Rowers compete in the 2017 New Zealand Rowing Championships, which were held on Lake Ruataniwha, Twizel in New Zealand. A small group of island rowers will head there next week (Courtesy Photo).

Rowers compete in the 2017 New Zealand Rowing Championships, which were held on Lake Ruataniwha, Twizel in New Zealand. A small group of island rowers will head there next week (Courtesy Photo).

Rowers headed to New Zealand for championships

More than 700 athletes will compete, including six rowers from the Burton Beach Rowing Club.

Six rowers from the Burton Beach Rowing Club (BBRC) are headed to New Zealand with their coach, Richard Parr, and a chaperone later this month to take part in that country’s 2019 Rowing Championships.

Held over five days in the isolated town of Twizel on Lake Ruataniwha, the event will feature more than 700 athletes who are some of the best rowers in the country. While the level of competition will be high, for BBRC, the trip will also be a chance to take in the incredible sights in a part of the world they have never explored.

“I said to our kids here in September — I was completely joking — ‘Oh, the New Zealand National Championships are during your winter break, and we should go,’” said Parr about how the trip came about.

But the idea resonated with the club, and Parr said that several parents of rowers managed to find affordable flights out of Vancouver.

Parr quickly made his own arrangements, and before long the trip came together. After they depart next week, the rowers will briefly train for the Championships out of the University of Otago. With that behind them, Parr said they will next spend several days exploring the forests, rivers and mountainous terrain of Arthur’s Pass National Park before they compete.

“Because it’s an island in the Pacific, the weather is entirely dependent on the wind,” he said, noting that at the beginning of February, the temperature climbed as high as 80 degrees in the north of the island, as tropical air gusted over the equator. This week, the forecast called for snow elsewhere as winds brought a burst of cold from Antartica. The wide extremes can make a nightmare out of packing.

“Some of [the rowers] have asked, ‘How do we pack if it can be anything?’ We’ll make it work,” said Parr.

Parr, who lived in New Zealand for 12 years, will introduce the island rowers to his contacts, including aspiring Olympic rowers and gold medalists such as Mahé Drysdale, an Olympic champion and five-time World champion in the single sculls, and Zoe McBride, a double world champion in the women’s lightweight single scull.

“She’s coming over for dinner with us. Stuff like that’s pretty cool,” he said.

For BBRC, the championships will be especially trying for the rowers because they are currently out of season and do not usually race in February under normal circumstances. But he said that he was happy that they would not pass up the opportunity to go.

“We’re excited about it, and we’re really excited about the people in New Zealand who are being super accommodating to us,” said Parr. “It’s going to be really cool.”

BBRC’s Kate Kelly agreed. For her, the trip is especially worthwhile, as two of the rowers in attendance are seniors and will be moving on soon.

“We have a pretty solid group of girls right now, and I think that it’s great we have the time to do this now,” she said. “This is just a good time for us to go.”

As for the hike, she said that Parr is the best to lead them, as she has never undertaken something like it before.

“I have actually never really been hiking,” she said. “I live in the Pacific Northwest, but I have never really gone. So it will definitely be a good experience.”

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