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Air Force technician tackles world champs

It takes a dedicated training regime to build up for a world championship event, and that’s something the Air Force can get behind and support.

30 August, 2023

Leading Aircraftman Sarah Lockwood, a Force Health Protection Technician at RNZAF Base Auckland, is set to compete in the upcoming 2023 ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships in Denmark, commencing this week.

LAC Lockwood is part of a team of seven athletes selected to represent New Zealand. She will compete in the Open Women’s K1 26.20km event and possibly the Open Women’s 26.20km K2 event with another teammate.

Canoe Marathon is defined as a long distance endurance event, with athletes paddling distances up to 30km on a flatwater course with regular portages. A portage involves each paddler running along a 50m course between laps carrying their kayak.

LAC Lockwood, who is also a qualified surf lifesaver, trains at either 0600 or 0630 six days a week on Lake Pupuke in Takapuna, Auckland, with sessions varying from 1-2.5 hours or longer on the water.

 “I first started competitive kayaking in 2012, and raced at the 2016 Canoe Marathon World Championships in Germany. I took a couple years off from competitive canoe racing when I joined the Air Force in 2021, but I’ve been actively competing in Surf Life Saving in the meantime. I’ve previously representing Wainui Surf Club in Gisborne and more recently with Mairangi Bay Surf Club in Auckland. Surf Life Saving was what got me into sprint kayaking, as I was encouraged by one of my coaches at Muriwai Surf Life Saving Club to give it a go.”

“Canoe Marathon paddling is a small community in New Zealand; however the size of this year’s marathon team shows a rise of interest in the sport. Hopefully we can continue to grow this specialization of canoe racing in New Zealand, and inspire future generations of athletes to join the long distance side of racing!”

Early morning wake-ups at 4.45am are difficult at times, but LAC Lockwood describes the highlights of her day as seeing teammates at training and getting in a decent workout before the sun rises. “Last night I couldn’t sleep because I had just repaired my cadence sensor and I was excited about using it. It measures your stroke rate, and appears on your watch. Our coach sets target stroke rates for various sessions, which we aim to sit at as we paddle. A typical stroke rate for a low aerobic session is 28-30.”

She says she had always wanted to join the Air Force. “I always thought it was a great career. After belonging to the RNZAF Swim Club as a kid, I observed my friend’s parents who worked in a range of Air Force roles and thought, what an amazing career. I liked the idea of helping people, assisting in Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief, and making a positive difference in people’s lives. I’ve always wanted to be able to help others.”

Her advice to potential Air Force recruits is to never give up on your sport when you join the RNZAF. “The Air Force has really supported me in my build-up towards Worlds. Previously I had to train a lot in my own time and during lunchtime; however following making the NZ Team I am able to include my kayak training as part of my weekly physical training (PT) schedule to keep fit as part of my job.

“PT is a huge part of the Defence Force and personnel are entitled to go to PT classes or their own PT sessions during the working day. I enjoy going to lunchtime circuits, which are run by the PTIs almost every lunchtime at the gym. There are plenty of opportunities for team sport also, and to represent the RNZAF at tournaments around the country at various bases. Most units are pretty understanding and supportive about their people keeping fit. You can definitely fit it in.”