Are you a whitewater kayaker capable of paddling class 4 rapids and above?
Would you like to test yourself against the renowned paddlers from around Australia (and beyond) to see how good you really are?
Perhaps you’re seeking that perfect excuse to spend a few weeks travelling between Tasmania and New South Wales on the ultimate paddling holiday?
If all that describes you to a tee, then you’ll want to consider signing on to the Australian Whitewater Grand Prix, which is shaping up to represent the very best of Australia’s wild, whitewater kayak races.
The event, now in it’s second year, is scheduled to take place over three weekends this September.
Whitewater paddler and member of the Tasmanian Canoe Club, Daniel Harris proposed the competition as a way of linking three of Australia’s most well-known and already established whitewater events.
“The aim was to get more people interested and participating in the three major extreme races,” Harris told Wild. “That’s the North Esk Paddle Fest, the Lea Extreme Race and the Snowy River Extreme Race.”
A three-week whitewater extravaganza
The Lea Extreme Race is Australia’s oldest and most prestigious extreme kayaking race. It takes place (surprise, surprise) on the Lea River, in north-western Tasmania.
The location offers cliff views, amazing forest to explore and some absolutely fantastic rapids. For locals, like Harris, it’s the ‘home’ river; the one that gets paddled more than any other.
“I do always participate in the Lea Extreme Race and any similar kayaking extreme races that come along,” Harris said. “The Lea is our home river, so a few years ago the Tasmanian Canoe Club had the opportunity to take over the running of the Lea Extreme Race, which was really exciting for us.”
The Lea Extreme Race began with an unique format, with teams of two racing down the river – a tradition that continues to this day.
Due to the nature of the river, access by land is incredibly limited, if it exists at all. By racing in pairs, teams can be responsible for looking after each other if something goes wrong (as a naturally flowing river it’s impossible to accurately predict water levels).
This year, the Lea Extreme Race will be held on the 22nd of September, but it’s actually the week before when the Australian Whitewater Grand Prix begins.
That’s because the North Esk Paddle Fest is scheduled for Saturday the 15th, followed by the release of water down Cataract Gorge on Sunday 14th.
“Cataract is one of the best rivers in Australia, and an opportunity to get on it shouldn’t be missed,” Harris said. “There will be a bunch of paddlers in Tasmania for the races, and September normally has great flows, so it’s a great chance to spend more time on the water.”
This year the Tasmanian Canoe Club will also be hosting the Australian Whitewater Film Festival on the night of Friday 21st, with the stated aim of showcasing the best of Australian kayaking over the past year in the lead up to the Lea Extreme Race.
“The local council has sponsored the festival, with a $500 prize for the winning film, which is fantastic,” Harris said. “It will be followed by a showing of the Adventure Film World Tour.”
Finally, the Snowy River Extreme Race will be held a week later, on the 30th and promises to be as hotly competed as ever.
Any paddler planning to take on all three events will be taking part in the Australian Whitewater Grand Prix.
“As a concept, the idea for Grand Prix is simple,” explained Harris. “The organisers of all three races –and I’m one of those people – just need to collate the results from each race and add up totals for each eligible participant.
“This is a trophy for the fastest racer across all three events,” he said. “By holding races on three consecutive weekends, and combining them into a Grand Prix, we’ll build a sense of excitement about whitewater kayaking and kayak extreme racing in Australia.”
According to Harris, there’s already plans in place for a contingent of Tasmanian paddlers to head to the Snowy River Extreme this year, while a number of mainland paddlers are planning to visit Tasmania, setting the scenes for a strongly contested Grand Prix trophy.
The events are also expected to bring some level of international interest.
Australian Whitewater Kayaking Key Dates: