June 14 - 20, 2015: Issue 218

 Fiona Rae, Annabelle Chapman, Diane van Ooi and Karen Begg 
Palm Beach SLSC – Ladies Masters 

Left to right: Fi Rae,  Di van Ooi, Nugget Meares, Annabelle Chapman, and Karen Begg ( Nugget has been Team Manager since Perth – 8 years)  

Fi Rae, Annabelle Chapman, Di van Ooi, Karen Begg 
Palm Beach SLSC – Ladies Masters 

Four ladies who are one team and part of the Palm Beach SLSC Masters Team are all outstanding women in their chosen fields, top of their game elsewhere too. Although they won’t say so, this has come about through their positive individual attitudes which translates into a professionalism and dedication that produces results of the highest order and has attracted commissions and praise and landed them projects and works that parallels their results in surf life saving. We call them the Palmy Golds, but they prefer Palmy Masters, a division within this club that has one of the biggest Masters Teams on our Northern beaches. 

Since commencing working as a team, and being fortunate to learn from Palm Beach SLSC stalwart Nugget Meares, their Team Manager, these girls have gone from strength to strength. This evolvement is best told, as always, in their own words:
Annabelle Chapman 
You were in the first female intake of Palm Beach SLSC 30 years ago – what was that like? 
I was in my late twenties, a lot older than most of the Freshers whose average age is around 18. I already had a lot of friends through the surf club and was at a friends birthday party soon after the Extraordinary General Meeting that elected females and they suggested that I join. My husband of then was a First Grade Cricketer so I would spend every weekend finding friends to play with as he was playing cricket.  I’d spent all my youth down here at Palm Beach and so to join was natural and it was the best thing I’ve ever done.  
We were lucky, there was a group of very strong women that joined the year we began, and in some ways you had to pretty tough to be the first year of girls, and all of these are still very strong in the club and all trailblazers really. There are about six of us who are still involved.  
Where were you born and grow up Annabelle? 
I’m from Pymble, born in the late 1950’s (1957) – we used to come here for holidays.  I would watch the surf life savers and what they were doing. I would ride surf-o-planes as a kid and my grandparents had a little weekender at Newport. I learnt to surf at Newport, which is a pretty tough beach, so the surf has never really scared me. 
What stands out form your first decade at Palm Beach SLSC? 
I did my first year or two and then took time off as we lived in Queensland and I then had my children. I returned in the mid 1990’s when my son was a few months old. I kept swimming to keep fit and did my Patrols and Proficiencies. I’ve been swimming three or four times a week ever since. 
You have been a member of this team of four girls for quite a while now, Fi Rae, Di van Oon, Karen Begg and yourself – do you have a name for the team? 

Palmy Masters.  We have done dribs and drabs of competing together – I started in 2003, Di before that – I didn’t do a competition at all before the Australian Nationals in 2003.  
How did you come together as a team? 
We loved doing races on Sundays, when we would do the club races – and then we were chatting to Midget Farrelly around the Club who asked ‘do you want to learn how to row?’ and we thought that would be great fund. 
We gathered a few of us together, Karen and Di  and a couple of others, whoever could make it, and we started rowing. Then Fi, who did the Pacific Club races on Sundays joined in too. 
Fi: I used to do the Pacific Club Cup race on Sundays;  
Annabelle: I tried to talk her into joining the club and doing her Bronze and maybe starting surfboat rowing with us. 
Fi: I agreed to come and start surfboat rowing  
Annabelle: The White Horse Cup – it’s the name of the 10 am Sunday morning races at Palm Beach through the season.  
 In the early days of the Club it was sponsored by White Horse, whiskey distillers.

That’s pretty old – surfboats were originally associated with Johnny Walker and I think the White Horse whiskey branding was for yachts; a Pittwater Regatta Race in the 1930’s was part of this then they changed – that’s over a hundred years old in the surfboat case though, that’s how a lot of the clubs won their first boats – they can’t still sponsor it now? 
Annabelle: No, it’s just the name of it now, it stuck. During the season every Sunday there are races; there’s a surf swim, approx. 400m, a board paddle of one kilometre and a ski paddle of one and a half kilometres and a run and flags. Every couple of Sundays Di,  Karen and I would turn up to compete. 

