August 27 - September 2, 2023: Issue 596


24 hour row 2023 for mental health runs September 9-10: join in creating hope through action this spring

Peter Carter, Mel and Nathan Wellings

Sign up  to row or donate to teams or individuals at:

Runs 9-10, September 2023

The 24 hour row is now in its 6th year. Started by long time Avalon Beach Surf Lifesaving Club members Nathan and Mel Wellings back in 2018, initially, just one club wanted to make a difference after seeing too many lives lost to mental health struggles in our area

Each year the event has grown with more surf life saving clubs taking part. Last year 57 clubs, gyms, schools and teams around Australia made a difference! This year 63 clubs and gyms and groups have signed up, just 7 short of the 70 teams organisers are aiming to have participate in this year's event.

“We love this event because it brings so many communities together and shows solidarity and passion for a suicide free Australia.” - Nathan and Mel Wellings

Pittwater’s NSW Government Community Service Award recipient for 2021 was presented to the founders of the Gotcha4Life 24-Hour Row, Mel and Nathan Wellings. The mental health awareness initiative commenced at Avalon Beach Surf Club has grown into an Australia-wide event held annually on World Suicide Prevention Day. 

This year that will be held on Sunday September 10 2023, when rowers across Australia are completing the final leg 12 hours of the 24 hour row that commenced at midday on September 9.

The 10th of September each year aims to focus attention on the issue, reduces stigma and raises awareness among organisations, governments, and the public, giving a singular message that suicides are preventable.

Suicide is a major public health problem with far-reaching social, emotional and economic consequences. It is estimated that there are currently more than 700, 000 suicides per year worldwide, and we know that each suicide profoundly affects many more people. All those who have lost a loved one, a friend or family member to this illness are impacted for the rest of their lives.

Creating Hope Through Action” is the World Health Organisation's triennial theme for the World Suicide Prevention Day from 2021-2023. This theme serves as a powerful call to action and reminder that there is an alternative to suicide and that through our actions we can encourage hope and strengthen prevention.

By creating hope through action, we can signal to people experiencing suicidal thoughts that there is hope and that we care and want to support them. It also suggests that our actions, no matter how big or small, may provide hope to those who are struggling.

Lastly, it serves as a reminder that suicide prevention is a public health priority and urgent action is required to make sure suicide mortality rates are reduced. 

Creating Hope through Action is definitely what the 24 Hour Row is about. It's pretty easy to get involved - you can do this in 3 steps:

Step 1: Register - Register your team/club to row and this will create your team fundraising profile.

Step 2: Recruit - Recruit your rowers and get them to create their own individual fundraising profiles within your team/club.

Step 3: Fundraise - Ask your friends, family and colleagues to donate to your club or individual fundraising page. Let them know that all donations go towards educational workshops and programs.

Of course, that midnight to dawn shift can be where the hard yards start. Your body is used to being at rest during this time. However, at Avalon Beach SLSC, where the rowing machines are booked solidly for the whole 24 hours, and Peter Carter and Nathan Wellings taking the hard yards during those hours, they have some extra help being 'egged on' by younger members of the surf club.

Mel and Nathan Wellings along with fellow Avalon Beach SLSC Member Peter Carter share a few insights this Issue on what's happening this year.

How many clubs are involved this year?

Mel: 63 clubs so far, and it’s not just surf clubs, it’s gyms, football clubs and schools all around Australia.

What’s happening here at the initiating and founding club, Avalon Beach SLSC – and more importantly, who is taking on the midnight to dawn shift Pete Carter?

Peter: more than likely it will be us – Nathan and I usually do the graveyard shifts. We have set ourselves a little additional challenge this year, but we’ll leave that to see if it happens. 

How do you crash through that barrier that happens around 4am?

Peter: I’m a shift worker, so I already have some experience in doing that, and the entertainment from some of the younger members that come down here at that time of the night, or morning, tends to push you through (laughs). They tend to really ‘egg you on’ so to speak.

Some members of the champion 'a.m.-ers' cheer and rowers crew

What about you Nathan, you work during the day – how do you get through that barrier?

