Paddles Up!

Outrigger Boats in preparation for this weekend (Photo: Jenni Shah)

Outrigger canoes in preparation for this weekend (Photo: Jenni Shah)

Wow – it’s June again and the island is swarming with paddlers, here for the Gatorade Hamilton Island Paddling Event. The Hamilton Island Outrigger Canoe Club (HIOCC) spent the weekend finalising plans in the club rooms, dusting off the lane markers and polishing the trophies. The weather has come out to play and conditions are perfect. Less perfect is my own health, and I’m gutted to have had to pull out of the regatta due to a severe dose of flu that had two-thirds of the school at home sick yesterday. So much for those 5am training sessions!

Race markers for the 'Gatorade Battle of the Paddles' (Photo Jenni Shah)

Race markers for the 'Gatorade Battle of the Paddles' (Photo Jenni Shah)

Anyhoo, for those who are fighting fit and raring to go, things kick off tonight with a welcome dinner for overseas paddlers (technically everyone, I think, as we do live on an island…) given by HIOCC. Trailer loads of canoes will be arriving on the barge today ready to be taken over to Catseye Beach for rigging and checking.

Thursday sees racing! The 1 and 2-man canoes (OC1 and OC2 classes) and stand-up paddle boards spend the day sprinting and marathon-ing before the opening ceremony on Thursday night. Friday is a huge day with the OC6 6-man canoes racing in short sprints at 7am and then the 16km ‘sprint’ marathon race around the island – my favourite race from last year. The surf-skis also have a 16km marathon on Friday afternoon.

Saturday sees the OC6’s doing 1000m sprints. This is always fun to watch as the course is only 250m long, so with three turns to complete, and lanes to stay within, it is a real challenge. The surf-skis compete in a 25km race from Lindeman Island back to Hamilton Island – a huge test and great fun, down-wind paddle. Saturday afternoon also has the 6km King of the Mountain race to the top of Passage Peak and back. Enough said!

Finally the big event of the regatta is on Sunday with the 42km marathon. This sees the big OC6 canoes complete with teams of 9 or 10 paddlers substituting for each other by jumping in and out of the canoes. It is a huge race – 3-4 hours long, exhausting, exhilarating, and an experience to be seriously proud to be a part of.

The closing ceremony on Sunday night will go off with a bang – literally – then it’s unwind time all night long.