Sometimes having a big mouth gets you into the good kind of trouble. In this case, 404km of trouble.
For years now, I’ve had a kind of life motto — always do when sober the things you promised to do while drinking. It’s a good rule because it means that you’ll learn to keep your mouth shut, but it’s also an incredible way to do things that sober-you would have never agreed to.
I’ve gone to concerts, flown overseas on a whim, and had generally tremendous adventures as a result of following this maxim. It hasn’t all been plain sailing, as many of my friends will attest, but it has been interesting as hell so far.
A few years ago, my friend Jason Pitt and I were at the Rainbow Hotel (of course) and after a few too many cleansing ales decided that we’d do the 404km Massive Murray Paddle (formerly called the Murray Marathon) that year. Full of bravado and a touch of foolhardiness, we subsequently found ourselves at the Ivanhoe Northcote Canoe Club having introductory lessons on flatwater kayaking in TK1 boats.
It did not go well.
TK kayaks are lightweight, fast, super-close to the water, and not great starting boats for old fat guys who are trying this kayaking thing on for a lark.
We spent a lot of time in the water. Like, neck deep in the Yarra.
Then life happened. I had some spinal surgery, which knocked me around for a long time. Recovery was harder than I thought it would be. Work got hectic. Kayaking didn’t seem as important as the other things, and it fell by the wayside.
Then in the first quarter of 2018, I needed something new in my life that would help me break some old habits and form some better ones. Kayaking seemed like a good thing to get into, and so I went down to an outdoor store and bought a cheap and stable sit-on-top boat to try out, figuring that if I actually liked it, I could always sell the cheap boat on Gumtree and get something better down the line.
Jason agreed to drag out the kayak he’d had since high school (yep, he still fits in it) and come for a paddle with me.
We paddled in the bay and in the Yarra, almost every weekend through 2018. We made an agreement that if we could make it through the year paddling on even the worst weekends, that we would enter the Massive Murray Paddle in 2019. One morning we went in at the bay at the temperature was 1 degree celsius.
We kept paddling. I got my hands on a faster boat, and sold my old one to Jason King, publican at the Rainbow Hotel where all this madness started.
We kept our eyes out for a tandem sea kayak so that we could do the Massive Murray Paddle as a team. Eventually one turned up at an incredibly low price, and we drove to Geelong to pick it up.
And now every weekend, we train. Sometimes in the bay, which is a damned delight, but more often in the Yarra, which is a mixed bag. There are some glorious mornings, but by god you see a lot of pollution. Sidenote: stop throwing your rubbish in the street, you animals!
Entry to the Massive Murray Paddle has a firm requirement that you raise money for a charity. No fundraising, no entry. Jason and I both have strong personal reasons to support the Dylan Alcott Foundation, and we’re proud that they’re supporting our paddle campaign for the year. Nobody even seems to mind that we’re calling ourselves the Aquastooges.
The Dylan Alcott Foundation has an important mission, and one that we hope everyone can get behind.
To help enrich the lives of young people with disabilities by eliminating the barriers of entry to get involved in sport and study through mentoring, grants and scholarships.
Here’s Dylan himself, taking a moment to drop us a line of support the week before he won another Grand Slam at Roland Garros.
The Massive Murray Paddle is in November this year, and already we’ve had support from friends and family — especially those who came to and supported our first fundraising event recently at South of the Wall, where we raised a touch under $1500, and everyone’s friend Jess Ho won the Petting Zoo meat raffle.
Over the coming months, Jason and I will be asking for any support you can give to our campaign, and keeping you up to date on our training progress. There’s a Facebook Page, if you’d like to follow Team Aquastooges, and an Instagram.
We hope you’ll help us in our campaign to raise a shitload of money for the Dylan Alcott Foundation’s incredible work. There’s going to be more events, and once we work out a couple of technical issues with online donations, we’ll be asking for your help with that too.
We’ll be paddling 404km over the course of five days. We’re super old. We’re going to need all the help we can get.
In the meantime, say yes to the dumb things. You never know where you’ll end up.
PS: Get it, Tony!