South Coast surf clubs gear up for 24-hour row challenge in aid of mental health

24-hour row ambassadors Mel Wellings and Georgie Rowe. Photo: Supplied
24-hour row ambassadors Mel Wellings and Georgie Rowe. Photo: Supplied

Members from the Mollymook, Pambula and Tathra surf lifesaving clubs will team up with more than 2,000 people later this month and take part in Gotcha4Life's annual 24-hour rowing challenge, in support of mental health.

After the success of the event, thanks to clubs such as Gerringong, over the past three years, the 2021 version, originally slated for August, has expanded despite the pandemic and extended lockdowns.

More than 40 locations from Queensland, NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australian surf lifesaving clubs and gyms have registered for the event that kicks off at midday (AEDST) Saturday, October 30 and runs until midday Sunday, October 31.

Rowing machines will be set up at each location and participants will take turns rowing for up to one hour each, keeping the machines going for the full 24 hour period.

Some of Australia's top athletes including Olympic rower Georgie Rowe are signed up to take part alongside well-known figures such as Paul Gallen and Hugh Jackman, and participants who have never been on a rowing machine in their lives.

Together they will work through the mental and physical challenge of rowing and will raise funds for Gotcha4Life which delivers programs to help improve the mental fitness of all Australians with the goal of bringing suicide rates to zero.

The event is the brainchild of one of the country's top surf boat coaches Nathan Wellings from Avalon Beach SLSC and his wife Mel who started the event in 2018 after a tragic spate of youth suicides in the Northern Beaches area.

"After such a tough year we're so happy that the 24-hour row is able to go ahead and can't believe how many additional clubs are locked in to participate this year," event founder Mel Wellings said.

"Mental fitness and the awareness of how to help friends and family is so important and we're glad that our little event is now able to help save lives nationwide.

"Our local community was struggling to come to terms with the loss of a number of our young people in 2018 and our team of surf boat rowers wanted to do something positive to help.

"We set up a couple of rowing machines at the club and rostered everyone to row for an hour each, over 24 hours.

"It was such a great event, with great support from all the community, not just our club members.

"We even had the local MP Rob Stokes jump on a machine and row for an hour with us. He didn't do too bad a time either."

This year the event has expanded again to include five Western Australian clubs for the first time.

"We expect there to be some healthy rivalry between clubs and states this year in both the fundraising side and the total distances that each can row in the 24-hour period," Wellings said.

All locations will be connected via Zoom and a live stream will be broadcast on the 24-hour row Facebook page for everyone to watch and support and hopefully to donate.

The beneficiary charity, Gotcha4Life takes action by delivering mental fitness programs that engage, educate and empower local communities.

They focus on early intervention and the power of prevention through connection.

Surf Lifesaving NSW continues its support of the expanded event assisting with promoting the event through its alliance with Gotcha4Life.

"We love the 24 Hour Row, now in its fourth year," Gotcha4Life founder Gus Worland said.

"It's a great opportunity for the community to come together, raise funds to build mental fitness and have fun along the way.

"Our programs are needed now more than ever, and funds raised will allow us to work with individuals and communities to reduce instances of poor mental health and build stronger connections."

Every $40 raised allows a participant to take part in a life saving Gotcha4Life mental fitness workshop.

The ripple effect of that one person being connected and supported could mean many more lives are saved.

The event is hoping to raise $200,000 over the 24-hour period.

Sign up for the Voice of Regional Australia

This story South Coast surf clubs gear up for 24-hour row challenge in aid of mental health first appeared on South Coast Register.