As one of the only four women active in competitive motorbike racing in Namibia, 17- year-old Shannon Rowland is hoping to go as far as she can in the sport.
Rowland recorded the fastest racing time of 3:25:29 over three laps in the ladies’ quad category for round three of the Bank Windhoek Namibia National Enduro Series. The races took place on Saturday, 16 May 2015 in Aranos, and are considered one of the faster races on the Enduro Series calendar.
Her experience and technical prowess did not come overnight. Rowland says she has been on a bike’s seat since she was nine.
“My father surprised me one day by getting me a quad bike for Christmas when I was in Grade Three. After some years, he met some folk who introduced him to racing. I would always go with him for practice on the mountains, and that’s how my desire for racing grew,” she explained.
Rowland became competitively active when she was 11, and has never looked back. She says her father is her biggest influence, and she is always looking to impress him most of the times when she finds herself on the track.
“My father inspires me to ride. It always makes me happy when I’m riding on the track because I know it makes him proud. I’m also a huge fan of Dirkie Baard,” she added.
Baard is indeed a good role-model for the young rider as he has tasted success several times in his career, including winning the South African ATV Pro 450cc Off-Road Championship series for a second consecutive year in 2010, and winning the 2009 Namibian National Off-Road & Motocross Quad Championships.
The St. Paul’s College student says she has observed that there are women who ride bikes as a hobbie, particularly those in farming areas, but they are not competing.
“For some reason or another, they have not taken it up as a sport, but I would encourage that they do. It would help the profile of female riders in Namibia, and it is beneficial for them as well,” Rowland argued.
“Since I have been racing, I have noticed that I have gained a lot of confidence”, she added.
Her year is progressing well so far after what she described as a lacklustre start. After finishing second behind Maike Bochert in the first race of the year at farm Omakwara, Rowland took part in the Marenarco race in Namibe, Angola and came first in the women’s class.
“It was one of my career highlights as it was my first time competing outside the country. The last round of the Enduro series was also awesome for me because I took the most points from all the quad races, including men”, she beamed.
As a grade 12 student, she says her biggest challenge is finding time to balance her school work and training. Rowland trains three to four times a week.
One of her biggest focuses is avoiding injuries, going around corners properly and changing gears, “but there is not much you can do to prepare for injuries or collisions. The best you can do on the track is to correct your mistakes quickly, and that’s when your experience comes in”.
She further stated that “I am fortunate not to have had a bad injury during my career, but I once fractured my ribs after I fell in a race. I didn’t take it seriously because I thought it was after-race pains. It’s only after the pain persisted that I was eventually taken to hospital.”
The impact of the sport on her life has been such that after she completes her matric, she plans to stay in the country and study aviation to become a pilot.
“We had an opportunity to job-shadow, and that is when I realised I could not have a job sitting in an office. My love for bike riding inspired me to choose piloting,” she enthused.
Rowland’s next race will be on 6 June 2015 at Tony Rust when the Enduro series continues.