May 4 - 10, 2014: Issue 161


by Adam Digby
Sunday morning the 27th of April was cold on the outside but warm on the inside as 200 to 300 friends and supporters gathered on the western side of Palm Beach to watch a community attempt at a world record on water. Palm Beach Longboarders Club was the organising body behind an attempt to get the most number of surfers ever towed behind a boat. The reason for the event and raffle was to raise community awareness of annual prostate screening via a blood test and to raise funds for Bruce and Nicole Shearer of Avalon, Bruce having been recently diagnosed with inoperable prostate cancer.
Departing from the northern end of Governor Phillip Park, Adam Hillier’s commercial barge “Barrenjoey” ferried the participants south for just over a kilometre. At that point the barge’s front ramp was lowered and the surfers entered the water and started arranging themselves at the rear of the boat.
Here, a 12 and a half metre towing rig constructed by Codmac engineering of Mona Vale, held the 52 tow ropes that each participant held in great anticipation. This record has never been attempted before and while all possible outcomes had been considered and two smaller scale practice runs attempted, nobody really knew exactly what would happen with 52 people behind the boat. 

At approximately 9:20am, the throttles of the twin 250 horsepower outboards were gunned and the tow began. There was a considerable amount of local surfing talent at the end of the ropes, including former world champion Barton Lynch and former pro surfer Bob Baine. With the engines straining and speed building, a squeeze developed as the fan of ropes pulled taunt and together, with surfers at the centre of the array finding little room to manoeuvre, resulting in the first “offs” of the tow. The surfers on the outside of the formation reacted immediately and began steering wide, taking pressure off the centre surfers as the tow progressed. As the tow settled down, the ensuing 7 minutes was filled with a lot of laughing, waving, hooting and hilarious carnage as the spectacle made its way up Pittwater to the drone of media helicopters above and a small flotilla of spectator craft either side.
As the finish line approached, 38 male and female surfers ranging in age from 9 to 70 something where still upright, afloat and laughing. A roar went up from the shore crowd as the red flag was raised signalling the end of the tow and success.
Volunteers from the SES, Avalon Surf Life Saving Club and Marine Rescue NSW picked up the bobbers while NSW Water Police maintained a watch. Onshore, the crowd that MC Craig Goozee had kept entertained and informed for the last hour burst into cheers and applause. Mile wide smiles replaced the absent sunshine as the drawing of the raffle commenced and winners announced.

Over 22 thousand dollars was raised and conversations about men’s health started. The Shearer family have some challenges ahead, but they and the community came away  from this event with a little confidence knowing that the fabric of this place is sound, the people here pretty good, and a helping hand never too far away.

Photography by Jacqueline Andronicus

What we would like to do.
Annual PSA testing won’t “cure” anything but it is extremely valuable in detecting and monitoring the condition of the prostate gland, allowing treatment or management of a diagnosis.
Our aim is to promote and de-stigmatize regular PSA testing and prostate examinations on the Northern Beaches and in the greater community as a healthy and socially acceptable method for monitoring men’s health.

Do we have a long-term plan?
Currently planning is underway for two further world record events to be held in November 2014.
At present our focus is on prostate awareness and screening but we would like to broaden that to men’s health in general and to conduct that awareness program in an environment of dynamic activity.

The BIG TOW by Adam Digby, 2014. Photographs by Jacqueline Andronicus, 2014.