The 46th annual Gregory River Canoe Marathon was a huge success last weekend with 172 paddlers participating.
The North West Canoe Club was formed by a handful of enthusiasts on January 14, 1975 and in early 1976, four club members paddled the Gregory River from the Knobbies to the pub.
The trip was such a success that it was decided to organise it into a canoe race and in 1976 the inaugural Gregory River Canoe Marathon took place on June 6. Eighteen paddlers started the race and since then it has gone from strength to strength.
'The Gregory' is one of the largest and most isolated canoe races in Australia, regularly attracting over 150 competitors.
This year there was a large contingent of paddlers from the Tinaroo Canoe Club and the Sunshine Coast and paddlers from as far away as Tweed Heads and Echuca.
The diversity in age and craft was amazing, with paddlers in the long course as young as 17 and as old as 77 and craft ranging from stand up paddle boards, short sit on top plastics and sleek K1's and K2's.
Kenny's Corner and Kamaga Rapids were two of the tricky spots to paddle through and saw a number of boats come unstuck and enjoy the freshness of the water.
The race was won by John Lakeland from the Sunshine Coast in a time of 3.26.29. He was closely followed by David Smith in 3.27.06 and Geoff Pearce in 3.39.18.
The hotly contested Canadian Challenge was won by Mount Isa team Beauties and the Beast, Tav Cameron, Justene Cameron, Megan Crowther and Lucy Cameron in a time of 4.28.24. Second place was the Tinaroo Canoe Club in 4.30.31. Tinaroo Canoe Club also took home the random draw prize of a unique Gregory River Canoe Marathon esky. Third place was Figure Head Racing in 4.31.58.
The stand up paddlers are relatively new to the event, with Matty Kretschmann-Smith encouraging participation in the event over the last 3 years. 2021 saw 4 stand up paddlers take part, 3 in the long race and 1 in the short race.
The short, recreational race showcased a record 40 boats on the start line and the win and the record was taken by John Van Ryt in the time of 1.19.57. The first female across the line was Jenni Johnston from Townsville who crossed in 1.39.
Whilst at the river we also celebrated a number of milestones with Steven Jenje reaching 35 years of paddling the Gregory, John Westcott with 20 years and Tav Cameron with 15 years.
It was a wonderfully warm weekend, reuniting the Gregory family and welcoming our newest recruits. This iconic race is a highlight on the paddling calendar and is unique due to it's remoteness, beauty of the river, the community atmosphere and the friendships made.
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