Nathan: as Peter says, it’s usually the rotation of people coming down to row or watch and support those rowing that helps keep us all moving towards the dawn and sunrise. So every hour or every half hour you have new people rocking up, so there’s always a new conversation, or someone to keep hydrated – all those things that help us work as a team to get it done. It does keep you awake and keep you going. 

Before you know it the sun is coming up, which we have a great view of here at the surf club, and then there’s new people coming in playing new music that amps everyone up, and we’re tuning in via the internet to what other rowers are doing at the other surf clubs and gyms. For the final morning to 12pm of the 24 hours we have people from tv coming in, along with great local supporters from sports clubs and local personalities – everyone wants to help cheer you on. 

It's more the 12 o’clock mark in the middle of the day that’s the struggle, when we’re finishing off.

Will there be a celebration down here at the club at 12 or the usual chaos of getting over the line?

Mel: it will just be the usual chaos, us all elated that we’ve completed the 24 hours of rowing. Gus will be here, he comes in for that final hour to cheer us on. We’re hoping Dr. Sophie Scamps manages to get back for the finish again, she is starting out among the first rowers at the beginning this year, and may, again, be doing another row at another local club. We’ve got some Manly players coming down as well, which will be fun.

The Sunday is always when everyone in the Avalon Beach SLSC comes together to cheer on those final rowers notching up those final metres. The 23 Hour Row brings everyone in the whole club together, from our young members through to our Life Members.

It’s really timely, the perfect time of the year to bring everyone back to the club ahead of the Volunteer Patrol Season and gives everyone a reset as we head into the Spring School Holidays and those back to the beach weekends.  The Patrol Season will commence this year on Saturday September 23, so it will be a good kickstart for members.

Is this the 6th year of the 24 Hour Row?

Mel: Yes, it is the 6th year, and it’s grown every year from that first row and one club doing this to 63 this year, and growing – the weekend of September 9-10 is when this year’s 24 Hour Row happens so there’s still time for people to sign up to be a part of this.

Nathan, you and your wife Mel came up with this idea for the 24 Hour Row to raise funds to support mental health initiatives in our community – is that core reason still as important to you 6 years on? 

Nathan: Absolutely, even more so. Even during the year, after the row is finished, the funds raised here go back into the community here. With the money raised through the event we can have programs at the surf club that the community can come and attend. For example, back in January and April we’ve had women’s and men’s events here from the money we raised. So this is not just one day or 24 hours during the year, this is the day when we raise the money and then six months down the track you reap the benefits as a community.

Does it hurt to row? Some of us wouldn’t last 5 minutes….

Nathan: No, it doesn’t hurt to row as you can go as hard or as easy as you want.  Some people have different mindsets and are trying to push out a big score in terms of kilometres rowed and see how far they can go – we know there are a lot of people doing an hour session. Some people are doing marathons, doing 42k in a row, others are doing a half hour and are joining in to be part of a team and one whole team. Everyone is different and everyone sets themselves a different challenge. Every surf club or gym o school will have a different way they are going to run their event; they might do hour slots or 15 minute slots. But they’re all in it together, and in it to row for 24 hours.

Mel, how do people help if they can’t row –  what is available for them to get involved or help out - and what about people that have problems with websites?

Mel: I’m more than happy to help anyone who needs assistance with signing up or to talk to anyone who wants to help out in some other way. They can contact me on my mobile – or by text. This is definitely an ‘all aboard’ event and anyone who wants to be part of the BIG team that everyone taking part in this year’s 24 Hour Row is, are more than welcome.

Contact Mel: 0414 228 097 – send a text if you cannot get through, Mel is a working mum.

If you need someone to talk to, please call:

  • Lifeline on 13 11 14
  • Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800
  • MensLine Australia on 1300 789 978
  • Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467
  • Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36
  • Headspace on 1800 650 890
  • QLife on 1800 184 527
2022 24 Hour Row finish - L to r: Surf Life Saving NSW CEO, Steve Pearce, Dr. Sophie Scamps, MP for Mackellar, Gus Worland Gotcha4Life Founder, Mel and Nathan Wellings - front; the Wellings girls and Sofia, an Italian student currently staying with the Wellings, who also rowed.