KEEN paddlers of all ages turned out on a perfect Lismore morning yesterday for the EnviTE Lismore Kayak Marathon Series on the Wilsons River.
Run by the Far North Coast Canoe Club, the event is one of six in the Northern Marathon Series, bringing kayakers and canoeists from Forster to Brisbane.
It featured a gruelling snaking 22.5km paddle for the competitive open paddlers - three times up Wilson River and Leycester Creek and back again - and a mild 7.5km short course for casual paddlers.
Veteran paddler Bob Berridge from Coffs Harbour, paddling in a tandem kayak with his wife Christine, said he enjoyed the long and "twisty-turny" style of the Lismore course.
"I enjoy that; you can make use of the corners and shallow areas and twists and turns," Mr Berridge said. "You have to keep an eye out for the (slower moving) shallow water."
"If someone's trying to overtake you, if you want to be nasty you can encourage them to come up on one side and lead them into the shallows," he joked.
"Sprints are all over and done with; this gives you a sense of achievement."
EnviTE was a fitting sponsor of the event as they have regenerated some of the Wilsons River bank, providing some enjoyable scenery for competitors.
Organiser Narina Donnelly from the Far North Coast Canoe Club said the relaxed nature of the event meant anyone could try their hand.
"It's a family event; the whole series is designed to encourage the average paddler to have a go," Ms Donnelly said.
The club also organises the Paddle for Life which usually runs over three days from Lismore to Ballina, with the next event shortened to two days from Coraki to Ballina to make it more accessible.
Ms Donnelly came down for her first Saturday morning kayaking session with friends seven years ago and never looked back.
She said it was a great family and social activity and built on an enjoyment of Lismore's under-appreciated river.
"You wouldn't know you're in the middle of a town; it's a lovely environment, so peaceful, quiet and calm."
She said kayaking was one of the fastest-growing water sports in Australia, and inexpensive too.
"It's a sport you can do at all ages and all competitive levels."
Far North Coast Canoe Club
Three introductory paddles: $15
Annual membership: $90
Members' daily hire: $6.