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  • Avon Descent, 2016

    Syd's Rapid: Sizing up the rapid...

  • Avon Descent, 2016

    Syd's Rapid: Enjoying the ride!

  • Avon Descent, 2016

    Emu Falls: Getting launched into the wash.

  • Avon Descent, 2016

    Glen Avon Rapid: Riding the rocky whites.

  • Avon Descent, 2016

    Northam Weir: Gliding down the weir wall.

Avon Descent, 2016

This was definitely the most gnarliest fun I’ve had on the river to date! Despite the lack of preparation, only have 1 paddle 3 weeks prior to the race since my last attempt in 2014, the conditions were very favorable. Waters were high (a little over 0.8m in most areas), rapids were white and gushing, sandbars were at a minimum and shallow rocks were submerged, the competitors were very pleasant (particularly all the social paddlers at the back) and the weather was pretty good too. A lot of rain but a lot of sun when it was needed most, and the Sunday morning start was much later, warmer and dry! Only had 3 spills this event, one just before champions raipid and the 2 big ones at Bells. So, a few little stats for my own personal history…

Day 1 Stats (to the Finish Line)
– Overall Time: 06:11:43.40
– Time From Prev Leg: 06:11:43.40
– Time From Prev Split: 06:11:43.40
– Time of Day: 14:57:13
– Overall Position: 184
– Category Position: 34
– Gender Position: 178
– Distance Completed: 53km
– Pace: 7:00 min/km
– Total Distance Completed: 53km

The first day was a sensational race. A good start to the morning, the river flowing well, very few sand bars and a sensational vibe from the crowds. Managed to stay afloat the whole time, letting the river do the grunt work where possible, and after spending most of the day being overtaken by everyone in their slimmer/thinner/glossier/more buoyant crafts, I overtook a STACK of people in Ti Trees. My craft may very well be the worlds fastest pontoon and not suited for long distance open body water but it LOVES the agile demands of the confined spaces that are found in the Ti Trees and rocky rapids. The camaraderie you tend to find towards the back of the packs is a pleasant one as they’re not usually the people you’d expect to find on the river. A few paddlers recognised me from previous years and new friendships were form. Had a great time banding together with a paddling pair Craig (2nd timer in his mid 40’s) and Neil (first timer in his mid ~50’s). As a beginner you tend to be a pure consumer, looking for as much information as possible to make the experience as least painful as possible. It’s very gratifying to be able to be a producer/contributor when you’ve got some experience behind you, as it allows you to give back to the community that’s given some time and energy towards your own development. After completing Day 1 in 6hrs 11mins 43sec, I still in good physical shape, good spirits, had all my marbles upstairs which is a good reflection of my personal development in nutritional selection and timing in endurance events. To celebrate, I took the support crew out for dinner at The Wild Goose Cafe at Noble Falls to enjoy a lovely tomato/onion bruschetta on garlic toast and a big beautiful rack of American style BBQ spare ribs served with creamy potato mash, asparagus, broccoli and gravy. To arrive home, enjoy a long hot shower, a massage on the shoulders and an early night to bed, it’s been a great day! :)

Day 2 Stats (to the Finish Line)
– Overall Time: 15:37:20.27
– Time From Prev Leg: 26:21:23.46
– Time From Prev Split: 09:25:36.87
– Time of Day: 17:18:36
– Overall Position: 184
– Category Position: 33
– Gender Position: 178
– Distance Done: 71km
– Pace: 22:16 min/km
– Total Distance Completed: 124km