And you are a working mum too? 
Yes, I have three children and I’m an architect. My daughters are both members as well now.  
How did you get into architecture? 
I always loved buildings and went into it straight after school. 
Do you like old or new buildings? 

I like both. Most of the work I do is dealing with old houses and making alterations and additions, making the most of what is there and setting them in their environments.
Fi Rae 
Where and when were you born? 
I was born in Melbourne in 1965. 
How did you end up in Sydney? 
I met a boy skiing in Perisher, which was Tim. I had met him when I was about 19 but it was five years later before we were a couple. I moved to Sydney when I was 24, had lined up a job thought I’d give it a go and se what happens – and I’m still here. 

( Fi also knows Ian Curlewis through skiing on Thredbo - the son of Adrian Curlewis being on of the early skiers at Thredbo)  

How did you become involved at Palm Beach SLSC? 

My husband Tim Gates was in the last lot of guys to go through before the year when women could become members. Women could join in 1985. 

I had been coming down here for around ten to fifteen years with Tim and I was informed by a Pacific Club member as Tim’s spouse it was easy for me to join the Pacific Club.   So I joined and thought I may as well do the Sunday morning races for the Pacific Club Cup – which is 12 races over the Season. Through doing these races I met Annabelle. 

The races were the first time I’d paddled a board and I would have been around 36 years old when I started this. I had previously done kayak paddling, but not in the surf. 
I grew up on Port Phillip and Western Port Bay in Melbourne – which is flat, or chop!, there’s no surf.
Then Annabelle roped me into rowing and I had to have my Bronze to row. So I walked next door to the Surf Club and joined, much to my husband’s horror. 
It has, like Annabelle, been one of the best things I’ve done in life. Doing my Bronze, finding a sport I had no idea I was any good at or even that I could do it, and something that has become a passion ever since, I love it. 

When did you first get in the water? 
My grandparents bought a house in the 1950’s at a place called Somers, which is on Western Port Bay down on the Mornington Peninsula. We’ve been going there ever since. 
I grew up doing more sailing – the only things at Somers then and which still is there, was a general store and a yacht club.  
I started on Mirrors and then raced on a Flying Ant with my brother.  
When did the shift into paddling occur? 

Probably when I was cross-country ski racing. Some of the people I met skiing also paddled and they talked me into doing the Hawkesbury Classic, which is the 111 kilometre overnight race. So, after six weeks training I went and did the Hawkesbury and I’ve been paddling ever since.  
So Tim joined in 1984 – was he associated with Palm Beach prior to then? 
I knew him more as a skier and triathlete but if you asked him now what his passion is he’d answer surfing. He grew up in Lindfield and had some mates down here who roped him in. He used to race and then I got into it with these girls and he came back into competing in surf life saving then. He’s a great competitor in his own right. 
And you too are a mum? 
Yes, I have two boys. One is in his first year at Uni, he won a scholarship to get in there, and the other is in Year 11. 
And you also work full-time as well? 
Yes, I work as a Project Manager and Group Stylist for Trippas White Group which is a hospitality company. At present one of my projects is project managing the fitout for The Avalon which will be a restaurant and kiosk at the southern end of the Avalon Beach SLSC.
It sounds as though this will be a fantastic restaurant – what style of restaurant will this be – a surf club style or somewthing else? 
It will be quite beautiful, streamlined, simple clean lines but very beachy as well, capitalising on the location and making the most of it. The cuisine is going to be casual dining upstairs and there will be a great kiosk downstairs.  
How did you begin this kind of work? 
I studied Hospitality and Catering at William Angliss Institute in Melbourne and worked in that field. When I settled in Sydney Tim and I were Owner-Builders on two properties and doing that on the side led to being involved in the Project Management of these and led to doing this at work too, that combining of this with Hospitality.  
Were you always attracted to this work? 
I’ve worked for the same Company for ten years and it’s morphed into this work taking on different roles over this time.
Di van Oi 
When and where were you born? 
Geelong  - I grew up outside of Geelong in Lara. It was quite a long way form the beach, 45 minutes. Lara had a local swimming pool which wasn’t heated, freezing most days, but that didn't stop me from swimming everyday. I would run away from home – mum would find this trail of clothes and follow them and see me ready to jump into the water. So she had to get a job at the canteen, a voluntary one, as she as there all the time and made friends with the other lady running this canteen, as I had to go every day.  
Annabelle: she’s a gun swimmer – very good 
How old were you when you first went into the water? 

