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Girl power takes on frosty lake and shining sea

Canberra's first all female rowing team, L-R: Nicole Cobb of Holt, Megan Bancks of Farrer, Annie McAppion of Chifley and Teresa Comacchio of Hughes.

Canberra's first all female rowing team, L-R: Nicole Cobb of Holt, Megan Bancks of Farrer, Annie McAppion of Chifley and Teresa Comacchio of Hughes. Photo: Melissa Adams

You won't catch many waves on Lake Burley Griffin at 6am during the month of July. Something that you will catch, however, is a chill and the odd touch of frost nip, according to Canberra's all-girl surfboat enthusiasts.

Teresa Comacchio, who is originally from Alice Springs, and seven other women make up Canberra's two surfboat teams, which are heading to Adelaide on Thursday to compete in this year's Life Saving World Championships.

The teams, a Master's crew and Open Women's crew, have been training on the lake for years, often heading out in below-freezing temperatures to maintain their fitness levels and competitive condition.

''We train four times a week on Lake Burley Griffin and whenever we get the chance we head to Broulee Beach on weekends to practise our surf skills,'' Comacchio said.

Like her teammates, Comacchio is a fully qualified surf lifesaver. Since winning at the branch championships and qualifying for the world championships earlier in the year the small group of female surfboat rowers have treated the Lake as a training ground to perfect technique and synchronise their strokes.

''We've spent a lot of time out there. The occasional motorboat creates little bumps so it's almost like you're in the open water - almost.

''We started our training for the world titles in July with 6am starts. We're pretty sure we are the only surfboat team in Australia who train in those conditions,'' she said.

She added that frost-nipped knuckles and extensive travel have not hampered the team's preparation efforts and the women are looking forward to competing against the best open-water rowers from the US and Europe.

Conditions for all four race days are expected to be quiet and flat.

The surfboat rowing competition involves each team of four jumping into their boat and paddling out 400 metres around a buoy and getting back to the shore as quickly as possible.

''When you catch a wave where you get a good enough sweep, you don't even have to row back to shore,'' Comacchio said. ''However, they [the boats] do have a tendency to flip and sometimes it can be a long hard row, but that's when the adrenalin kicks in.''

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