Masters: no challenge too big

IMAGINE more than six hours of paddling through 6m swells across a 72km stretch of menacing water.

Imagine doing it with a crew of 12 paddlers all more than 50 years old.

That is the task that Bundaberg Masters world champion Christine Steele faced in September when she was part of the first Australian senior masters crew to contest Hawaii's Na Wahine O Ke Kai.

Her team, coached by Olympic swimmer Lisa Curry, finished third in the masters category and 28 out of 87 crews overall, a remarkable feat considering they were racing against competitors as young as their children.

“It was the most focused I have ever been before an event, for 12 months I had weighed up all the dangers and the fear of the unknown, but it was just excellent preparation from Lisa that made it happen,” she said.

Training for the gruelling race from Molokai Island to Waikiki Beach began more than a year ago, and included 10 canoe sessions a week with her husband.

Twelve weeks prior to the race Steele travelled to the Gold and Sunshine Coast to meet with the team under the tutelage of Curry.

Steele also frequented the gym and acquainted herself with the pool and the boxing ring.

“She was just an amazing coach, we had that much respect for her and what she has achieved we decided to call ourselves Team Curry,” Steele said.

The team was selected by Curry based on rankings in swimming, strength, paddling power, timing and changing technique and consisted of paddlers from as far away as Adelaide.

The team rotated in 45 minutes bursts during the six hour and 16 minute journey, placing amazing amounts of trust in each other's hands the whole way.

“You need to have that confidence in your team-mates for something like that, and we've all canoed together before,” she said.

The team self-funded a majority of their trip, but the passion for the sport and the confidence they returned with was worth the expense.

“I feel like I can get through anything now, it prepares you better for everyday life knowing you can conquer something like that.”

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