I was about two or three. I had to learn to swim so I could jump off the diving board in the deep end - 10ft. The pool Manager Mr. Seals, wouldn’t let me jump off the diving board unless I could swim the whole length of the pool, 55yrds.

On the eve of my fourth birthday I had to swim the whole length of the pool.

My brother was a very good competitive swimmer. I had to go to all his training sessions and carnivals. I thought I might as well start training and competing to. I couldn’t be left behind.
Where did you got to school?
I went to Corio Tech, just outside of Geelong and which was walking distance to the Norlane Swimming Pool. It was gloriously heated and we trained there nine times a week.

How did you first become involved in surf life saving?

My brother John became very involved, with the Jan Juc Surf Life Saving Club, which is between Torquay and Bell’s Beach, around 1972. Jan Juc is renowned for a great big surf.  John was competing every weekend at surf carnivals all over the Victorian coast and my Dad drove he and his mates to every carnival and I naturally went along. He often represented Victoria in the State Surf Life Saving Team competing in the surf race, belt race, and R & R. I loved watching all the events especially the craft and boat races.…and all those beautiful bodies... it was never boring.

I lived in New York City for 12 years where I had three children and I studied Fashion, Millinery and Tailoring at FIT. We moved back to Sydney when I decided to open a boutique in Newport.

It was filled with a lot of handmade items and objects I’d bought when travelling, many of them one-off items. I tried to make sure a lot of these items were made from natural products and using traditional methods. Originally it was started to keep handmade things viable and it was incredible how many people really appreciated that fact.

When we returned to Sydney I decided to join the surf club to do something for myself and the community. Di and I were competing at Aussies, State and Branch for a few years together before Annabelle and Fi joined the team.

Karen Begg 
When and where were you born? 

I was born in London in 1958 and spent my first 6 years in Sri Lanka(Ceylon as it was called then) where my dad was a Tea Planter. When my parents split up I returned to England with my mother and lived and went to school in Surrey, My early years and ongoing visits to Sri Lanka left its mark and I hold a strong affinity with Sri Lanka more so than UK.  

After leaving school I worked for the airlines following my desire to travel. However parental pressure led me into nursing "get a qualification behind you and then do what you want to do". Three years later and a registered nurse I was off. I travelled through India Sri Lanka and Indonesia on a one way ticket arriving in Sydney, Australia 9 months later in January 1983.  
What was your first impression of Australia? 
Not great!  They said ‘welcome to Australia’ then looked at my visa and said I had 10 days left before it expired. I had a multiple entry, which was valid until the visa expired. 
What did you do? 

Looked for a job and applied for a visa extension. . – I worked in pubs and a bistro Miss Betty's in Paddington where I was a chef. It took five months to process a six month visa extension and then I immediately applied for another six months, and here I am.. 
How did you end up as a midwife at Mona Vale Hospital? 
I’d always wanted to do I midwifery but deferred my course in England when I got married and had a baby here in Sydney. However I went back to the UK for 2 years in 1993 and trained. I moved to Avalon in 1998 and continued working as a midwife at Royal North Shore for years. Around the time I thought I'd move to work closer to home Mona Vale Maternity Unit closed. 

