November 7 - 13, 2021: Issue 517


2021 24 Hour Row For Mental Fitness Raises The Roof In Letting All Know 'You're Not Alone - Wherever And Whenever'!

At the Avalon Beach SLSC clubhouse after the finish of this year's 24Hour Row on Sunday. Photo: Michael Mannington, Community Photography

In a year where the focus on mental fitness is more important than ever, event organisers were excited to see the enthusiasm from so many clubs to participate and help raise money for such an important cause.

After the success of the Avalon Beach 24 Hour Row over the past three years, the event expanded in 2021 despite the pandemic and extended lockdowns. Over 40 locations from Queensland, NSW, Victoria, South Australia and Western Australian Surf Life Saving Clubs and gyms registered for the event that kicked off at midday Saturday 30th of October and ran until midday Sunday 31st.

Rowing machines were set up at each location and participants took 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 were 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.

At Avalon Beach SLSC rugby union legend Sharni Williams took the last hour on the Sunday, Gus Worland cheering her on.

Sharni going for broke - Gus watching the k's clock up. Photo: Michael Mannington, Community Photography

Together they all worked 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 our area.

“After such a tough year we’re so happy that the 24 Hour Row was able to go ahead and can’t believe how many additional clubs were locked in to participate this year,” said 24 Hour Row founder Mel Wellings.

“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 nation-wide,” she said.

“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,” said Mel Wellings.

Logan Wellings. Photo: Michael Mannington, Community Photography

Quinn Wellings. Photo: Michael Mannington, Community Photography

Photo: Michael Mannington, Community Photography

This year the event 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,” said Mel.

All locations were connected via Zoom and a livestream was 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.

Regan Dale at Avalon surf club, finishes his row. Photo: Michael Mannington, Community Photography

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

“We love the 24 Hour Row, now in its fourth year,” said Gus Worland, Gotcha4Life’s Founder. “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.” Mr. Worland said.

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 was hoping to raise more than last year's total of over $130,000 over the 24 hour period and succeeded as, while going to press, a check of the total on the 24 Hour Row website shows $152, 303 was raised. 

When speaking to Nathan and Mel Wellings prior to this year's 24 Hour Row for Mental fitness Mel explained ''Gotcha4Life have pledged that they will be the funds raised into the whichever community you are raising money from. So if you’re raising funds from Manly or Avalon or Narrabeen, that money will go back into that community.''

''We want to remind everyone that you’re not alone, wherever and especially whenever – when you’re rowing at 2am in the morning, you have 3 other rowers beside you slogging it out as well. Now, there was going to be thousands beside you slogging it out, which you can see via the live feed. 

People can be feeling very alone at night time and so we’re rowing through the night to show you you are not alone.''

Mel Wellings, Gus Worland, Nathan Wellings. Photo: Michael Mannington, Community Photography

If you or anyone you know needs help please call:

  • Lifeline (24-hour Crisis Line): 131 114
  • Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800
  • MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978
  • Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467
  • Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636
  • Headspace on 1800 650 890
  • ReachOut at
  • QLife on 1800 184 527
  • Care Leavers Australasia Network (CLAN) on 1800 008 774