By midshipman Vada Gock
Saturday was much unlike regattas past. A rare combination of recent extreme weather – searing heat, no rainfall and smoke blanketing the waters – created near perfect conditions for the weed-tentacled lake monster to resurface, after centuries in hiding.
It could be seen from ashore, its curling and winding weed-like tentacles, rising and falling on the water’s surface.
The Komodo paddlers knew the challenge that day would be greater.
The paddlers gathered, heads and hearts in, to hear the final words of Coach Kim, “Now remember, the Big Four. Today is about power and drive. Fast return. Watch the strokes… Try not to lose your paddle. And conquer that f*n lake monster” (verbatim).
The boats took to the water, armed with a score of paddles and the beat of a dragon drum (known to disarm the creature, in folklore), to begin circling the creature (for about 2km) and surveying the battle zone. But, before not long, the paddlers felt the tug of tentacles, only to look down* and see dark, slippery weeds winding around their blades. (*They didn’t actually look down, they kept their eyes on the strokes).
The boats decided the change strategy, opting for speed over distance, carving a path through the lake’s center (for about 200m). The creature made the water both impenetrable and inescapable; it created both pull and resistance, making it first difficult to drive the paddle, and then, once submerged, sucking the paddle down into a vacuum.
In this moment, for the first time, Coach Kim’s obscure training idiom began to make sense – “move the boat, not the water”.
Komodo showed strength and ferocity like never before.
The sweeps (Ads, Em and Silky), who faced unseasonable navigational challenges, reacted quickly and strategically, and weaved the boats safely and swiftly to shore.
It was a mighty induction for our two new paddlers, Jen Ahern and Vicki Gardner, who picked up the gauntlet, paddled hard and consistently, and made valued contributions to their boats.
Against the odds, no paddles (or paddlers) were lost to the dark and swirling tentacles of lake Burley. Komodo conquered the creature, coming out on top, bringing all boats into Final A and the women’s 200m boat bringing home gold.