hangover to nurse! #weak

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Round 1: Trials

Trials are this weekend!

I can hardly believe it. It seems like ages ago that I threw my name in the ring to be a drummer for the Aus team and now round one is in 5 days and the process is beginning all over again.

Am I nervous? Yes and no. Not really at this stage, because these aren’t really my trials. Mine are mostly on water. Like I said, perhaps I’ll have to have a weigh in this weekend, and if I do, I’m totally fine with that. Despite the fact that I squeezed in some sneaky nachos at least twice in the last week, my weigh is actually on track since I’ve been nourishing my body with lots of salads and veggie patties, so I’m not stressing out about that at all which is super nice!

My trials are for my voice, my balance, my rhythm and my authority – all of which I’ve been practicing on weekends. Clad in my snow gear. Because MELBOURNE.

Training yesterday was good actually. I worked alongside one of the other drummers that is trying out for China as well and I’m learning some of the things that she does that I hadn’t considered doing (it is learning right? I don’t want to be stealing any one’s tactics here!) but she’s really great with projecting her voice so I’ve been trying to mimic her and a friend of mine said I was louder yesterday so that seems to be working. A few more weekends of that should be really helpful. Then it’s just working more on my calls. And really it’s all about key words – keeping the calls short, loud and snappy. If you’re yelling into the wind, there’s no point telling a little story to the paddlers because a) they’re too exhausted to care and b) they’re probably not going to be able to hear you anyway.

A couple of years ago I worded with a sweep who was a super lovely guy, but loved to tell stories on the back of the boat and really articulate them using his hands too and I could see paddlers rolling their eyes and I’d have to try and not laugh because I’m  at the front of the boat with 21 pairs of eyes on me so POKER FACE right, so I’d have to keep beating a drum, wondering when he was going to get to the point and when I could get a word in so I could tell my peeps to use their legs and stretch their arms out a bit more. Lovely guy though. And he did twerk on the way to the start line in Canada which was entertaining.

So anyway, that’s why we use snappy calls. That, and because things can change in an instant, especially in a 2km race – when you’re going around corners and other boats are next to you and there’s clashing paddles, you don’t even have time for words that have more than one syllable in them. I think I still need to work on getting my calls shorter. I still catch myself saying things like “Keep reaching it out guys” when a simple “more reach” would suffice really. So I need to sit down and brain storm some calls; do some homework and see how I go.

We also had the drums out this weekend, and it was cool because at one stage the other drummer and I had our rhythms completely synced up and both of our crews were running at the same rate, and that was thrilling. Having two crews running next to each other, with their blades thumping the water at the exact same time and hearing the beat of the drum echo around the river on a Sunday morning is just amazing. It totally gave me bubbles of excitement for next weekend.

What else … I’ve been hunting down wobble boards too and I think I’ve found one. Pay day is this week (*throws confetti*) so I’ll probably order one and start getting on that a few times a week.

Ironically, I have better balance on the water that off the water. I’m the sort of person who literally trips over air because I’m so clumsy. I tripped on my pyjama pants the other day and they’re not even that long … It takes some serious talent to do that, folks. And I possess that talent. Unstoppable on the boat, extremely questionable on the land.

Alrighty, until next week guys … Wish me luck!

Rach xx