TIME on the road is nothing new for Holly Abbey, who for years made the trip each weekend from Canberra to the South Coast to do nippers at the Nowra-Culburra SLSC.
After 12 years of making that two and a half hour commute, which also included trips to compete with Coogee once she progressed into the senior ranks, Abbey took her talents to Kurrawa Surf Club in September.
"I loved my first season at Kurrawa," Abbey, who has won more than 10 state and national medals in her career, said.
"It was a club I've always wanted to be a part of and they were so welcoming - the people were so incredible to work alongside."
But as Abbey is still studying at Canberra Grammar School, she had to balance her sporting exploits with her homework - forcing her to negotiate her way through an up and down season.
"For term four of last year, I was doing schooling from Queensland, which made it a lot easier to train and compete consistently leading into the season," she said.
"But at the start of 2020, I returned to Canberra, which coincided with the end of the surf season.
"However, most of the competitions I was aiming to compete at - state, Aussies and worlds - ended up being cancelled because of coronavirus, which was a necessary precaution to prevent the spread.
"While it was definitely disappointing to not be able to compete at those events, it also made the complications around travel no longer necessary.
"In saying that, it was a tough pill to swallow, considering all the hard work and persistence through the season - thankfully my team offered great support for us all.
"I expect everyone will come back hungrier for state and Aussies next year, so the competition will definitely be strong."
This is just one of the aspects Abbey had to deal with during a season she labelled 'rocky'.
"My performance was lacking a little this year thanks to an ongoing rugby injury," she said.
"That ended up affecting how I mentally approached my competitions but with the Kurrawa Kracken Krew behind me, this hurdle was made a lot easier to get through.
"With so much talent among the Kraken athletes [including former Mollymook talent Kate Lewis], there was inspiration from every direction and it was definitely a family I am very appreciative to have been a part of."
Despite all this adversity, the now 17-year-old managed to claim a bronze medal in the world youth beach sprint before being drafted into the Australian squad, which was scheduled to compete in Italy later this year.
"The move to Kurrawa meant I could train consistently to a weekly program that had surf lifesaving as the main focus," Abbey, who also represented the Point Danger Seawolves at the Super Surf Teams League in December, said.
"It also meant I was getting help in areas that focused specifically on beach competitions rather than athletics or other sports.
"Coaches Ryan Hoffman and Melissa Carcroft-Wilson (nee Howard) were immensely helpful and encouraging during training and competitions along with other squad members and talent.
"I was able to get directed tips and technique training from people who have been through it all themselves and this was something that definitely helped my technique and performance on the sand."
"Working with Mel was an absolute honour," she said.
"She's a role model I have looked up to in the sport for so long and followed her achievements and successes along the way.
"To be training under her guidance was an incredible experience and she was the most lovely and inspiring person to be working with.
"I'm very thankful for all Mel has done for me over the years but particularly grateful for her efforts towards me this last season.
"She is an incredible coach and athlete but a beautiful friend and I'm so happy to have been able to have to opportunity to work alongside such an admirable mentor."
Now in the off-season, Abbey has decided to take a break from the sand and concentrate on a couple of other endeavours, most notably her senior year at high school.
Another factor in her decision to have a hiatus is rugby union.
"My primary school PE teacher Louise Burrows used to tell me I should start playing rugby," Abbey, who will maintain her track and beach training to ensure she's ready to return when the time is right, said.
"While it was always something in the back of my mind, it wasn't until a few years later when Mrs Burrows represented Australia in women's rugby herself that really pushed me into action to participate.
"When I moved to Canberra Grammar School, I was given the option to begin playing girls rugby.
"We started off with some sevens before the school put forward an under 18 women's 10s team.
"This meant I got to be a part of the sport before later trialling for the ACT schoolgirls team for 15s - I loved every second of it.
"I was asked at the end of the year to join the Brumbies women's sevens team and then signed with the ACTAS (ACT Academy of Sport) rugby sevens team when I returned to Canberra in early 2020.
"Despite the season being postponed, it's been so much fun already and I can't wait for it all to restart."
This move highlights Abbey's willingness to never back down from any challenge thrown in front of her.
"I'm not one to say no to a sporting opportunity or to shy away from a challenge - that was the biggest attraction to the sport," Abbey, who's spent time at fullback, wing and flyhalf, said.
"I'd played touch football and Oztag for years and followed Super Rugby and NRL, so I had a basic idea of how to play.
"Putting it into action was a lot harder than watching the Cowboys [her favourite NRL team] and I really loved the new challenge."
She also acknowledges how her previous exploits at the beach have helped her make a seamless transition between the sports.
"The strength from the beach sprints has definitely helped in my running ability on the rugby field," she said.
"The competitive aspect of beach flags is similar but nothing really compares to the aggression and pace on the footy field."
But until this lockdown is lifted, Abbey is resigned to individual training, in a hope of achieving a number of sporting goals later this year.
"The imposed rest during lockdown has been a very nice change of pace and I have been largely focused on schoolwork," she said.
"As far as being motivated, I have been completing our Brumbies gym and fitness conditioning programs as well as the Engine Swim gym programs and live workouts.
"All this hard work should put me in good shape to achieve my goals of making the ACT schoolgirls rugby team, national all-schools athletics and swimming championships (in sprint events).
"I'm determined to make the most out of the opportunities I have left with my school sports competitions and teammates."