The longest running extreme whitewater race in Australia (heck why not try and claim the longest running event in the Southern Hemisphere and see if it gets refuted?!) continues despite the ENSO index or absence of westerly weather. It’s the westerly weather that delivers the rain that much of Tasmania is famous for but this year the roaring forties have been purring further south.
What’s the point of this talk of weather? Well it wasn’t so much whitewater kayaking as “what-water” kayaking. Estimates varied between 2cumecs flow and a plain unwillingness to consider matters beyond anyone’s control, well mostly: this isn’t a discussion of the carbon cycle. We are talking about the Lea Extreme Race proudly run by the Derwent Canoe Club.
This event is as much about catching up with paddlers from around Australia as it is about paddling. Kayak4Play rewarded both racers and helpers alike with great spot prizes. Hydro Tasmania helpfully raised the level of Lake Gardiner and soon enough the guys at Griffon Expeditions will produce a short video edit of the event. The boys from Chase City played a mix of old and new tunes on Saturday night to provide some quality entertainment.
The paddlers who could travel light and weave a tight line between and over the many rocks were rewarded with the fast times. Old dogs proved that they didn’t need to learn new tricks and that their bodies were still formidable. The hopes of more than 1 race pair were dashed against a slimy log lying awkwardly in lazy pool of water.
Race organisers were keen to see the gender balance of the event tweaked and have a ladies division. But for one reason or another the ducks, old and young, didn’t line up on the weekend. Young Kate Eckhardt showed up more than a few blokes however, holding the wake of her older brother Andrew to come second overall, narrowly edging out the hopes and ambitions of the powerful duo from New South Wales, Rob and Alex McIntye.
In all 19 pairs dared to race the rocky yet perversely enjoyable Lea River with minimal flows. With intimate knowledge of the more forgettable rapids between the classic waterfalls, Screaming Plastic Surgeons and Proctologists Twist, a healthy embrace of absurdity and attentive paddling, a real sense of joy could be gained from bouncing, grinding and bumping down the river with style and grace. And it was this sense of joy that the race winners Dan Hall and Justin Boocock exemplify so well. Top job to them, everyone who raced, all those who volunteered and the sponsors who made this event possible.
By Tim Watson