Bass Strait is regarded as a tough stretch of water by any measure yet was armed only with her windsurfer that Allison Shreeve set out in late March to make the 240 kilometre crossing from Tasmania to Australia's mainland.

While the forecast was initially favourable with winds mainly at the lower end of the 20 to 30 knot scale and a swell of one to two metres, the winds proved to be mostly running at around 30 knots and Ms Shreeve, four time world champion and the world’s top-ranked formula class windsurfer, was forced to abandon the attempt at the nine hour mark.

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STARTING OUT: Allison Shreeve leaves Stanley in Tasmania at the start of the Bass Strait Challenge in late March. PICTURE: Luca Villata

 

“We’re all very, very happy with the result,” Allison Shreeve says. “I’m totally stoked that I got to achieve the 100 kilometres for Coastcare...I’m the first woman to ever attempt anything like this.”

“Because I had six hours instead of three of such conditions, it was really too rough and in the end the swell got up to four metres and peaking over that at times,” she says. 

Pulled onto her support boat, the 27-year-old was suffering severe cramping and hypothermia. While she acknowledges that it was a wise decision to abandon her attempt when she did - “it took me a good four or five hours to get back to 37 degrees,” Ms Shreeve recalls - she is considering taking on the challenge again.

“I don’t like anything to beat me, especially not Bass Strait,” she says. “It is in the back of my mind to do it again - I will be making a decision very soon whether I will or not. I have been receiving a lot of support and a lot of emails (encouraging me) to have another attempt.”

Ms Shreeve undertook the attempt as part of Coastcare’s ‘Life on the Edge’ campaign. Launched late last year, the campaign is about encouraging everyday Australians to “live life on the edge” in a bid to raise $1 million for Coastcare projects. It’s challenging people to travel 100 kilometres along Australia’s coast using non-motorised equipment with the aim of travelling the entire 36,000 kilometre Australian coastline. 

While Ms Shreeve didn’t achieve her goal of windsurfing across Bass Strait, she did complete the Coastcare challenge, windsurfing along a distance of some 125 kilometres.

“We’re all very, very happy with the result,” she says. “I’m totally stoked that I got to achieve the 100 kilometres for Coastcare...I’m the first woman to ever attempt anything like this.”

It’s that never say die spirit and the willingness to have a go which has characterised Allison Shreeve’s life and her career as one of the world’s champion windsurfers.

While sport had always played a big part in Ms Shreeve’s life - she was the New South Wales athletics champion and achieved state records in sports including javelin while at school - it was only in her mid-teens that she took up windsurfing after her family decided to move from their farm into Port Macquarie so she could attend highschool.

“When I was 16, I choose windsurfing as a school sport and my first coach, Mark Jordan, said ‘You’ve got potential - why don’t you come down on the weekends and I’ll teach you for free?’. I thought ‘Sure’ so I went down and seven months later I went to my first youth worlds in South Africa.”

Ms Shreeve has been the world number one in the formula class since she first competed as a rookie in 2004 (in Olympic class windsurfing - which Ms Shreeve also participates in - competitors are allowed to use one board with one fin and one sail at a regatta while in the formula class competitors are allowed three sails, one board and three fins which Ms Shreeve says allows competitors to reach optimum speeds dependent on conditions).

Last year she won every formula regatta she competed in and only lost the world title by one point. While she hasn’t yet been to an Olympics, Ms Shreeve has her eyes set on London in 2012.

“It really is a wonderful sport and every time you go out it’s different - different gear, different waves, different conditions, different people you sail with...” she says. “It’s quite a diverse sport and you can do it all year round - even in winter. So there’s a lot of reasons why I love my sport and why I stuck with it.”

Having been raised in a Christian home where she says she was taught the value of the Bible and a relationship with Jesus Christ, Ms Shreeve, who made a decision for herself to follow Jesus when she was 13, says Christianity has been a very big part of her life.

“Without God I wouldn’t be here today - there’s so many circumstances that He’s just pulled me though and provided for me...” she notes. “God really does come through when you need Him whether it’s through Scripture or through a personal encounter with Him or through prayer or through His provision. He’s always been there no matter what and I’ve never lacked for anything because He’s been lord of my life for so long.”

Ms Shreeve says her sport has enabled her to talk to others about God and what’s He’s done in her life.

“I use every chance I get to talk to people about God whether I’m on the aeroplane or at a regatta. Most of the time I just get to share when somebody comes to me who’s having difficulties and they come to me for advice or for help...(and) that’s why we’re here, you know? 

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TOUGH CROSSING: Allison Shreeve eyes the swell as she has to pull up her windsurfer during the Bass Strait challenge. PICTURE: Luca Villata 

 

“I use every chance I get to talk to people about God whether I’m on the aeroplane or at a regatta. Most of the time I just get to share when somebody comes to me who’s having difficulties and they come to me for advice or for help...(and) that’s why we’re here, you know?"

“We’re supposed to be in relationship with one another, we’re supposed to help one another, we’re supposed to pray with one another. And if there was someone on the tour having, I don’t know, boyfriend problems or whatever it is, I would hope that they would feel comfortable coming to me and having a shoulder to cry on and just talking about stuff. I’ve always been very open about my faith, no matter what, and trying to be a good example on tour.”

She’s also involved with a street ministry with members of her local church - Berowra Baptist Church in Sydney’s north - which involves going out and praying for people - a ministry which she says has led her to witness miracles such as the healing of a man’s hearing one night in Hornsby.

“That was 80 per cent deafness just gone like that. Just stuff like that happens all the time and we don’t limit God to anything - you know the Bible says ‘You’ll be able to do greater miracles than these’ and we either believe what it says or we don’t. So we might as well make a difference while we can.”

Asked what advice she might have for somebody wanting to pursue a sport which may not be high profile or result in large earnings, Ms Shreeve’s advice is simple: “Follow your dreams”.

“Even though I haven’t had any financial rewards from being a world champion or anything like that or fame, if that’s what people are after, I’ve been able to travel the world; I’ve met thousands, if not millions of people in my travels; I’ve had wonderful life experiences through my sport. There are always positives out of going after what you want.”

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Allison Shreeve is one of four Australian sportsmen and women who are appearing in the Bible Society’s Easter television special, Beyond Winning, which airs nationally on the Seven Network at 12.30pm on Good Friday. Others include Commonwealth Games gold meal weightlifter Deb Lovely, champion golfer Aaron Baddely, and V8 Supercar driver Andrew ‘Fishtail’ Fisher.