Waikato Wāhine in Rowing Part Four – Tina Duff-Dobson, various Waikato clubs

For our fourth installment of Waikato Wāhine in Rowing, we are introducing a lovely lady, Tina Duff Dobson, who has been in rowing for many decades.  She is a member of the Waikato Rowing Club, but she has also been part of 3 other clubs in our region and in Auckland.  She has had a lifelong passion and enjoyment for rowing, that seen her in roles on and off the water in NZ and overseas.

Her first introduction to rowing was in the 1950s at the age of 12, when her father taught her to row in a dinghy in the harbour where they lived in Kenya.  Because rowing wasn’t offered at her school, she had to join the local club.  Pictured is her crew in Mombasa in 1960.  Tina is the stroke in what is known as a clinker boat.  

Picture provided by Tina.  Mombasa 1960.  Tina is pictured in stroke seat of the bow coxed clinker boat. 

Tina has experienced the full gambit that rowing has to offer here in NZ and overseas.  Some rowers may recognise her from being on the umpire boats at regattas at Lake Karapiro during the regatta season and winter long distance series the WRA host.  She has been umpiring since 1994 but didn’t always set out to be an official.   Her passion for the sport and being part of the community is what has kept her coming back each season.  She mentioned that the officials across NZ are like a family.  She has known some for a long time now and enjoys the comraderies they have developed.

Her community involvement in the Waikato spans across 4 clubs, and Auckland Rowing Club when she followed her children to the big city.  She is a masters rower who has competed at 4 world masters champs and won numerous medals.  She mentioned that the most recent one at Lake Karapiro in 2017, where she represented Waikato Rowing Club, was her swansong and had some memorable moments.  At that event she coxed an 8+ and rowed an 8+, both won gold.  Then she got a gold in the H double with Paula Storey and a silver in the H single.  Quite an achievement for someone in their mid-70s at the time.  

Photo provided by Tina.  2017 World Masters Champs.  Paula Storey in stroke and Tina Duff-Dobson in bow.

When she returned to Hamilton in 2007, other roles have included coaching at St Pauls Collegiate and Hamilton Girls High School and joining the Waikato Rowing Club committee.  She has been on the committee of every club she has been part of – Hamilton Rowing Club, Cambridge Rowing Club and Waikato Rowing Club.  She mentioned that she loves understanding how things operate and has enjoyed getting involved in what goes on behind the scenes.  So much so that she is now getting asked to be part of the residents committee when she lives. 

When her children were primary school age, she would often put them on the water in a canoe to keep them busy while she did her training session.  Her children have grown up at rowing clubs, is probably why they and her grandchildren have also been involved in rowing.  This season, her grandson, who rowed for Christ College, has a goal of NZ age group selection. 

In the 70s this what club environments were like, even though the sport was predominately male, women were competing over 1000m.  She hasn’t had to race 2000m and is grateful for that as she doesn’t think she would have been able to do that and still enjoy racing. 

When we asked Tina about her experiences in rowing, during a period when it was largely male dominated, she shared that:

“The men have welcomed her and appreciated her input.  She has often been welcomed with open arms and hasn’t experienced any sort of negativity”.   

She mentioned that this was also her experience when the Waikato Rowing Club committee finally opened its club to women in the 90s. 

She mentioned that she has valued the friendships she has made through rowing.  For anyone thinking of getting involved she just mentioned to just do it.  “If you have the passion and drive, why not? Give it a go.”

Tina may not be out on the water rowing herself these days, but she is still umpiring.  She takes it a season at a time, as she doesn’t want to be that “old fuddy duddy umpire in the boat taking too long to make decisions and holding everyone up”.

We could have kept talking with Tina for hours as she has many stories and recollections of the various regattas she went to and the people she has rowed with.  If you do happen to see her on the water at regattas, give her a wave, not when racing of course.  Or if it is at the coxswain weigh in or medals ceremonies, just ask her about World Masters or Mombasa and she will happily share her experiences and personal stories.