Hills Gazette - - FRONT PAGE - Lynn Gri­er­son

KAYAKER Max Smith is on the wa­ter be­fore dawn ev­ery morn­ing as he trains through the cold, wet win­ter months for his first in­ter­na­tional cham­pi­onship.

Less than five years af­ter tak­ing up the sport, the 17year-old stu­dent from Swan View will fly to South Africa to com­pete in the 2017 ICF Ca­noe Marathon World Cham­pi­onships in Septem­ber.

The Swan Chris­tian Col­lege stu­dent’s se­lec­tion into the ju­nior team to rep­re­sent Aus­tralia is an hon­our he does not take lightly.

“I re­alise it’s a priv­i­lege to be se­lected to be part of this team and I feel I’m demon­strat­ing my com­mit­ment through the amount of train­ing I’m do­ing and my com­mit­ment to a sleep, re­cov­ery and diet regime,” he said.

His in­ter­est in rac­ing across the wa­ter emerged on a school trip with out­door ed­u­ca­tion teacher and fel­low kayaker Ben Dallin, who won the 2016 Avon De­scent in a dou­ble kayak with Matthew Cootes.

“The first time in a ca­noe I fell out in a swampy part of the river, but it couldn’t have put me off be­cause I re­mem­ber think­ing af­ter­wards that kayak­ing is pretty cool,” he said.

He joined his school’s elite kayak group run by Mr Dallin and rep­re­sented the col­lege in Black­wood Marathon ad­ven­ture races in­volv­ing kayak­ers, horse rid­ers, run­ners and cy­clists at events in Bridgetown.

His fa­ther Clive said from the age of three his youngest son “came alive in the wa­ter”. Max brought home a sil­ver medal in March from the Aus­tralian Ca­noe­ing Marathon Cham­pi­onships in Sydney, where he com­peted in two events.

The races in­volved stretches of 3.75km in­ter­spersed with a 100m portage in be­tween.

Portage is where a pad­dler leaves the wa­ter to sprint with their craft for a dis­tance be­fore re-en­ter­ing the wa­ter and con­tin­u­ing the race.

There were five portages in the U18 na­tional event, with Max pad­dling against Aus­tralia’s finest ju­niors to fin­ish fourth in the solo race and sec­ond in the dou­bles with WA team­mate Luke Doo­ley.

The pair were just 2.5 min­utes be­hind the win­ners and scored a per­sonal best of 1:47:35.84 in the 22.5km event.

Max is cur­rently train­ing at As­cot Kayak Club un­der 2012 Lon­don Olympic com­peti­tor Jesse Phillips.

“I have about 12 train­ing ses­sions a week, an hour at a time, with seven on the wa­ter in squads and races, and two to three weight and car­dio ses­sions,” he said, adding he has rad­i­cally changed his diet.

Pic­ture: Bruce Hunt d472963

Ben Dallin and Max Smith go through their paces.

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