According to self-help theory, one way to a adopt good habits is to join a group with a culture you hope to emulate, where doing the right thing is normal behaviour. What better reason could there be for attending the Bairnsdale Marathon Paddling camp. Kayaking on the beautiful rivers of Gippsland was encouraged and there were coaches to tell you the finer points of training and technique.
The first morning was a trip down the Mitchell River, starting at the Bairnsdale Rowing Club. The weather was sunny; the winds light. Like many Melbourne people, I’d over dressed and needed to remove a jacket and multiple layers of thermals to get comfortable.
John and Hamish Young led the speedy group, looking to get serious training in before lunch on the 1st day with a session of 8 x 1000 m at race pace. But the camp catered to all levels. Beginners were guided by Debbie Bennett and Rob Godwin as they paddled downstream of the highway bridge. There were also 2 groups of intermediate paddlers who toured the river toward Lake King.
In the afternoon there was an easier paddle upstream. Some groups focussed on wash riding, paddling in a pack and changing the lead while maximising speed and minimising energy use. Others just cruised the river in a wide variety of craft. There was also a great lunch and an optional off-water session on race tactics.
On Sunday morning there was a paddle upstream on the Nicholson River from the town of Nicholson with more coaching from John and Hamish but also the opportunity to enjoy the river or try different types of boats.
There was also a planned paddle on the Tambo River on Monday morning, upstream from Swan Reach. In the great flood of 1998, the water level got so high when the Tambo flooded the Bruthen flats, that cows were stranded in trees when the flood receded. This has been commemorated by a sculpture at Docklands in Melbourne. For the camp, the Tambo River paddle had to be cancelled, not because of floods but because of the cold, windy ‘Melbourne’ weather that arrived overnight.
Overall, the camp was a great success. Learning new paddling skills, exploring rivers and making new friends.
Special thanks to organisers and coaches: Sally Miller, Debbie Bennett, Stewart Nicol, Caterina Almeida, John and Hamish Young, Louise Greenwood and Rob Godwin.
Tony Ladson, September 2022.