Victoria’s premier downwind marathon is back (Australia)
Thursday, 22 December 2011
It might not boast the bronzed beach culture synonymous with ocean sports, but the southern Australian state of Victoria is blessed with one of the world’s most stunning – and thrilling – coastlines for downwind ocean paddling. And, while still in it’s infancy on the world stage, the Graeme Long Memorial Race, along Victoria’s iconic Surf Coast, has the potential to become a highlight on the international ocean paddling calendar.
Go Natural Ocean Racing Series
The first race of the Go Natural Ocean Racing Series, the Graeme Long, on January 14 2012, covers 26 kilometres from Urquhart’s Bluff to Fisherman’s Beach, Torquay. The challenging course follows the spectacular coastline along Victoria’s world-famous Great Ocean Road and takes in sights such as Anglesea Beach, the magnificent Point Addis, the world surfing sanctuaries of Bells Beach and Winkipop, and other revered surf breaks at Jan Juc and Torquay.
The race is open to ocean skis, surf-lifesaving spec skis, and all outriggers, with three OC6 teams already confirmed to provide an added spectacle.
…locals are really fired up…
Race organiser Jarad Kohlar says the 2012 race is shaping up to be a big one, especially for the locals.
“Ocean paddling is really beginning to take off in a big way in Victoria, and the Graeme Long is our only true downwind event,” he says. “In past years, the boys from interstate, like Dean Gardiner, Mark Anderson and Reece Baker, have dominated the field, but some of locals are really fired up this year and keen to have a crack at the podium.”
One such local is Tim Altman, a Torquay-based stalwart of ocean paddling. Tim has competed at every Graeme Long since it’s humble beginnings in 2008, and is looking forward to not just the stiff competition, but soaking up the scenery in his personal playground.
“The Graeme Long race is my favourite paddle on this planet,” he says. “On a WSW or SW wind it offers fantastic runs along one of the more beautiful stretches of coastline in the world. Since the first race on this course three years ago, we've had peak conditions each time, with interstate competitors who made the effort to attend going home absolutely stoked with the course and the paddle. So make the effort. You won't regret it."
Tim and others will have their work cut out for them, however, with Epic Kayaks bringing down a stable of up-and-comers from NSW.
Something for everyone
To encourage intermediate paddlers to dip their toe into the world of downwind racing, the 2012 Graeme Long will welcome the introduction of a Lite course, covering 11.6 kilometres from Point Addis to Fisherman’s Beach, passing Bells and Winkipop along the way. This course is open to all paddling craft, including plastic skis, SUPs and paddleboards. This is by no means a beginner’s race, but if you’ve got some open ocean miles under your belt, then this is the perfect opportunity to get some true downwind experience in a safe environment with comprehensive water safety.
The Lite course kicks off when the lead Pro course paddlers reach Point Addis, so you’ll have the added thrill of paddling side-by-side with some of the best in the business – at least for the first run or two!
A race steeped in history
The Graeme Long Memorial Race has special significance for the Victorian Surf Coast Community. Named after local paddling and surf-lifesaving legend, the late Graeme Long, the race is both a celebration of the ocean, and poignant reminder of the respect it commands.
Tragically, on 17 October 1998, Graeme disappeared while joining some junior paddlers from Torquay Surf Lifesaving Club on a paddle back from Point Addis to Torquay (part of the very same course on which the Graeme Long Memorial Paddle is held). A very strong wind change hit, making search and rescue operations virtually impossible. Eventually Graeme’s paddle washed ashore some 50 kilometres east at Cape Schanck, and his ski was located a further 50 kilometres east off Phillip Island. He was never found.
“One of the very few consolations is that Dad died pursuing his lifelong passion - paddling, surf life saving, and helping young enthusiasts in these pursuits,” says Graeme’s son, Rohan.
“His death is a reminder to us all that, while we are very fortunate to have such an incredible pastime such as ocean and downwind paddling, we must always be respectful of the ocean and mindful of who is the boss. The Graeme Long Memorial Race is a chance for us to celebrate both the life and legacy of a great ocean paddler, and our love of ocean paddling and its community.”
Entries to the Graeme Long Memorial Race are now open. Online entries are available until 6 January, with late entries accepted on the day. Enter online and go into the draw to win a $100 gift card from Epic Kayaks.
For more information on the race schedule, and the great prizes on offer, go to www.outlawpaddling.com
Venue: Urquhart's Bluff, Victoria, AustraliaDate: 14 Jan 2012Website: www.outlawpaddling.com