I applied for a position prior to the unit reopening in July 2012. It is a great environment to work in with a lovely team of work colleagues. Sadly the plan is to close the unit down when the new Hospital opens. I strongly believe with the growing population on the Northern Beaches it warrants maintaining an additional stand alone Birthing Unit run by midwives similar to the Ryde unit on the Mona Vale site.   
How did you join Palm Beach SLSC? 
I had done the Palm Beach to Whale Beach Big Swim with a friend who had joined the club as a fresher and she suggested I join Palm Beach too. At that time I was a member of Avalon Beach SLSC. I did my Fresher Year in 2001.My association with the club prior was spending time here with the Begg family who were members but I had little understanding of surf life saving and the club’s history in those days. The family holiday home situated behind the Hacienda was the original surf club building purchased by my former father in law Justice Begg in the 50's.
If you can do the Palm Beach to Whale Beach swim you had some confidence in being in the ocean? 
Ignorant confidence, I tend to throw myself into things blindly. However growing up in Sri Lanka I learnt to swim at an early age and spent time in the ocean . 
How did you get involved with these girls? 
Di was a Fresher the year after me, Annabelle I met soon after joining and Fi I met on a surf boat one morning after a night shift. 
Fi: the first time I met Karen was the first time I’d rowed. What stood out about this first meeting was – 1.; it was beyond me how you could work all night and then turn up for rowing training with no sleep, and 2.’ she had just helped a woman give birth in the back seat of a car in the hospital car park. I remember you telling me this and I just though ‘wow!’ - and after that she goes surfboat rowing! 
Annabelle: and the chap who was giving us our training that morning, not Midget, but the sweep who took us for that day, was giving Karen a hard time for not getting her act together and not coordinating. We were novices then, in week four of rowing and all still trying to find our way. 

We’d started in Winter with Midget in the gym; he took us through gym sessions for about three weeks on the machines learning how to build strength and row. 

Who was the sweep in the surf boat? 
Ed Day and Midget Farrelly shared sweeping duties.  
Any good results? 
Annabelle: We were getting ready to compete and then Di did her Achilles and became hard to do it all all the time.   
Fi: we had to choose between surfboat rowing or Team and Individual events as you can’t do both. 
Di: Its impossible to do both water events and boats. We were not ready to go in big surf events.
Annabelle: and because we were all living at different places – I was in Pymble and Fi was in Chatswood, we could only train once a fortnight usually on a Sunday and you need to train two or three times a week at least and we couldn’t do that. We could still train individually and then come down here and do it once a week together – and this is what we can do now too and still go as a team to competitions. 
What is the best thing about being part of a team with your peers at this age?
Karen: the camaraderie, the four of us spur each other on its great being part of the team.  I certainly get motivated by these guys. It keeps you fit, keeps you young, keeps you going. There’s always a goal to work towards as well as lots of social fun times. 
Annabelle: I much prefer the team events than the individual because it’s amazing how much we lift when we work as a team. Up at the Nationals we outgunned the Queensland teams that train three and for times a week with professional coaches. We really punch above our weight. 
Fi: I like it because these girls turn up to training rain, hail or shine. So I know it it’s pouring with rain I’ll still have a team mate, they will still be there. And I love going away with them, we have so much fun. I think what we have is so special and that we’re fortunate in that we have a united team at Palm Beach. So for us, in a relay, there’s always three in a relay and four of us, and there’s never any bitchiness or any who’s going in what team or who is doing what – it’s a really tight team and whomever is running in whichever event they have the full support of the rest of the team.  
Other clubs may struggle to find enough women to field a team or they fall apart because they’re not pulling together – we have a different culture ands ethos at Palm Beach, it’s one team and our girls team within that Masters Team are all mates, we want each other to succeed, to reach personal as well as team goals.  
On top of that we always have so much fun that you’d be silly not to join in. 
Di:  I think it’s a great sport. We also, if you can’t get to training, everyone will ring up and say ‘what’s going on – why aren’t you here?’ – and you can’t let the team down. You really have to get stuck into it and get fit and get it together. Last year I was injured and didn’t think I’d make the cut. This year I trained a lot harder and felt a lot better about my training regime – it was good to get back into it.  
I think it’s as Fi said, rain, hail or shine there’s someone here. We may not see each other for a month or two and when we get back together again it’s great.  
The 2015 Australian National Championships – The Aussies – you came, you saw, you conquered – how does that feel? 
Karen: every season is different - the surf conditions are so unpredictable that’s half the fun.

