Fairfield Canoe Club
2019 Centenary Year

Darebin Double Dippers’ tribute to Rose Curtis

Double dippers


It all started in 1996 when Rose went on a Rutherglen winery walkabout weekend with a mutual friend and suggested that she’d like to learn to kayak and do the Murray River marathon. Rose met Carolyn Dun, who knew Janice Lane who knew Louise Ray. Rose had been in a kayak before and knew which club to join, the Fairfield Canoe Club. It was the beginning of the Darebin Double Dippers.

After weeks of Sundays under Zoli’s instruction and clinging to trees in a flooded Yarra, Rose suggested we kayak to South Bank and back on Cup Day to test our new skills and endurance. We went in the club’s boats with Joe Alia cycling alongside the Yarra, not quite believing his eyes or our determination.

By December ‘96 we had a beautiful boat of our own – Delilah – which got a paint job to match our tie-died Tshirts and purple and green lycra that Rose acquired from Dimmey’s, one of her favourite outfitters. We were ready with hand-sewn banners and a support crew we hadn’t met before. 

And let’s face it, Rose was the highly competitive power paddler, who drove the team to glory that year (… or was that the Paddy’s?). Rose was always ready and willing to do multiple legs during the day, cook risotto on the open fire for dinner and direct team meetings at night, all the while keeping us laughing and motivated. In between her massage sessions, that is. 

In June 97 the Dippers headed to Darwin for the Katherine River marathon. Despite Rose’s research and logistics, the small detail of white water rapids and crocodiles was somehow skipped. Thanks to bulging biceps, we came 1st and 2nd and brought home colourful bruises as bonus trophies.

Back to the calm 40-degree heat of the Murray, another Dippers campaign began, this time an all-women’s team with an all-male support crew. Rose was in her element, courting the excitable ABC 7.30 Report film crew with our progress and quest for a podium finish. And we didn’t disappoint: the Dippers were crowned the top all-women relay team.

When Rose and the Dippers joined the Fairfield Canoe Club the focus was mainly on skilling up beginners and competitive paddling. Rose, sensitive to club culture, thought the milieu could be enhanced and used her energy and infectious enthusiasm as a positive influence on the club.

The ‘cappuccino runs’ are one example – a more social paddle from Fairfield to Studley Park for a cappuccino and a chat before paddling back upstream. Such were her powers of persuasion, for one autumn cappuccino run in ‘99, Rose managed to convince Zoli to join her and 2 other Dippers in the club K4 to lead the charge to Studley Park.

Decent coffee would facilitate better connections post-paddle, so Rose started a campaign for the FCC’s own real cappuccino machine. After much banter with various club members, a high quality machine adorned the club’s kitchen.

There were many other ways that Rose injected fun and kindness around the club: she was behind the idea of a Christmas party to involve club members’ children and to farewell teams before the Murray River marathon, fundraising events for the FCC’s Nick and George Wakim’s Olympic bid, initiated and organised “the big bash” the FCC’s award and social night, suggested the FCC get involved in Clean Up Australia and campaigned to make the FCC more accessible to all by broadening the membership fee structure to cater for the unemployed and pensioners.

While the Dippers went their various ways after 2000 — Louise with a matrimonial send-off in the club’s wooden C6 (thanks for the idea, Rose), Janice to the beach at Torquay and Carolyn on extended family leave, Rose continued to be very active at the club as a paddler, as an inspiration behind successful forays into dragon-boating, and as a board member. 

In 2013 Carolyn returned to kayaking. Every Tuesday, she and Rose would usually paddle upstream to the gates and back. On the way there would always be plenty of yak. On the way back there would be time to reflect on the meaning of kayaking, an activity that gave Rose physical, mental and spiritual strength. 

In the final year, kayaking gave Rose a way to transcend her creeping illness for a while. The effort to get organised, to find the energy and to physically to get in and out of the boat was almost too much, but once in the boat she was in her space, comfortable and capable. 

The Dippers laughed lots, learnt together and shared so many adventures. Rose will be always be remembered smiling and unflappable, challenging us personally and enriching our lives immeasurably.

The dippers ready to paddle. Photo: Carolyn Dun collection. See more photographs of Rose with the Dippers and at FCC.

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