Ever wondered what you call a kayak race when you don’t want to call it a race? You call it a community paddle.
At least that’s the thinking behind the creation of Botany Bay’s 20 Groynes event, which is run each year by the Sutherland Shire Canoe Club and Dolls Point Paddlers, supported by the sport’s governing body, PaddleNSW.
It’s an excuse for a group of usually highly competitive racers to get together and have fun. It’s also not confined to locals – the organisers welcome paddlers from across Sydney.
Run this year on January 9, the ‘not-a-race’ uses the groynes (the physical barriers intercepting sand moving along the shore) on Botany Bay as navigation markers. Starting at Lady Robinson Beach outside the Georges River 16ft Sailing Club, they follow the groynes up Botany Bay until they reach the fifth groyne then head back to the start in the Georges River. They repeat this loop as many times as they can in 4 hours.
The laps are 4km long and paddlers can compete on their own or as part of a relay team. Most entrants compete using ocean skis but there were several outrigger canoes and one brave soul in a kayak designed for use in flat water, not the swell Botany Bay provided on the day.
“Sadly but perhaps not surprisingly, it wasn’t a very big field this year,” says event director, Mark Sundin.
“For most of the week the weather forecast was not looking too favourable so, that combined with the current COVID situation, limited the numbers. But while the field was small, they made up for it with enthusiasm, with four paddlers contesting the Queen of the Groynes title and four for the King of the Groynes. There were five relay teams doing battle for the coveted Multi Groynes trophy.”
At the end of the four hours, Shire locals were among the grinners. Michael McKeogh of the Cronulla Sutherland Kayak Club took the title of King of the Groynes, after completing 10 laps (40.7km) in three hours and 55 minutes. He also paddled the fastest single lap of the day, covering the 4.07km in 21 minutes and nine seconds.
Katherine Collings from Sutherland Shire Canoe Club came second in the Queen of the Groynes title with eight laps (32.6km), coming home behind Naomi Johnson from Lane Cove River Kayakers, who won with a time of three hours and 48minutes.
The Multi Groynes title winners were a team from Sutherland Shire Kayak Club who called themselves the Unused Groynes. Gareth Stokes, John Denyer, Mark Moro and Jason Hodder completed nine laps in three hours and 36 minutes. Two other teams from the same club completed a clean sweep of the podium, with eight laps completed in the allotted time frame.
While technically this year’s event was the fourth annual running of the 20 Groynes, it was only the second in reality. Strong winds and smoke from the 2019/20 bushfires made it unsafe for paddlers to be out on the water, while Covid-19 forced the cancellation of last year’s event.
Organisers hope next year’s event will attract many more entrants. Anyone interested in entering should check the club website (https://shirekayaking.paddle.org.au/) in the later months of this year or follow Sutherland Shire Canoe Club and Dolls Point Paddlers on Facebook.
Meanwhile, the two clubs will host two further Paddle NSW events this year: the Woronora Marathon on July 17 and the Dolls Point Classic on August 7.