With a bit of a chilled start to the morning, I felt good. It wasn’t as cold as previous years (4°C in Toodyay in 2014, and we’re in a valley, with water, in very high foggy conditions). I rather pleasant 8°C and an extra hour sleep in as finish times did not have to be extended this year due to slow waters. This year the grids took off in packs of 4 every minute as oppose to 2014’s 6 pack grids every 30secs which caused a lot of congestion and obstacles in the first lot of Ti Trees, particularly with the poor visibility in the fog. The 4pk x 1min approach was substantially better and the beginning of the day is WAY better when you don’t spent 10mins in the water looking for an oar. A few shunts n bumps with other crafts in the trees but once cleared it was pretty much rapids and streams till pass mid day. I didn’t even recognise Emu Falls due to the amount of extra water in the river this year, Moondyne Rapid the Supershoot was fun as hell. Lookout, Champions and Syd’s Rapids were quite demanding and didn’t have a probably with negotiating the terrain, much to the point where I actually smiled and enjoyed the ride. Syd’s isn’t as scary when you haven’t been poked in the eye with a stick seconds before entering the rapid so it was nice to enjoy and actually see what was going on in the rapid this year. Got barrel rolled in a pissy little chute just prior to Champions due to poor path selection and over confidence on my part. It’s nice how the river always finds a way to keep you humble. After Syd’s wicked ride it was good moving leg of paddling to Bell’s Rapid. Bells was a different beast this year. The 20-30min lead up was as good as it gets. In negotiating Bell’s when the water was lower it had a main chute that I’d planned to take; the only path I knew of. Upon its approach I noticed the river taking me over to the bridge directly and not directly to the chute. Realising that there’s not one but many chutes now available to me I didn’t make an appropriate decision, if any decision at all. I went close to the where the main chute was, was dragged under the bridge, got through the drop and got rolled in the wash and while still in the craft after capsizing, took a solid rock to the ribs through the PFD (Personal Flotation Device) even it’s contents and all my wet gear on me. I then got cast into the river infront the craft chasing my oar, and before I knew it I had nowhere to recover to as the craft dragged me into the next chute. The ASU official offered me a line to safety which he delivered, but it was already too late. The river had me. I managed to recover the craft to the middle of the river into an eddy among some trees where I hung my oar for safe keeping. Managed to lodge the nose of the craft onto a rocky high point just above the river level so I could roll and empty the craft. Craft holds approx 500L… (1L = 1kg)… 500kg of water to empty when fully submerged. Took about 8-9 lifts to empty the craft. Retrieved my oar, jumped in, had trouble getting the spray-deck to seal and was committed back to the race, only to be rolled again in the next major fall. Ate a lot of shit with this one as the amount of rocks I collected under the water with my shins chasing the oar… so painful. Crowd was getting loud as it got behind me they saw how tired I was. Eating rock after rock with my legs trying to swim and climb over rocks in pursuit. When I hit the open water to chase the evading oar my arms could barely swim. The PFD inhibited my slipstream abilities in the water and the oar looked like it was going to slip from grasp. After much persistence I managed to get a handle on it right before it took to the fastest path of water. It was nice to give the crowd something to scream about. They’re there for so long, watching the winnings and “learnings” from all the paddlers and powercraft. :) I eventually recovered the craft down stream but this is the 3rd time I’ve emptied the craft and the body’s getting REAL tired now. But with Bell’s now “successfully” completedand being the most demanding part of the race thus far, it was now onto 39km of open body water. My most hated part of the race. No current, no white water, no fun, just a headwind/crosswind, and a slowly setting sun, that doubles in the water when facing west in the late afternoon. This is solely the reason I’ll be upgrading the craft on my next attempt. To go from 7min/km to 22min/km is just does my head and shoulders in. The final leg of the race, coming around the last corner after Ascot Kayaking Club at Garvey Park was a happy one for a change. Probably because I was in better physical and mental shape this time. Although losing my sunnies in the water in the last 40m of the race (I know right?!) I was a cheery finisher, enjoying the large volume of smiles by those all around me. Some good long friends of mine, Michael Bower and Melbourne Simpson had just finish the race in their pink double craft 2 minutes before I. So it was hand shakes, beers, a lot of whinging and a few happy stories to be shared. That’s pretty much where the real wins are. The stories! Achievements a fantastic to have and to chase, as they keep you focused. Statistics are good, but become a little obsolete and less valuable when new and better statistics go in. No one remembers silver, bronze or below. But the stories! The stories are told time and time again. That’s where the real value is. So looking forward to the next white water adventure! or just adventure in general!

A big shout out to Melanie Hackett and Annette Livesey for being the most amazing support crew one could hope for. It would be a pretty shit race without a crew that’s on time, every time with all the gear and info you require. Their take on the day is that they also had a blast, as it’s not just my support they seek to entertain, but just being in the wash of it all. Seeing the other competitors, their support crews, their interactions, their wins, their failures, their stories!…. Just a fun day had by all. Feel free to come onboard the next adventure!

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