NSW Sea Kayak Club — Sharon Betteridge [62]

By Elizabeth Thomson

When I attended my first Rock’n’Roll in 2001, my first training experience was with a woman called Sharon. My first thought was how could such a petite, shy woman be a sea kayaker? But I wasn’t wondering for long. She was my rolling teacher that day and has been my kayaking role model ever since.

Sharon Betteridge is an unsung hero of the NSWSKC who tends to do extraordinary things quietly. Well, it’s time some of these things came to our attention. So read on to find out what they are!

Sharon is an all rounder. Whether it be competitive or recreational kayaking; flat water or sea kayaking; kayaking skills or kayaking stamina; or even kayak building, Sharon has attempted it and succeeded, more often than not, ahead of the pod.

In 1994 she started kayaking in her first boat, a three metre plastic Minnow. In 1995 her first sea kayak, a Mirage 17, superseded this and then in 2000 she added her homemade Baidarka 16. It is a stitch and glue boat that was made in the hallway and lounge room of her inner city terrace home. Having built her Baidarka, she decided to test run it on a short paddle from Sydney to Jervis Bay! However, typically these days she paddles a Mirage 530.

Early in her paddling career, Sharon participated in the Hawkesbury Classic — three times, coming second in her first attempt in the Open Mixed Long Rec. Double class in a Mirage Double with Rob in 1995. Not to mention her coming second in the Open Women’s in the Waggabidgee Canoe Classic in 1996. In the same year, she joined the NSWSKC and was introduced to the sea. Her first sea kayak trip was Palm Beach to Maitland Bay and her first overnight trip was Broughton Island! From this beginning she went on to tackle many of the significant and challenging paddles along the eastern coast of the mainland, Tasmania and New Zealand including the Whitsundays, far north Queensland, the NSW Central coast, the Sydney and Wollongong coastline, Honeymoon Bay to Currarong, the Murramarang coast, the Nadgee coast, the Freycinet Peninsular, Tasman Peninsula, and South Bruny Island, Marlborough Sounds, the Bay of Island and Northland.

Along with taking on the challenges of the sea, Sharon took on the task of gaining sea kayaking qualifications, receiving Sea Proficiency Certificate in 1999. In 2000, she became one of the first Club trip leaders to receive the Australian Canoeing Sea Leader Award and Level 1 Instructor Award in 2004. On the way to these awards she participated in many Club training sessions as a trainee and many of us have since been under her wing on the water in a range of contexts as a trip leader or instructor doing a wide range of skills development activities.

However, perhaps her most unsung achievement was her third trip to far north Queensland in 2004 from Cooktown to Seisia (Torres Strait) — 810kms over 23 days, averaging 41 kms per day with the longest open crossing of 60kms. She coped with tidal currents, winds, big seas, sharks, crocodiles, sandflies and group dynamics, graciously explaining, “Despite the remoteness, the sheer length of the trip, individual personalities and our different paddling speeds, a common goal of commitment to the trip and to each other, combined with an ability to have a good time meant we were able to work together harmoniously”. Most women whom I know wouldn’t have had the skills or resolve to manage such a trip. And that’s why she is my role model.

So thanks, Sharon. Thanks for paving the way for more women in the Club. Thanks for being the quiet achiever making it easier for the rest of us to join in. And thanks for your loyal support of the NSWSKC over the years. You qualify as one of our new Old Farts!