Massive Murray Paddle gets the green light
The postponed 2022 Massive Murray Paddle event has finally been given the thumbs up, but the 53rd edition of the five day event to be held from Monday, February 27 will be a little different to previous years.
While the distance of the race will be the same (a whopping 415km) the course route will differ.
The route on day one, from Yarrawonga to Tocumwal, will be run twice, across both day one and day two, and day four’s trip from Moama Beach to Torrumbarry Weir will also be run as day five.
The decision comes as a result of authorities being concerned about the accessibility and safety of the ground crew at the checkpoints between Tocumwal and Picnic Point and within the Gunbower Forest.
Race organiser and owner of Sydney Harbour Kayaks Shannon O’Brien said he was just glad the event still got to go ahead.
The past three years have seen one cancellation and two postponements of the iconic race, due to COVID-19 and the devastating floods.
“It’s definitely better than nothing,” Mr O’Brien said.
“It’s really difficult for us as a small family business to keep postponing and changing the event date.
“We’ve really struggled for a few years now, so we are very excited to have been granted permission from all our major stakeholders.”
The new route means participants will be staying in towns such as Yarrawonga, Tocumwal and Echuca-Moama for a longer duration, hopefully giving those towns a much-needed economic boost.
Some 130 adventurous paddlers across 45 teams have signed up to get their oars wet.
A number of new teams have declared themselves up for the challenge, with Deniliquin Police teaming up with a group of First Nations youth and another team of paddlers coming all the way from New Zealand to try the new format.
Mr O’Brien said most of the paddlers who did not want to take the risk of being in the river so soon after the floods postponed to November 2023.
“There were only about 20 refunds requested,” he said.
“We already have 300 participants booked in for our usual November race.”
While he understood people’s concerns, Mr O’Brien said the river was in a good condition.
“Of course, there will always be hazards but our team is competent,” he said.
“Ironically, the water is probably the safer part right now. All of the concerns were more around the ground crews going through the forests with damaged tracks and trees falling.
“There’s been a lot of hard work from Parks Vic and NSW, from NSW maritime and even from local councils. They have reviewed all the checkpoints and even engaged with arborists to come in and check the condition of trees.”
One of the highlights of this year’s race will be the ‘Be Bright, Be Seen Day’, on day three of the paddle.
Competitors will be encouraged to dress themselves and their craft in bright colours as part of the launch of NSW Maritime’s new safety message for people to be identifiable when they are in the water.
Mr O’Brien said there would be prizes given away to those who stood out the most.
“It just breaks up the seriousness of the race,” he said.
“The most important part that we can never lose sight of is that this event is all about raising money and having a bit of fun while we’re at it.”
The Massive Murray Paddle is one of the world’s longest paddling races and has been connecting people, river and country since 1969.
At 415km, it is the longest event of its kind in the Southern Hemisphere and attracts competitors from all over the world, including the United States, the United Kingdom and New Zealand.
The postponed 2022 Massive Murray Paddle will run from February 27 until March 3.
Route for the February 27, 2023 event:
• Days one and two: Yarrawonga to Tocumwal
• Day three: Picnic Point to Moama Beach
• Days four and five: Moama Beach to Torrumbarry Weir Boat Ramp
Event organisers are hopeful the November 2023 event will revert to the normal course route.