Di: and you never know – at the start of the race, they’re all lined up and it’s anybody’s race. If there’s no waves it’s not as much fun. If there’s a wave, it’s anybody’s game, and still really hard to get a medal. We work well in big waves. 
Annabelle: the first season we did well in was when they introduced appropriate age groups. For a few years we were competing against the  30 year olds. We competed, and did all events, but of course didn’t get anywhere. Then in QLD in 2010, appropriate age categories were introduced, allowing us to compete with women around our age.  That year was the worst conditions of any surf carnival – horrendous, and we were sent out no matter what. We won three gold that year but in a few races, I think it was the board and the Taplin, we were the only team that finished – none of the other teams finished as they just couldn’t get out.  
Fi; the Taplin was one of the final events on the Monday. Also on the Monday afternoon they were meant to run the Ironwoman. The group of us who were meant to be in the Ironwomen went to the officials and told them it was far too dangerous – there were huge waves, a slow tide, a strong rip and the swell was coming up then crashing down onto this sandbank. They agreed and moved the Ironwoman to the following morning.  
Once again on the Tuesday afternoon we had the same conditions. The event in the morning was the Board Rescue and not a single Queensland woman could get out to the cans, it was that bad, and the event was timed out; you only get 20 minutes.  
Then the officials looked at their list, what’s next, of Taplin – calling all Taplin competitors. I thought, I can’t believe they’re doing this. 
I lined up with my ski, 18 foot of it, and the girl next to me said ‘I hope my Board cover doesn’t get out because that means I don’t have to go.’ 
Di came running up to me and said ‘Fi, Fi, Annabelle’s got out’ – she said my face absolutely dropped, I knew I had to go out into these conditions. In hindsight, what I should have done is just pull the pin and say ‘it’s not worth it’.  
So I was standing out there, this low and this massive surf coming in and just crunching everything. Another girl, from Kurrawa, came out and said ‘move further down the beach, they’re getting out’. I moved further down and there was a split three second window where I could get out – I got out, the other girl didn’t, and came in. Di did the swim and we won Gold – and that was the first time we ever won gold.  
We’d been competing since 2007 as a team. 
Annabelle: we did three years in Perth 2007- 2009 and didn’t get anything – I think Di got a Silver in the Tube and I got a Bronze in Ironwoman. 
Fi: ever since 2010 we’ve done fairly well each Season. Regarding the 2015 Nationals, I’m chuffed because it’s the first time I’ve won and Individual Gold Medal – I’m delighted with that. 
Yes – you’re peaking! 
Fi: yes, at age 49.   
Annabelle: I feel I’m yet to peak.  
Karen: me too, more so individually. 

When will you two peak? 
Annabelle: look, there’s people older than us who are still doing great things. I swim with a girl who is 72 at Bondi and she’s fantastic – she still beats me at swimming.  
Di: Still time. Thereare some very inspiring older competitors, there’s a few 72 year olds – one of them was in the Ironwoman at this year’s Nationals. 
What is best about being part of this Team at this stage in your lives though? – you’re working still, children are growing up or grown – you can have time to do something for yourselves… 
Di: It’s a great sport. The camaraderie we have is what drives us. If you can’t get to training, everyone will call up and say ‘what’s going on – why aren’t you here?’ – and you can’t let the team down. You really have to get stuck into it and get fit and make time to train. Last year I was injured and didn’t think I’d make the cut. This year I trained a lot harder.
I think it’s as Fi said, rain, hail or shine there’s someone here. We may not see each other for a month or two and when we get back together again it’s great.

In three words – what does this do for you as an individual? 
Di: challenging, exciting, fun. 
Annabelle: it’s extremely satisfying, and I agree, it’s lots of fun, we wouldn’t do it unless it was lots of fun. The sisterhood is the key, it’s a sisterhood.  
I do swimming at Icebergs a couple of mornings a week and that is another kind of camaraderie. It’s very different to this as it’s a bigger group, but it’s the same sort of thing – it’s a group of people getting out there, sometimes it’s freezing in the morning, pouring with rain and the waves are whoosh but we get in and do it together. The coffee we have afterwards you enjoy all the more as you know ‘we’ve done this – no one else does this, they’re all still in bed’. It’s a challenge every day and it’s great when you do it with a group to do stuff other people may shake their heads over. 
Fi: it brings purpose to your life and that flows into everything else you do. We’re incredibly lucky as we’ve met a group of girls who are like-minded and have that same team spirit. I feel so fortunate to have found that at age 40. I also found a sport that I love that I didn’t know I loved.  

