Surf Studio: Dr Natalie Hood
Doctor, Olympian and Surf Life Saver of the Year
On the latest episode of Surf Studio, Surf Life Saving Australia and Portsea SLSC Life Member, Dr Natalie Hood, talks to us about her journey from Nipper to the first female Surf Life Saver of the Year as well as her competition days and her time as an Olympian.
Originally attracted to the competition side of lifesaving, Dr Hood started attending lifesaving carnivals as a 10-year-old junior with Mentone Royal Lifesaving Club and then joined surf lifesaving with Portsea SLSC as a senior when she was 16.
“I got into kayaking through the lifesaving club, there were some women in the lifesaving club when I was about 13… they took me along to the kayak races and then I swapped over to paddling at the lifesaving carnivals,” Dr Hood said of her introduction to paddling kayaks and surf skis.
“In those early days, there wasn’t any women’s events, so I used to race in the men’s surf ski and double ski races at the carnivals, and then I swapped over to paddling kayaks again.
“I probably started training properly for the kayaks in 1990, but then in ‘93, ‘94 and ‘95 I was in the team for the World Championships and then in 1996 I went to the Olympics.”
Before she was an elite athlete and went to the Olympics as a sprint kayaker, Dr Hood balanced studying for a medical degree, working as a local lifeguard and her time at Portsea SLSC.
“Thankfully I’d finished medicine by the time I became an elite athlete… I graduated from medicine in 1990 and it was a bit of a juggle for the first few years,” Dr Hood said of balancing work as a Doctor and training.
“You’re hospital based and trying to study and paddle and do night duty and then finish night duty at eight o’clock in the morning and then go and try and train.
“I’d be out paddling, being on call and trying to paddle with a pager in a plastic bag in your boat.”
In 1989 Dr Hood became the first female and Victorian to win the Australian Surf Life Saver of the Year, which used to be awarded at the Australian titles.
“It was a total surprise…I really didn’t think I was in the running for the national award,” Dr Hood said.
“I went up to the national championships and I was there competing…and I hadn’t even bought any nice clothes to wear to the award night.
“But I still remember what I sort of feel won it for me…I still remember Peter George interviewing me and him asking me what I thought about rescues.
“I said that ‘I thought a rescue was a failure. If you had to go and rescue someone you hadn’t done your job in the first place’, which was to try and prevent rescues… and that was a whole new concept at the time.”
From Olympian and Surf Life Saver of the year in 1989/90, Dr Hood has gone on to play a key role on many state, national and international committees for drowning prevention, first aid and resuscitation and has held the position of the Honorary Chief Medical Advisor to SLSA for the past 15 years.
To hear more from the Natalie, make sure you watch episode five of Surf Studio on the @SLSAustralia Facebook page or at sls.com.au/surf-studio/.Surf Studio is regular online show with each episode featuring stories from around Australia and covering a range of topics such as sport, lifesaving, leadership, education etc and Surf Life Saving Australia encourages everyone to be involved. If you, or anyone you know has a story that you would like to share via Surf Studio please email firstname.lastname@example.org