Southland shearer Matt Hunt has ditched the booze and the pies and hit the gym as he prepares to shear sheep for 24 hours in West Otago today and tomorrow.
Mr Hunt is one of five men who will spend 24 hours from 6am today shearing sheep at Wohelo Station at Moa Flat this weekend.
He will be joined by Alex Clapham, originally from Yorksire in England, Brodie Horrell, of Gore, Paul Hodges, of Geraldine and Kalin Chrystal, of Napier, in the challenge.
The group will attempt to shear sheep for 24 hours over a 32-hour period at Wohelo Station in West Otago from 6am today.
For Mr Hunt it is a chance to seek redemption.
He trained hard to be part of a similar event, Shear4Blair, on the same station at the same time last year but an injury meant he had to withdraw.
Shearers could work all year across New Zealand and Australia but it was important to take time off to give your body time to recover, he said.
“I missed most of last summer with injuries and that was just by pushing myself all year.”
He damaged the tendons in his wrist from shearing tough sheep in the South in autumn 2021.
In hindsight, he should have rested more.
“I was pretty ignorant and pig-headed and kept going back too early and causing more damage.”
More recovery time was taken this season to avoid his body taking another hammering, he said.
He was confident his body was up to the task this weekend but time would tell if he was mentally tough enough.
“I want to see how far my mind will go until it hits that brick wall — I can be pretty resilient, I think.”
He found motivation by raising money for his chosen charity, Kidzway Early Learning Centre, in Tapanui.
He had no children at the centre but had friends and family who did, and wanted to raise money for a local cause.
“This challenge is a way to prove to myself I have the ticker to shear for 24 hours and help give back to my community.”
His training included stopping both drinking alcohol and eating unhealthy food, such as pies, about five months ago.
At smoko, he ate soaked oats, while his colleagues feasted on pastry goods.
Watching his diet had him feeling better and had given him more energy.
“Getting off the booze has been a big thing. I hit it pretty hard last year when I got injured — I abused it a bit and it put me in a dark spot.”
Shearers had a reputation of being tough but the industry had lost many good people to suicide.
He was enjoying spending more time doing activities such as deer hunting and fishing, rather than spending that time drinking.
The shearing crew gave station owner Jeremy Gunton some crayfish and paua for allowing them to hunt deer on the station after finishing work for the day.
Shearing was in his blood.
His father Phil was a shearer for 12 years, working mostly around Central Otago, and he taught him how to shear.
Mr Hunt had been shearing for about four years.
Out of high school, he trained to be a plumber to get a trade under his belt.
The 27-year-old believed his body had about another decade of shearing left in it.
Part of his training for the event this weekend was high-intensity training at the gym for 45 minutes, before or after a day’s work.
Shearers who had completed the 24-hour feat had told him high-intensity training was better for building fitness rather than going for a two-hour run.
“Shearing is quite stop-start.”
To get up for early morning gym sessions, the alarm on his cellphone was the Country Calendar theme song.
Mr Hunt felt like he was prepared for this weekend and wanted to make the bad mental space he was in after pulling out of the event last year a distant memory.
Mr Clapham is fundraising for FarmStrong, Mr Horrell is fundraising for Otago Rescue Helicopter, Mr Hodges is backing Rural Support while Mr Chrystal is backing Talk Peach Gynaecological Foundation.
About 80 volunteers last week crutched 10,000 sheep for the challenge.