Organise a fishing comp they said, it will be fun, they said.....
This is perhaps one of the only times I use this sentence with sincerity! I am usually using it in a joking fashion to my friends whose kids are throwing an epic tantrum (have kids they said... it will be fun they said...), organising Girls Gone Fishin is fun, and exciting, and scary, and daunting, and hard, and rewarding, all wrapped up into one AMAZING weekend, with people who believe in GGF and all that it is.
For those of you who haven't followed the Girls Gone Fishin story from the start, let me take you back and share some insight into how it all came to be.
Since 2011, I (Sammie) have had a desire to establish and run my own Women's fishing competition in the Top End, having fished in a number of other comps over the years, I saw that there were so many teams who had dropped off the radar, and the atmosphere of some of these events was changing. It was no longer as fun, the teams who I was so used to seeing out on the water were no longer showing up, the lunch time raft ups when the fishing was slow had all but ceased, the shit talking across the radio while out on the water was quiet - to me, these are what makes the weekend memorable, especially when the fishing is slow, as it has been for the past few years. Don't get me wrong, it was still fun - we still laughed and had a great time, but it just wasn't as fun as it used to be. Some of you reading this may disagree, but remember this is my personal opinion, and is a the background for how GGF came about.
Fast forward to October 2014, and hearing enough talk from me, my friend Brooke put a rocket up my ass and pushed me to start Girls Gone Fishin. We went to lunch, and we came up with the initial GGF master plan - to organise a friendly fishing competition, no more than 10 or so teams, organise some comp shirts, we all stay at my families beach house at Dundee and we run a friendly comp, in fact the initial plan for the trophy was a Ken & Barbie doll in a toy sized raft! Ha! As we sat there at lunch, we listed who we would contact about the event and came up with some numbers. We also toyed with the idea of making this a proper event.....
Fast forward a couple of weeks, we sat on Brooke's couch and did some brain storming for a name, googling Roller Derby team names, throwing words around, coming up with HEAPS of different scenarios, until we finally settled on Girls Gone Fishin. From there, a business name was registered (you see, although this is a fun, friendly competition, there is still a requirement to do things properly, tax returns on the income and expenses, sponsorship invoices that need to be sent out etc.), a logo was designed and we set up a private group on FB and began inviting those people who we had listed into the group. What happened next was interesting, to say the least. People kept getting added to the group, and the interest in the comp grew.
We realised that there was a demand for Girls Gone Fishin to be bigger than what we anticipated it was going to be, and so set out creating a bigger and better framework and plan for the competition. The private FB group turned into a public page, sponsorship letters were drafted and sent out, a bigger venue (The Lodge) was selected and we turned 10 or so teams into 29 registered and paid teams. HOLY MOLY.
The next interesting thing to happen, was that the people we were sending sponsors letters to were coming back with a yes - what the heck, people want to give us money to help with the running costs of Girls Gone Fishin?! HAHA.
The next 6 months was a massive blur, Brooke was busy designing all the collateral for the comp, and I was busy managing all the registrations and the finances. As a joint force, we also managed to decide on what merchandise we wanted, what we wanted the trophy to look like (sadly no Ken & Barbie in a boat [YET] ), gathered sponsors, organised the menu with the Lodge, lanyards, stubby coolers, shirts, hats, buffs, spreadsheets, money, insurance, branding and promotion, keeping the competitors engaged, keeping sponsors informed - you name it, we did it!
The event was AMAZING! It completely exceeded our expectations, and blew us away. There were a few hiccups, such as being rained out on presentation night, but overall, it was just incredible. There were plenty of fish caught, a 110cm beautiful chrome Barra.
After the first year, I took over the reigns of the comp, while Brooke continued to work on her ever growing business Studio B Designs. I was up for the challenge, and eager to make the second year even better than the first - more fun, more memorable. After the success of the inaugural comp, word had gotten out about Girls Gone Fishin, and I was getting enquiries left, right and centre. I decided it was time to start up a website, to try and systemise and handle the enquiries and expressions of interest that were coming through the emails. I enquired about getting a website built, but it was way outside what we had left in the account, so I decided to build it myself - ha! Wasn't that fun. Luckily for me, I am a quick learner, and having found a platform as easy as the one I am using made life a hell of a lot easier.
Once the website was built, expressions of interest went out, I was inundated! Again, I was blown away by the support the comp was receiving and amazed by how many people wanted to fish it (in fact, to this day I am still excited when I hear people talking about the comp).
