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Wild waves test surfboat rowers
Picture: John Mokrzycki / The West Australian.

More than 200 WA surf lifesavers will put their skills to the test when they face off in the first round of the Navy Australian Surf Rowers League series tomorrow.

After weeks of gruelling training sessions and early morning swims, 40 crews of surfboat rowers will arm themselves with 6m-long fibreglass boats before tackling a course at Secret Harbour.

Secret Harbour Surf Life Saving Club captain Garry Williams said most crews trained five or six times a week in the lead-up to the competition.

"It is one of the sports lifesavers use to hone in on their skills for rescue and maintain their peak fitness," he said.

"The competition is also a reward for doing your community service and being on patrol on the beach."

Though surfboats are no longer used as rescue crafts, having been replaced with inflatable rescue boats and jet skis, surfboat competitions have been running steadily since the early 1900s.

North Cottesloe Surf Life Saving Club crew member James McLaughlin said many Perth crews travelled around the country to compete during the season. "We try to get over east whenever possible to compete in bigger competitions such as the world titles," he said.

"States like NSW and Queensland have pretty big numbers and are very competitive but Perth does pretty well."

Mr McLaughlin said he was expecting a "bit of carnage" tomorrow thanks to southerly winds and a predicted 2.5m swell.

Crews will compete for individual honours across six divisions as well as the chance to represent WA at the national titles in Queensland next year.