RUSSELL Wood began paddling as a challenge.
Twelve months later and the 36-year-old is hooked — a member of the Mitta Mitta Canoe Club rising early in the morning to paddle the Murray River, up and downstream of Albury.
But Wood is just part of a much lager fraternity that will next weekend celebrate 40 years of the club with its biggest event — the Frank Harrison Memorial Race.
For the elite kayakers it’s a 26-kilometre, two-hour paddle from the Hume weir wall to Noreuil Park.
Mere mortals can enter the 16-kilometre race from the Waterworks.
“Originally I joined with five others with the challenge of completing the Murray Marathon in a TK2 — the more stable kayaks compared to the ‘tippy’ K1 and K2s,” Wood said.
“But after the first three months of falling in and sore backsides I was the only one left.
“So I decided to up the ante and do the full distance in a K1.
“The hours of training must have paid off — I was just hoping to finish but ended up winning my class.”
Wood said he couldn’t have done it without the camaraderie and support of the club.
“It’s just a great place to be around,” he said.
“Its origins are from its namesake in the Mitta River, originally the paddlers were mainly whitewater kayakers but the construction of the Dartmouth Dam flooded many of the whitewater spots and the club evolved into flatwater kayaking and canoeing.
“In 1981 it was granted a two-year lease from Albury Council to use the ‘bathing pavilion’ from the old caravan park at Noreuil Park.”
The Frank Harrison Memorial Race series will be held next Saturday and Sunday.
Visit mittacanoe. com.au for information.