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 17-year-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.