Anyone who knows Ollie Walshe knows that he is one determined and dedicated young man.
Dedicated to the Macksville/Scotts Head Surf Lifesaving Club that he has been part of since he was six years old and determined, not only to overcome the barriers that have confronted him throughout his life, but to be part of the crew he has supported for so long.
Now his dream has come true …
This weekend, December 8 and 9, the 18 year-old from Nambucca Heads will row with his father, David, in the Reserve crew at the combined Central and North Coast Surf Boat Series to be held at Scotts Head.
It will be Ollie’s first competition, something he’s been working towards for the last six months, and yes, he is more than a little bit excited.
“I’m stoked to do this – especially with my dad,” the quietly-spoken Ollie said.
This all comes after Ollie underwent major spinal reconstruction (T2 to L2) 17 months ago due to a severe kyphosis (90 per cent), which saw him painfully slumped forward, restricted in his movement and his energy.
“The surgery was in June last year and the doctor said he wanted Ollie to enjoy being a young man – to swim and ride his bike,” his mother Anna said.
“He has been nagging the crew for months to let him join them … I was not keen but I know they quietly gave him a go when I turned my back. Butch Laverty has taken him under his wing and works with him one-on-one on the rowing machine once a week and now Ollie has started physiotherapy and is working on his core strength.”
All this means Ollie is in top form for the big weekend, which will see 300 to 400 competitors across men’s and women’s divisions from under 19’s up to combined ages of 200 years plus. It is the first time the combined carnival has come to the Mid North Coast.
While Ollie doesn’t rate the crew’s chances as overly high, he is in it for the fun.
“You just never know … and he will definitely be rowing with pride,” Anna said.
And what of the rest of life?
In spite of his Type 1 Neurofibromatosis, which makes learning in the formal school setting difficult for him, Ollie has just completed Year 12 at Bowraville Central and is in the process of looking for a work placement.
“I am interested in green-keeping,” he said.