NSW at Canoe Marathon National Championships

A spectacular turnout from NSW saw strong performances across the board at this year’s marathon nationals in Perth.

Over the weekend of May 18th and 19th, a team of 46 paddlers from NSW descended on Ascot Kayak Club on the beautiful Swan River in Perth for the annual Canoe Marathon National Championships. The event caters to all age groups and crafts, with paddlers ranging in age from under 10 to those in their 70s. The venue was busy and bustling from early Friday morning, with boats unloaded from trailers, team briefings and for many paddlers a quick practice run of the course. With some 280 paddlers taking to the water over two days, there was certainly a lot to organise!

Above: A chilly start for the Masters Men’s Singles, with Matt Windon in the mix. Photo: Lawrence Greed.

Saturday was singles day, and dawned chillier than most had anticipated. Paddlers arrived for the 8am Masters and Juniors session rugged up and suddenly considering long-sleeved tops under their bright blue NSW singlets. Races were organised in ten or five-year age classes, and at the masters level there was the option to paddle a K1 with portage, or K1 together with skis or rec boats in the non-portage class. So many classes and paddlers made for impressive starts, with up to twenty paddlers lined up on the river in the morning mist. It was great to see solid groups of juniors contesting the U/16 and U/14 classes, and thanks to a strong sub-juniors program, a fleet of U/12s and U/10s in Guppie K1s paddled 7.8km/4.1km courses as well. Larger paddlers were warned ‘tip in a youngster and face instant DQ’. They stayed well clear!

Above: NSW paddlers Dmytro Medvedyev and Daniela Angela Torre in the thick of things at the portage. Photo: Kristopher Smith.

One of the great thrills of watching a session at marathon nationals is the portages, which many classes are required to complete on every lap of the course. Paddlers jumped out on a sandy beach, dashed up a ramp and 100m through cheering spectators before descending to a second beach and getting back in the boat as quickly as possible.

Saturday afternoon’s slightly warmer weather saw the Open, U/23 and U/18 singles races. These paddlers were really up against distance, with the Open Men’s and Women’s classes taking on 30kms and 26.25kms respectively. It was a great afternoon of paddling, with many of Australia’s top marathon athletes and a number of very promising NSW juniors in the mix. Joseph Burton paddled to a decisive win in the U/18 Men’s K1, while Nicci Vesely and Emily O’Rourke took out the top two spots in the U/18 Women’s race.

Above: Hayley Dunbar and WA doubles partner Amelia Boldy heading for a win in the U/10 Guppie K2. Photo: John O’Sullivan.

Then it was sleep, rinse and repeat for doubles on Sunday, with any residual tiredness soon lost to the thrill of another race. Masters and Juniors put on a strong show in the morning session, with several NSW paddlers teaming up to form interstate boats. If anything, the Sunday portages were even more exciting, with more paddlers and longer boats piling into the beach and vying for position.

The afternoon Open and U/18 doubles session was fast and furious, with no fewer than twelve boats in the combined start of Open and U/18 Men’s K2 classes! Then it was time for some festivities, with Ascot Kayak Club organising a great meal and bar. NSW paddlers performed well across all age groups, with many medals earned and personal goals achieved. Of particular note, Brett Greenwood received the 2018 Marathon Paddler of the Year award for Masters Male. Well done Brett!

Thanks to such a strong turnout, NSW was also a hot contender in the interstate trophies, coming 2nd in both the Frank Whitebrook Trophy for points scored across all classes, and the International Class Trophy for ICF K1 and C1 classes.

Above: The Open Men’s K2 start, with NSW’s James Harrington/James Pralija in blue, and interstate pairing Brett Greenwood/Brett McDonald in yellow. Photo: John O’Sullivan.

Full results are available on Webscorer, and Paddle Australia’s article provides broader coverage of event. The 2019 National Team was announced on Friday, with more to come on the NSW paddlers selected.

Most of the NSW boats were transported by The Kayak Courier, providing excellent pick-up service ahead of the race and dropping them promptly at the venue on the Thursday afternoon after a long drive across the Nullarbor.

PaddleWA set the bar very high in 2019 with a superbly organised event. We look forward to seeing you at the 2020 Canoe Marathon Championship in Geelong, Victoria to be held from April 17th to 20th.

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