WHITE WATER FEVER
By ADAM HICKS firstname.lastname@example.org KAYDEN WILLIAMS is at his best when the river is raging. After collecting a swag of local and State honours, the 14-year-old slalom kayaker has won entry into the Australian titles at Penrith Whitewater stadium in January.
The Bonalbo Central School student is preparing for his showdown against the strongest whitewater paddlers of his age, by taking to the Clarence River at every chance he gets but a big flow brings out his best.
"He really enjoys the excitement of a strong river," said proud dad Richard.
"He gets a bit bored with flat water and enjoys the challenge of the whitewater.
"It's a different discipline slalom paddling. "The competitors usually blossom fairly late because there's so much to learn in technique.
"Paddlers are usually in their late 20s or early 30s before they achieve international status."
But Kayden is already showing a lot of potential at the junior level.
This year he was named sub-junior boy champion at the Combined High School Regional competition in Nymboida.
He followed that up with eight gold medals and four silver medals at the CHS State competition in various flat water, slalom and wildwater events and was again crowned sub-junior boy champion.
And finally, to top off a big year, Kayden won a silver medal at the State Club Championships.
"While they're young they're learning all the time about using the water to their benefit," Richard said.
"You have to know when to lean and how much to lean, when to apply the power.
"You're not consistently paddling like in still water. "Sometimes you go with it. Sometimes you go against it.
And sometimes you have to move across the current.
"Kayden has a fairly good instinct for that. He seems to judge the water fairly well for someone his age.
"He's a smart paddler and he has still got a lot to learn, but so does everyone else his age."
Kayden will be competing in the K1, C1 and C2 slalom events in both the club and school national titles beginning on January 19.