Karen: I think it’s exhilarating and with this brings a lovely camaraderie and spirtual connection to each other. We’re still doing it – who cares how old we are, it doesn’t matter – I hope we’re still doing this in another ten years time 
What differentiates Palm Beach SLSC from other surf life saving clubs you meet at carnivals? 
Karen: Well Di is always acknowledged for her red lipstick – everybody in every other club knows Di for her red lips. I think we have a great sense of humour and not taking it all too seriously to the point of being disappointed or upset if somebody else wins. 
Fi: yes, we have a definite sense of humour and retain that. The Nationals are great as when we’re there it’s all the Northern Beaches teams sitting under the one tent. It’s great camaraderie – Manly, Newport, Mona Vale, Palmy, Queensie, everyone is cheering for everyone else. 
Most challenging Surf Life saving club moment? 

Annabelle: Doing my Bronze. I did this in December 1985 at Collaroy as part of the first girl’s Bronze squad through Palm Beach. There was massive surf this day and we were right beside the stormwater outlet pipe. I was on a reel and they were pulling me in too fast – I couldn’t get up, they were drowning me, and I was seriously terrified. The other would have been Kurrawa in 2010 – I’ve never been through anything like that.  

Karen: I’d definitely say that 2010 carnival, it was very much a case of we either make it or we don’t. The surf ruled and that is one way where we really came together as a team for finishing. It wasn’t about what we won, it was overtaking that fear to say ‘we’re a team and we have to do it’. 

Fi: that one race I described from the 2010 Taplin. I remember hearing someone once speak about flight and fear and that one race epitomised that for me. I’ve never ever been that scared in my life. I remember finally getting out and getting to the final can, and it was tiny little chop out there once you got past the massive waves, and I fell off in mid chop. And then coming back in, I was ‘not that one…not that one…’ and I still don’t know how I got back in, but it was sheer utter relief when I did.  

Di: that too would be one of mine.  

Fi: Di has a great saying that goes with that; there’s a time when you’re heading out into the surf and there’s a place where you want to be and you don’t quite get there, you don’t quite get over that unbroken wave and then that wave is coming down on top of you, Di calls that ‘being in a bad neighbourhood’.  
What is you best Surf Life Saving moment? 

Annabelle: probably my best achievement – getting a Silver Medal at the World Championships in the Board. I got back to the sand and thought ‘hey, where is everyone?’ and then knew!  

Karen: in many ways that 2010 Aussies – we were so relieved to finish and then to awarded three Gold medals. I believe that was the trigger for us achieving good results in subsequent years.  

Annabelle: we were just screaming with joy at having got through and such a result – a woman came up to us and said she wanted to bottle whatever we had.  

Karen: we surprised ourselves - you just didn’t know whether you were going to finish.  

Your best Surf Life Saving moment Fi? 

Fi: For me is was nailing in year the Branch, State and Aussies on the Individual Ski. So this Season. In Surf Racing there is an element of luck on whose on a wave, especially in that Aussie final when there was six of us on the one wave – I won it by that much (holds up two fingers to show an inch) and it could have easily not been me. So there is always an element of luck and to nail all three of them in one year, I’m just delighted. 

And for you Di? 

Di: For me it’s about being able to still go out in the surf competing as a team. When I am in a race and thinking 'what am I doing this for???' my dad's voice comes into my head and asks 'are you enjoying yourself – if not get out’ but I’m still really having a great time. 

It’s a very old and very big club though – you have so many heritage and cultural factors, the Father of Surf Life Saving Adrian Curlewis was a founding member, it’s one of the few clubs where the clubhouses are owned and run by members, the structure of age groups or the boat section strengthens each Season… what makes Palm Beach SLSC so strong?
Annabelle: Each Season The Club recruits new members called Freshers,  it is a tough year to get through. You have to dedicate yourself and in doing so become part of the place and part of the beach. That in turn becomes part of you. There’s a strong sense of belonging here for all members too I think. The Freshers are a good example of this – during their first year there’s 8 to 9 months of the year we’re they’re here together and the people in your year become like a family. You do everything with each other for all that time and in doing that it instils a sense of belonging. 
Fi: those that are there at the end of the season you will see them as part of the club for another 40 or 450 years, it’s that kind of culture.  
Di: the Manly Team are very close too – they have a great camaraderie. A lot of the women we meet on the beach and compete with have that same team spirit and have been together as long or even longer than we have. So if you have a good formula it clearly works. 

