Extract from "The West Briton" - 14 June 2007

If you are a fan of adrenaline-fuelled activities but have never tried surf boat rowing the sport could turn out to be your perfect pastime.It's a sport I was introduced to on a sunny evening at Trevaunance Cove in St Agnes and quickly realised it's not for the faint-hearted.

The surf boat rowing team of the St Agnes Surf Lifesaving Club is launching a fundraising appeal for a new boat and are also keen to recruit more women to the sport.

I wandered onto the beach wearing shorts, T-shirt and wetsuit boots as previously advised, having been assured I wouldn't get wet.

That advice had been given the day before when the sea was a millpond. But last Wednesday evening the surf was pounding and I was hastily handed a pair of Speedos and a rash vest to change into.

The sport is essentially a cross between gig rowing and surfing.

As we pushed the boat out into the water I recalled the last time I'd ventured into the sea was in Cuba in January so the Cornish version was rather chillier.

Within seconds Steve Instance, the sweep (the surf boat equivalent to the cox) shouted to the four of us to jump aboard.

Thankfully I was told to hold my rather heavy oar out of the water while the others swiftly rowed through the waves.

Once in calmer water my rowing lesson began.

It was all quite straightforward until the sliding on the seat/bending the knees manoeuvre kicked in, which had to be co-ordinated with the arm action.

Now, I know women are supposed to be able to do two things at once, but believe me, this took a bit of practice.

To get a friction free slide on your seat it helps to have no material in the way or blisters will form. Wetsuits are also out of the question.

This is one of the reasons the club is having difficulty recruiting an under 18s team, as Steve says: "Teenagers won't be seen dead on the beach in Speedos, it's just not cool."

To help improve the seats' slipperiness we had to make sure they were wet.

As the sea became increasingly choppy it was apparent I could not falter on my rowing or the oar would not only jolt me out of position but have an instant destabilising effect on the boat.

I was doing all right until it came to surfing the wave back in.

As Steve yelled: "Take it away," the team started rowing furiously. I struggled to keep up and just as it started to go horribly wrong Steve said: "Let it run," and suddenly the oars were above the water and we were surfing into shore. Fantastic!

It's an adrenalin-fuelled sport which, I was told, can get quite hairy when competing against other boats.

Back on shore Steve explained the surf boat we were in is around 20 years old so the club is investing in a much newer model, currently on its way from Australia.

But first the club needs to raise £3,500. Last year the St Agnes surf boat rowing team came second in the Cornish championships and third in Great Britain.

Steve explained: "We want to improve on this and be the best but we'll never do it in this boat, it's far too heavy."

The club is looking for sponsorship and also has several fund-raising events planned, including a row from St Agnes on the Isles of Scilly to St Agnes on the mainland, a total of 60 miles, planned for August bank holiday.

In addition the team would love to enter a mixed, or ladies team into the championships but at present it only has one female team member, Jasmine Reilly of Mount Hawke.

So what sort of qualities are required? Steve said: "You need to be a good swimmer and fit. You can't be too girlie as there's a fair chance you might chip a nail and it helps to be fearless."

The story goes that in Australia when they choose their surf boat teams they line everyone up against a wall and throw rocks at them. The ones that don't duck are in the team.

St Agnes captain Johnny Johnston said: "It's very much a team sport and a different take on surfing. I love it, it's exhilarating."

Anyone interested in helping the fund-raising effort, or in joining the team, can e-mail or look at or turn up to a club night at Trevaunance Cove on Thursdays or Sundays from 6pm.