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Jane paddling on Salmon River, USA. Photo by Michael Wilson

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Let me introduce myself. My name is Jane. I am 76, and I have been paddling since I was 18. I love paddling, particularly in spring on these beautiful sunny days. 

My first interest is Slalom Kayaking, an Olympic sport, usually held on big rapids, often man-made. But that is well past me. Instead, you can usually find me under Fitzsimons Lane Bridge over the Yarra. Thanks to Manningham Council and the State Government, a permanent course is set up with ‘gates’ or poles hung over the water. The paddlers then negotiate the gates in many different ways, sometimes tricky, sometimes easier. I am now on the easy side of the spectrum. Still, it is never dull, always challenging according to an individual’s skills and experience. 

It is a hidden gem where beginners can learn the skills and where Australian team members regularly train. A small, tightly-knit sport where it is common to see a National Champion helping newcomers. In 2023, 60 % of the Australian U23 and Junior teams were from Victoria, and most train at  

Fitzsimons Lane. Parents, too, are fully included, often as administrators or officials, but many decide they want to paddle and join in. 

Luckily for me, it does not involve much leg work, as my arthritis makes walking a challenge. Still, once in the kayak, I can forget about my ailing body and paddle, a great sport for anyone whose knees and ankles are not what they used to be. Once on the water, I feel a sense of freedom and that I am in total control, answerable to no one. When my family was young, we all went kayaking together; it taught them how to face and conquer challenges. I hope it made them braver and more independent. It also taught them to be helpful and thoughtful of other people. Interestingly, they and their children still paddle to a greater or lesser degree. 

The river is free and always open; it was a great place to go during the Covid lockdown. There is plenty of space, not crowded, and you are immersed in nature. If you love water and its natural environment, there is a paddle sport for you. Flat water marathon, sprint, polo and touring are other branches of paddling. All are fun. Just pick your favourite. 

My favourite is simply touring; it can be done on any water, anywhere. Paddlers start at one point on the river and travel downstream to another point. The distance can suit you: a couple of hours, overnight, weeks or even longer.  

Camping by the river in Australia’s bush is a wonderful experience, a great way to see nature at its best. It is a unique way to explore the Yarra, but why stop there?  

Most of Victoria can be explored by river, indeed much of Australia. Overseas offers even more amazing choices; our neighbour New Zealand is a mecca for paddling. The highlight of my paddling journey was paddling the Grand Canyon. One hundred twenty-five miles of it, taking two weeks. The canyon was a marvel of nature at work as the river ate into the canyon walls millions of years of different rocks and strata. A vast cavern carved into the rock reportedly held 10,000 people. However, I would hate to imagine that many people all at once in such a magical place — side canyons of great beauty carved out of the rock by water, wind and time. The bright aqua-coloured water flows from the tributaries such as Havasu Creek and others. Of course, I cannot forget the water, huge waves, and eddies, but there is little in the way of rocks or trees in the water to cause hazards. 

A trip I will never forget. 

So what to do now, go paddling.   

For more info, contact: 
Paddle Victoria 9020 2750 
Melbourne Canoe Club 
Canoes Plus Racing team 
1800 052 925