Over the weekend Alex and I, along with our father Peter and fellow Avoca paddlers Harry, Byron and Fletcher, took to the town of Eildon for the fourth edition of the Eildon to Alexandra river race. The water was running at a pumping 8000 mega litres (per day), making it a really fast descent for the two-stage, 32 kilometre stretch of the Goulbourn river.
Given the water was at such a high level, it meant that I was able to take a trustworthy, fixed-rudder kayak down the river. The other craft in the race consisted of a collection of Wildwater kayaks, trailing rudder k1’s, k2’s and even a sea kayak!
The event drew in paddlers from all walks of life. There were national team representatives from Wildwater, Marathon, Sprint and Slalom which was great to see. As history has shown from previous e2a events, it would be the stamina of the marathon paddlers, in particularly Casey Haynes that would prove to be the greatest challenge. Throughout the event he was working at a high intensity in an attempt to break free from the lead group. Meanwhile, I was doing my best to preserve energy to ensure that I was in the best possible position to give a final boost towards the end.
For the first stage of the race, which was a 14km stretch, the lead group paddled closely together, right up until the last few kilometres. It was then that myself and the K2 paring of John Young and Dom Scarfe broke free with a few sharp corners that were well executed. Byron Chadwick - fresh off being selected for the U18 Australian Sprint team - paddled really well, hanging onto the pack until the very last bend, where I was then able to sprint away and take the line honours over the K2.
The second stage began with an early lead from Alex. He was having issues with his steering throughout the day so he figured that if he was out in front and away from any boat wash that he would be able to get some solid paddling in. This lasted for quite a while, but then there was some real pressure put down by Casey again in an attempt to drop us. For about the last 8km it was Casey, myself and the K2 of John and Dom battling it out with my fight to stay on their tail becoming increasingly difficult. I gave my last push before the last bend to get my nose in front before opening up on to the straight. I felt like I had gone too early and that he would come over the top of me but I managed to hang on and take stage 2 honours.
This event really frightened me the first time I attempted it, largely due to the longer distance that I had never raced in before the inaugural event in 2015. For personal development, such events prove to be great training because the long drawn out races make you think differently and plan tactically.
I would like to personally give a massive shout out and thanks to Wes Hurrey, who has become increasingly generous with the proceeds of the event going back in to future river races and development of the sport.
Feel free to be a part of the event next year. You can paddle any craft down the river at any pace, it’s a great day out!
For further information about the event, please feel free to contact us. We can also aim to help you organise craft and equipment for the day.