Gritty grandma conquers strait twice

TOUGH WOMAN: Pam Dickson, 60, after her Cook Strait adventure in a rowing skiff.
TOUGH WOMAN: Pam Dickson, 60, after her Cook Strait adventure in a rowing skiff.

Rowing across Cook Strait wasn't enough for 60-year-old grandmother of 10 Pam Dickson - she turned around and went back again.

"I'm elated. When I got halfway I didn't think I was going to make it back again."

The novice rower took up the sport only 11 months ago, after knocking on the door of the Rotorua Rowing Club.

She is a serious endurance athlete however, having completed 15 ironman finishes.

In 2009 she became the oldest woman to swim Cook Strait, at 55.

Dickson began rowing from Makara Beach near Wellington at 8am on Friday.

Battered by a heavy swell she capsized four times, but each time managed to haul herself back into her ocean-going rowing skiff, designed by Viv Harr of Lower Hutt firm Carboglass.

After four hours and 13 minutes she touched land at Marlborough's Perano Head, before scoffing some food and rowing back towards the North Island.

"It was very tough. The tide was pushing me out. Water kept coming in over the side and it was all sloshing around inside."

Dickson made land at Oteranga Bay for the double crossing, with the return trip taking three hours and 38 minutes.

Swimming Cook Strait was more of a mental challenge than rowing and she still couldn't remember the last eight kilometres of her 2009 crossing, she said.

"But this was physically and mentally very hard. I had all sorts of problems keeping the oars in the water."

Resting her blistered hands yesterday, Dickson was unsure what her next challenge would be, but would not rule out another ironman.

Long-distance swimmer Philip Rush, who has swum Cook Strait eight times, manned Dickson's support boat. "For a 60-year-old it was an outstanding effort."

It was quite the week for Cook Strait crossings.

World champion stand-up paddle boarder Annabel Anderson made it across on Thursday in a time of three hours and 56 minutes.

The Dominion Post