West End Rowing Club’s Mallory Hunter

Rowing… it’s like riding a bike… you never forget how to do it… right? If you’ve rowed in the past, the truth is sitting in the boat again isn’t much different than getting back on that old bike. West End Rowing Club’s Mallory Hunter is living proof that after sixteen years away from the sport no matter how long you’ve been away from the sport you can always return, and the results may surprise you. (Spoiler Alert: 3 Nationals club & senior grade gold medals in the first year back) West End is promoting former rowers to return to the sport and Mallory’s story is a motivating example of why to get those hands back on the oars.

Mallory rowed for Westlake Girls almost seventeen years ago at a time when a future NZ Olympian, Emma Twigg, was also on the high school rowing scene. Mallory and Emma’s story diverge paths following high school rowing though. Mallory had a successful high school rowing career at Westlake with gold and silver finishes at NISSC & silver and bronze medals in the 1x at the Maadi Cup. Even though a top performer at the time, Mallory left the sport of rowing after high school to pursue other adventures saying “…although I didn’t get back in the boat, I enjoyed competing in many other sports… triathlons, marathons, trail running… anything that pushed me, and allowed me to stay fit, strong, and healthy.”

Fast forward almost seventeen years and Mallory admits “I’d been thinking about getting back into rowing for years… and missed being out on the water, training as a team, and the adrenaline rush of racing.” Gliding across the water after a stressful day at school, working hard with others, building strong friendships that can last a lifetime are the sorts of things that addict young athletes to the sport. However, as young rowers age, other things in life may take them away from the sport. Whether realized or not, that itch to return to the water is always there though and for many people they go the rest of their lives ignoring it, never knowing what else they may be able to accomplish. Mallory thought “I wasn’t sure if I would still have what it takes after being away from the sport for so long.” After sixteen years away, Mallory called up West End RC after a recommendation from an old school friend to find out if it might be possible to have another go at the sport.

It’s always possible to return to rowing if you’ve been taught the fundamentals and West End RC aims to attract athletes like Mallory who have left the sport previously and supported her fully in her effort to return. “That first morning, I didn’t know what to expect and I was definitely a bit nervous!” Mallory reflects, “Thankfully the coaches and the Club Squad at West End were super friendly and made me feel very welcome straight away.” Mallory also found that the equipment was impressive and couldn’t believe there was now a system in place where athletes could have their own custom shoes in the boat that actually fit their feet. After more than a decade and a half innovation in the sport has come a long way!

Mallory says “I had plenty to learn after my years away, but it was a great challenge and I had a lot of fun along the way. It felt so good to be lining up at the starting line at Lake Karapiro… I still got the same buzz from racing down that course with the team and it was also still as tough as I remembered it… but man I loved it!”

With rowers’ ages ranging from late teens to early thirties, club squad rowing provides a program and competitively fun atmosphere for those who want to row and race in New Zealand. The WERC club squad typically attends at least six regattas from October through February culminating in the New Zealand National Championships. Categories ranging from novice, intermediate, club, senior, and premier events provide a variety of competition levels for anyone to race against similar level athletes. For Mallory, her willingness to give her old sport a try reaped its reward with three gold medals and four A-final appearances in the Club 2x, Club 4x, Senior 4x, and Senior 2x. “Finishing the season with three gold medals at National Champs was definitely the icing on the cake!! I am so happy I made the call to West End to get back into the sport. My only regret is that I didn’t do it years ago!”

West End is currently looking for individuals to make the return to the sport. Whether a few years out from school, in university now, or someone fully in the workforce, West End can provide you a memorable experience with your return to rowing. Reach out today to Rowing Manager, Nick Dawe, at RowingManager@werc.co.nz for advice on preparing for your return and options at West End RC to get involved.