Avon Descent: Wilson paddler relishes whitewater challenge

Wilson resident Simon O’Sullivan is gearing up for this year’s Avon Descent.  Pictures: Emma Geary
Wilson resident Simon O'Sullivan says he has long been fascinated with the Avon Descent.
Wilson resident Simon O’Sullivan is gearing up for this year’s Avon Descent. Pictures: Emma Geary Wilson resident Simon O'Sullivan says he has long been fascinated with the Avon Descent.

WILSON resident Simon O’Sullivan, 44, is relishing the challenge of competing in his fourth Avon Descent next weekend.

The 124km course from Northam to Bayswater has attracted 359 paddlers this year and Mr O’Sullivan will be competing in the single kayak class.

“I was long fascinated with the Avon Descent, having watched the annual special on TV for many years.

“I enjoyed just being a spectator, before eventually entering in 2013 when I was able to complete the race solo in a plastic kayak on my first attempt.”

Since then, he has completed the race in 2014 in the solo class, and in 2015 was part of the ‘Sock it to Sarcoma’ team.

“I’m what you call a mid-packer – not last, not first. I’m definitely getting better as time goes on,” he said.

He took up the sport seriously about five years ago and paddles all year round, training four to five times a week with the Canning River Canoe Club and various other groups based on the Canning River and at Ascot.

“The Avon itself is difficult. There is the white water to deal with, which is the exciting part. You go through sections of winding tea trees, which is quite technical and where you can easily come unstuck. And there are long hauls of flat water to get through,” he said.

Mr O’Sullivan is a regular competitor in flat-water marathon races that form part of the State Marathon Series, as well as events run by Canoeing WA and local kayak clubs.

“I relish the competitive aspect of racing, the sense of achievement in improving my performances and general fitness, but equally the social side through the people I meet and the simple enjoyment of paddling in some beautiful places.

“Paddling is now a year-round activity and if I’m not on the water, I’m thinking about the next time that I will be or the next race coming up.”

Fast Facts

First Avon Descent: 1973

Race Length: 124 kilometres

Paddle entries this year: 359

Power dinghy entries this year: 128 competitors – 64 power dinghy (highest number in over a decade)

Outright paddle record: 1983, Northam to Bayswater, D Long 7:56:09

Outright power dinghy record: 2008, Northam to Bayswater, I Williamson T Williamson 2:11:51

Youngest competitor this year: 16

Oldest competitor this year: 69