Murray Bridge Olympic medallist James McRae recently swapped in a regular row boat for surf boat rowing in a bid to raise funds for type one diabetes.
McRae was joined by a crew, which included his mate and rowing partner Alexander Belongoff and set off on a 200 kilometre odyssey down the Fitzroy River in central Queensland just before Christmas last year.
“I had been interested in giving surf boat rowing a try and my mate, who is from Rockhampton, said we should give it a go and we decided what better way to do it then to raise money for a cause,” McRae said.
“The difference between surf boat rowing and regular rowing is that the boat is wider and better able to handle the swells and open water, which is where we did a lot of our rowing.”
McRae said people close to him had type one diabetes, which acted as an incentive to raise funds for the cause.
“We came up with the slogan ‘paddle for the pancreas’ as our catchcry,” he said.
“It was a five day rowing event all up, which we kicked off on the Fitzroy River, around 60 kilometres down from Rockhampton.
“We rowed down the river and then out into the open ocean where we completed the rest of the journey before finishing up at the Surf Life Saving club at Yeppoon.
“During the trip we had overnight stays on Divided and Great Kreppel Island.”
McRae said the crew were lucky to avoid an unexpected run in with a crocodile, which can be found in the oceans in central Queensland.
“It was a tough journey but we were prepared for it,” McRae said.
“It was really hot, which we knew it would be. The climate in Queensland is just so different to what it’s like back home.
“The toughest part of the journey was definitely being out on the open ocean because we did experience some strong swells out on the boat.
“They were long days of rowing, but we were prepared for that and we knew what we would be in for, to an extent.
“It was a great experience and extremely rewarding.”
Funds for the cause where raised through a go fund me page, under ‘paddle for the pancreas.’
The group started their journey with a fundraising goal of $5000 and managed to secure around $6500 which will go towards JDRF Australia, whose work aims to improve the lives of people living with type one diabetes.