I missed out a big part about organising the first year when I omitted to say I was lucky enough to be working for a great company where my workload allowed me to work pretty much full time on organising the event, which I needed, given the fact we had never organised anything like GGF before. Year two, I decided it was time for me to seek out more of a challenge in my professional world and moved into a new role with a property developer as a senior member of their finance team. I started with them at the same time as the EOI's were due in, registrations were coming in, invoices needed to be raised, deposits that were due and being monitored, concept designs for the theme for 2016, shirt and merchandise designs, goody bags, sponsors. Oh, and my professional move definitely threw me the challenge I was seeking, in the form of doing 80 hour fortnights, after taking 10 hours off during the fortnight to attempt attending uni to do my accounting degree.
Again, the 6 months prior to the comp was another MASSIVE blur. I literally got to the event and looked around and thought... how the HELL did I pull this off? Somehow, all the merch was there, all the prizes were there, everything we needed, was there! I am incredibly thankful for the support of people like Megan Brown, who I was able to use as a sounding board for 2016, and who helped with sourcing some of our sponsors. I also need to make special mention to my two BEST friends, Hayley and Tara. Both of them have been by my side on the weekend of the event for both years, and have done an incredible job helping keep me calm, and keep me on track - I would be fucked without them.
Girls Gone Fishin 2016 was EPIC. Amazing, mind blowing, incredibly, fun, hilarious. It was fucking fantastic! And I take so much pride knowing that my hard work paid off and produced the weekend that was. Before the event was even over (in fact, the week leading up to the comp), I had expressions of interest pouring in from teams who had heard of the comp, and wanted in. Like seriously, can I just focus on running the event for now?! HAHA! We had 34 teams in 2016. Incredible growth from year 1 (in my eyes).
Given the interest for 2017 that was already generating in the days before, and after 2016 event, expressions of interest opened in May 2016. By the time I sent invites out, we had over 76 teams register their interest, and to this very day, I am still getting enquiries as to whether we have spots left. For anyone reading this, the answer is no. We are at capacity with 43 teams.
In June, my partner and I purchased our first home together, a month later, we were off to Canada and Alaska for a month long holiday, and when we returned in August, I decided that it was again time for a change in my professional life, so I started a new job on the 1st September. Not surprisingly, I had a bit of a breakdown, I could not cope with all the change that was happening in my life, and there was too much pressure (that I was putting on myself) and so I ended up with a pretty bad case of Depression and Anxiety. I was not functioning very well, and it got to the point where I did not think I could cope with organising Girls Gone Fishin. I was barely coping with my day to day life, how the hell was I supposed to cope with organising a women's fishing comp? Girls Gone Fishin 2017 almost did not happen. I was super close to announcing that there would be no event.
Luckily for me, my sisters (being the bossy bitches that they are) told me that I was forming an organising committee and that we would all contribute to putting the event together. We enlisted the help of my besties, Hayley and Tara, as well as Megan Brown and Lenna, an old fishing buddy of all of ours. The pressure of Girls Gone Fishin was easing, and with some great support from my partner, family and Psychologist I was able to manage my anxiety and depression - and get on with the job of organising the best weekend of the year (as well as the rest of my life).
In November, that new job I started back in September also wasn't working out quite the way I had hoped, and so after years of job hopping, and generally [thinking] I could do it better than it was being done, I started my own business.... Northern Cloud Consulting. On the 12th December I began working in my business full time. So far, it has been amazing, and it allows me the flexibility to work on GGF (although I do need to be careful, as GGF have super special rates of $0 an hour!!).
Since then, it has been all systems go. Invites went out, registration forms came back in, sponsors letters have been sent to a multitude of people and we have once again got some amazing support behind us. As I sit here writing this, I am shaking my head in disbelief at how much this comp has grown - it humbles me that people had the faith in the idea, and have supported us the way they have.
Wow - when I sat down to write this it was going to be a bit of an insight into the comp, but it has turned into so much more than that. I am not after sympathy, or empathy, judgement or comments. I love Girls Gone Fishin, it is a huge part of my life, and I strive to ensure that it is run with professionalism and integrity. We have an amazing community of fisho's in the top end, and that is evident when we all get together, whether it be at Girls Gone Fishin, The Barra Klash, The Nationals or The Classic, Shady Lady or SWB. We love our sport, we respect others that love our sport. That is what I want GGF to be about, Fun, Friendship and Fishing.
As a side note, if you are suffering from anxiety and or depression, you are not alone. Fuck me it is a shit house thing to go through, and it does creep up on me from time to time, but just know you are not broken, or shit, or useless, or fucked, or dumb. You are navigating this ridiculous thing we call life!
Tight lines ladies and gents.
There is only 12 weeks to go until GGF 2017. FUCK YEAH!