What started out last year as a few mates getting together for a bit of fun, to paddle from Copmanhurst to Yamba, has this year attracted both national and international big guns, of the sporting world.
Women’s K4 kayaking finalist at the 1992 Olympic Games in Barcelona, Denise Cooper along with America’s Cup yachtsman, Gordon Grivas; Australian Masters Paddle Champions Gavin Cook and Tom Armitt and Kim Harker from New Zealand (who has recently returned from the world marathon paddling championships, after finishing 14th) all joined in this year’s event.
Despite the line up of these high calibre proven performers, the event was really about having fun and participating and challenging yourself.
The first three paddlers to reach the finish line on Sunday were local Grafton identities Greg Coombes, Adam Sydenham and Dennis Boyd.
The men set off from Maclean half an hour before the official start, to enjoy the challenge of the paddle.
Mr Coombes, who paddled in last year’s event, said that he and his friends were not taking the event too seriously and were just out to enjoy the event.
“We’re just part time paddlers and we did it for fun,” he said.
“Compared to the 17 or so who paddled in last year’s event, this year there were between 60 – 70 participants.”
John and Emma Moor of Mooloolaba, were the only father and daughter team entered in this year’s event.
The family, formally from South Africa, have been in Australia for two years.
Mr Moor said that he and his daughter were familiar with paddling events, with their longest being 240 kilometres, back in South Africa.
‘You have an absolutely stunning river here,” said Mr Moor.
“The hotels who hosted us over the last two nights (the Crown Hotel in Grafton and the Maclean Hotel) really made us feel welcome and at home.”
Mr Moor said that other three-day paddling events they’d taken part in over the years in South Africa, usually attract between 800 – 2000 entries.
“I predict if they (the organisers) do it right, which they seem to be, it (this event) will become a major paddling event.
Organiser of this year’s event Ben Sullivan (who initiated last year’s event), stipulated that the three day paddle was an event and not a race.
“The purpose of the event is to raise money and create funding for ‘Youth Sporting Initiatives ’,” he said.
“Growing up in the Clarence Valley I was fortunate to have wonderful role models in my life,” he said.
“Now it’s time for me to give back.”
This year’s event raised $2,500 which was presented to the Yamba Surf Lifesaving Club (SLSC) and will go towards their ‘Surf Education Program for Nippers’.
This year’s three day event saw some extremely fast times recorded.
Although there were no winners in this event, Gavin Cook, Kim Harker and Tom Armitt along with the duo team paddlers of Jen and Paul Rogers, were always seen at the front of the pack battling it out for the finish line.