Batemans Bay Open Men's surfboat crew were up against the some of the best at the Australian Surf Rowers League (ASRL) National Team Selection event at North Cronulla on Sunday, December 15.
Swept by Neil Innes, the freshly formed crew included Wayne Coppin, Luke Price, Mick Bellette and Brendan Ellis.
Due to injuries, Ellis said it was a last minute decision to enter the event, which is one of the biggest on the calendar.
The crew dug deep to race nine rounds - the winner to be named Australia's representative team for the Tran Tasman test in 2020.
Out of 18 elite surfboat crews, Ellis was surprised with their fourth-place finish.
"We were just hoping to make the whole day injury free," he said.
"It was our first hit out together and we wanted to see how the combo went."
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The crew out-rowed most boats throughout the day, placing first and second.
Unfortunately, they were pipped by Currumbin, Caves Beach and Bulli in the final three round's pointscore.
"It was really surprising, considering our fitness and lack of time together in the boat - it exceeded our expectations," Ellis said.
Bulli won the title to represent Australia against New Zealand in February.
Considering their injuries, the flat conditions were favourable, but Ellis said "bigger surf would have been good".
"The Bulli men are a lighter crew and don't go that great in bigger surf," he said.
"With no preparation for one of the top carnivals, we did so well.
"Everyone was positive and we're looking forward to the rest of the season."
Next on their calendar is the third round of the Ocean Thunder Surfboat Series. Ellis said more training will keep them up there with the top crews.