Annabelle: a lot of the local clubs have great teams but these may be comprised of just two members. We have four and if someone is away or somebody is injured than another can fill in – we can all muck in in all spots. 

The character of your team – is there a mother, a party girl, a poet – how does the dynamics balance itself? 

Annabelle: Fi’s the mother, Di’s the party girl 
Di: Karen’s the nurse 
Karen: I’m the cruiser, the ‘whatever’…I just go with the flow. 
Who’s the backbone then? 

Karen points at Annabelle: Leader, to Fi: Manager, she runs around making sure everyone has everything, and is the most consistent of everybody, Di is PR…she always has a smile on her face, is always laughing 
Annabelle: Di runs up to all the Officials and gives them all a kiss and ‘manages’ them – she’s our Glamour Girl – great PR. 
Di (points to Fi and Annabelle): they’re organised, we go with the flow. (pointing to Karen and herself). 
Fi: that’s right – I organise the accommodation, the entries – we all know our strengths.  
Annabelle and Fiona - Brats, Brutes, Bruisers fun 2015

Off season now – what are you all looking forward to? 

Karen: A little down time and just keeping an even keel so I don’t have to make a fast steep climb to catch up with these girls. 

Annabelle: I don’t really have an off season. I do Icebergs a couple of mornings a week and come up here on Fridays and Sunday mornings and keep my fitness up all year round. 

Fi: I’ll be out paddling with the crew Sunday mornings – I love it, it inspires me and it’s wonderful to have found something I’m so passionate about. 

Di: I’ll slow down a bit but I keep exercising too. I set a goal last January to swim a certain amount of times each week and I keep to that. I’ll still come down and do the training if I know the girls are coming down and sometimes we’ll have a glass of wine afterwards. 
What is you favourite place in Pittwater and why? 
Karen: Apart from our Palm Beach Club, The Boathouse at Palm Beach - we all meet there for a coffee and breaky on a Friday after training on the beach and in the surf with The Sand Hill Warrior Rob Roland Smith. Also Currawong as it maintains a lovely feel of what the old Pittwater was all about,  I was on the Committee to Save Currawong for several years. I’ve been going there since 1994 and feel a very strong connection to that place. I paddled past it this morning, looked at how they’ve rejuvenated Midholme, and thought ‘thank God it didn’t get sold to a developer.  I think it’s a very important part of our local heritage and it needs to be maintained so everyone can enjoy it for years to come.  It’s a beautiful setting to get away for a week or a weekend 
Annabelle: just there, that front balcony here of the Cabbage Tree Club, and that little corner and seat just there. When I was a Fresher and had done the swim in the freezing cold and come in, I looked up here and thought ‘that’s my goal – I want to sit on that verandah with a glass of wine and then I’ll feel a real sense of achievement’. You have to do six years of really hard work to get there and it seriously is the best spot ever. I bring my mother up here every Sunday and we sit there and just enjoy it – you can’t beat it. 
Cabbage Tree Club

Fi: here – out there on the beach. Palm Beach without question. If you drive around by the golf course way it’s a lovely view, a lovely road, or if you’re popping over the hill it’s great too. It’s always so fabulous to get here and see the surf. I just love it, absolutely love it. there’s a sense of home – I get it even driving around the bends. 
Di: my favourite place is coming down here. Often I’m at home at Bilgola and it may be blowing and I come down here and its peaceful- all my worries disperse, it’s like I’ve gone into a safe haven. There’s a sense of belonging, of being part of it, it’s comfortable. 
What is your ‘motto for life’ or a favourite phrase you try to live by? 
Karen: Be happy. Go with the flow. Forever young 
Di: If I die doing this I am having fun. Onward and Upward. One team, One dream. We’ve still got it.
Annabelle: Seize the moment. 
Fi: Seize the day, it has to be that.

Copyright Fi Rae, Annabelle Chapman, Di van Ooi, Karen Begg, 2015.