Paddle power

Keen canoeist, Jess McKenty is hoping other enthusiasts will join the local canoe club this summer.

THE Tumut Canoe Club has a long and action-packed history.

Members of the club have been travelling down the spectacular Tumut River for longer than most can recall. Battling the high and low flows that can accompany Blowering Dam releases with always with a lot of fun to be had and a strong comradeship present.

Currently the club is paddling in rough waters as members are becoming harder to attract and the committee are concerned that this summer the waters may run a little too still.

Secretary/Treasurer of the club, Jess McKenty, said they have started their weekly paddle and are hoping the warm weather gets some new adventurers into the water.

“We meet at the Canoe Shed near the Riverglade Caravan Park on Wednesdays at 5pm and we welcome anyone who is keen to come along,” Ms McKenty said. “We have enough experienced paddlers with us each week that we can help those who are less experienced.”

The fast flowing Tumut River is thought to be one of the reasons interest in the canoe club has dropped off in recent years. Trial paddles and hour long practice sessions at the Junction before the trip downstream, however, are addressing the fear issue that some of the new paddlers possess.

“We practice and teach people paddling skills and how to read the river before we head downstream,” Ms McKenty said. “If inexperienced people only want to have a small go at the Junction and not go down the river that is alright as well.”

Several years ago the Tumut Canoe Club engaged the Tumut High School who become involved in paddling and also canoe polo, which was offered as a weekly sport and also at a competitive level for all residents.

The games were played at the local pool and at one stage, four of the five State Canoe Polo school student team was made up of Tumut High Students.

Ms McKenty is hopeful the club could return to its former glory but admits it is a struggle to get people interested and on the water.

“I think if people came along they would see how much fun we have and how if you respect the river, it is safe to do,” Ms McKenty said. “It is so much fun and we look after new people and all have a great time. We just want people to come along and see what they think.”

The club can provide, for a very minimal cost, all the gear required including the canoe and people can trial membership before becoming a Paddle NSW member for $66 for adults, which covers paddlers for insurance requirements and a club membership of $20.

The March flood ironically, knocked the canoe club around with their storage shed submerged and a lot of the gear damaged.

“We had a big clean-up after the floods as there was a lot of mud left in the sheds and equipment was damaged,” Ms McKenty said. “There are a lot of canoes sitting under people houses and in their sheds not being used, we are accepting of any donated undamaged equipment and encourage people to get out their old gear and join us.”

The depth of experience and skill in the club is impressive and comforting for those greener paddlers.

Long time Tumut Canoe member, Max Reitz, experienced the club during its heyday and is beckoning people to get onto the river with them.

“We can teach people and look after them on the river if that is what is stopping people from joining up,” Mr Reitz said. “We just want more people to experience the river and the club to have more members again.”

Many learning and development opportunities are offered to club members with River Rescue courses and canoeing trips planned for the group this season.

Experienced paddler Mat Holt, is one member who should help to banish any fears potential club members have of ending up in the drink on a trip. Matt has many years of canoe experience and has guided students through the challenging waterways in Canada and holds experience in deep water rescues.

“We never just let new members go in the river by themselves,” Ms McKenty said. “We always ensure there is enough experienced paddlers on each trip when there are young or inexperienced people with us. We are going to talk with the council about using the Tumut Pool to try and start up canoe polo again and to teach new members how to safely release themselves from the boats and how to perform rolls.”

The group will be meeting once again on Wednesday at 5pm at the Junction and are inviting all interested people to join them. People can either watch, have a practice or even take a leisurely paddle down the Tumut River with them.

“It is great paddling down the river, it really is,” Ms McKenty said. “You can take it easy and have a relaxing trip or challenge yourself and go hard, it is up to the person. We want people to join us for a lot of fun.”