For one day each year, motorbikes tear along the sand of a North Queensland beach at 200kph, blasting the skin of any competitor who falls behind.
- Women compete in their own class for the first time in a unique motorbike race at Grasstree Beach
- Motorcycle Beach Races has been running in the Mackay region for nearly 100 years
- Chloe Purvis took to social media to rally enough female riders to compete
For riders, it’s worth every scratch for the chance to gain the prestigious title, King of the Beach.
But 24-year-old rider Chloe Purvis has her sights set on revving up enough interest from female riders to create another title: Queen of the Beach.
Her efforts to attract female competitors to this year’s Grasstree Beach event, which is held just south of Mackay, meant, for the first time in the race’s 97-year history, there were enough riders to create a separate women’s class.
The Grasstree Beach race starts with a series of qualifiers, then the top 10 earn a ticket to the King of the Beach final, where riders charge through five laps of the 750-metre track skirting around barrels at either end.
Unfortunately, none of the female riders made it to the final, held on Sunday, but Purvis remains undaunted in her mission to attract more women to motorbike racing.
Driving force for female riders
When Purvis contacted the Grasstree Beach Race organisers, they told her she had to find 10 women who could compete in order to create a separate category.
After using social media to get the word out, Purvis set up a group chat with other female riders she had competed against around the country, and by race day the women’s class had a full grid.
It wasn’t the first time Purvis had rallied to get a women’s race on the agenda.
She started riding with friends in 2019 and, just a year later, was called up to compete in the Queensland Dirt Track Titles.
“I think there were only one or two girls and we had to have a minimum of five girls in flat track to get a class, and they hit me up,” Purvis said.
“That was my first race, the Queensland titles event, and it was terrifying but so much fun and that just got me hooked on racing.
“I love going fast but it’s the adrenaline, it’s the atmosphere.”
Purvis’s love of racing has taken her around Australia, and she’s used to hauling gear from town to town on her own.
But she says despite doing it solo, the community’s support means she rarely feels like she’s doing it alone.
Women on the rise
Brittany O’Brien, 29, grew up in a racing family but said she never really pursued the sport.
“My brothers used to race, and I used to just be in the pits kicking around in the mud,” O’Brien said.
But four children later, the sport now has O’Brien hooked.
She said it was inspiring to see how many women had also taken it up in the past two decades.
“When you’re out there on the straight and you’re looking over and there’s another girl pushing you, that makes you want to do your best,” O’Brien said.
She said the stigmas about women motorbike racers were slowly being broken down.
“Everywhere you go now there is a women’s event but the majority of the women like to ride with the men because they just give it their all,” she said.
“They are not scared to push you off the track, which … I don’t mind because that pushes you to ride as hard as you can.”
Queen of the Beach
Motorbike Beach Races lifetime member Steven Eden said it was great to have more women in the sport.
“We’ve had some women compete before but to be recognised and have their own class is certainly a big step forward,” he said.
Like Purvis, Mr Eden hopes that with momentum for women in the sport building, there will be enough riders in the coming years to crown a Queen of the Beach at the Grasstree Beach event.