Glenelg Surf Life Saving Club’s Anjie Collins made history at the weekend when she became South Australia’s first female boat sweep to compete at a carnival in the surf. “It was an awesome weekend, it was definitely the most fun that I have ever had in the boat” said Ms Collins.
Out of the 48 crews who competed at the Middleton carnival, 34 of the 35 sweeps were male. It has been a long road for Anjie to prepare for her debut in the surf, she said “I have been learning to sweep for the past two seasons and I did a little bit at the Brighton Jetty Classic last year but this was my first proper full carnival”.
Taking the helm on Sunday was an unplanned moment in her career and the spontaneity of her decision to go out added to the joy. “I was meant to go out at the Robe Carnival and I sort of psyched myself out of it because the surf was so big. But at Middleton I had a reserves men’s crew from Somerton who I had been training with a lot this season who have been really good and they just looked at me and said “C’mon mate let’s just have a go, let’s just have a bit of fun”. We were all just really excited I think, all just ready to have a bit of fun and get out there”.
Ms Collins wasn’t necessarily setting out to blaze a trail for the girls when she began to Sweep, it was more her love of the Boatie lifestyle that led her to it. “I had a knee injury and I didn’t think I would be any good at rowing anymore so I thought the only way to stay in the boat was to learn how to sweep! Funnily enough knee injury is perfect now so I can actually row again but it’s too late, I have fallen in love with sweeping”.
She credits the Boaties at her home club, Glenelg, for setting her up for success. “I was talking to people at my Club about wanting to sweep and they were straight on it. Our Boat Captain Tash Tunney is also my best friend and she always pushes me in the right direction and Pete Tidswell has been there helping through every step. Anything I needed to learn he put his hand up and helped me out with it. He has given me instruction manuals and built me my own sweep oar so he has been a massive help in it all”.
We asked her if it was hard for her to break in to an all-male sporting landscape and she delighted in telling us that she had been more than welcomed in to the Sweeping fraternity and in most cases enthusiastically supported and pushed forward. “We are so lucky here in SA, I couldn’t imagine a more supportive sporting community than the Boaties we have here” she said.
“I don’t think there were any real challenges. It is just a matter of finding ways to get as many hours in the boat as you can. I have jumped between a whole bunch of crews which has actually been a really positive experience, everybody has been really happy to put their hand up and get me in the boat even people from different Clubs”
As the only female Sweep in the state and the second youngest in SA taking control of the big oar we asked her what was holding back more young women like herself from taking on the role.
“I think there’s a feeling that you have got to be a big strong person to do it but I look at some of the blokes that sweep and I think I am actually a bit bigger than they are and we’re all doing it. I don’t think it is all strength so I think it’s a bit of a false stereo type” said Ms Collins.
Having had such positive re-enforcement in her journey she is keen to see it paid forward encouraging everyone who is interested to get involved.
“I think everybody should have a go at Sweeping, it’s one of those things that if you get out there and have a crack you’ll surprise yourself. It’s a lot harder than you originally think and it takes a really long time so you have to be prepared for it to take a while but the sooner you get into it the sooner you are going to start picking things up. If you have a really good support team around you like I have at Glenelg than it is definitely achievable”.
Anjie is on a mission to get fully accredited and take her Sweeping as far as she can, she told us “I would like to get a lot more experience in the surf. There are three tiers of sweeping and I would like to be qualified within five years of starting so I have about three years to go to reach my goal of getting to tier 3 and being able to compete in all events and conditions”.
For now though she is enjoying the ride and celebrating coming this far “So far it has been a really nice journey; I have gotten to know lots of people from different Clubs, great people. I love my time in the boat, getting up in the mornings and seeing a bunch of different people each day, it’s good” she says with a smile.