Conquering paddle for charity

By Patrick Tansey

Some people go to extraordinary lengths for charity, which sums up Louise Greenwood and Fiona Boyer.

The two mates are fresh (or weary) off the gruelling Massive Murray Paddle — a 404km race down the Murray, testing stamina, desire and resolve.

The reason for putting themselves through the layers of pain? A physical challenge the duo set at the start of the year, the other to help native animals.

Greenwood is a volunteer and foster carer for wildlife rescue shelter Dutch Thunder in Koonoomoo.

‘‘When Dutch Thunder started the Save Our Koalas Project, Fiona and myself decided any fundraising we would make through the race would go to the project,’’ Greenwood said.

‘‘We chose the name Hopping Mad for our team because every time we were out on the river we would see kangaroos and wallabies around and we thought we were pretty mad to attempt the Massive Murray Paddle, because we struggled in a 4km race back in January.’’

The longest paddle the Cobram-Barooga Canoe Club members had done before the big race was the 50km Echuca mini, so it was brave to dive head first into the 404km challenge.

‘‘We joined the club in January and our coach back then said we should have a go at the Massive Murray Paddle and do the full distance as a challenge, so we’ve spent the year training for it,’’ Greenwood said.

Things did not exactly get off to the best start for the eager pair.

‘‘I put my back out on the Wednesday before it, so I spent the Thursday and Friday getting it put back in by the chiro and I was a bit unsure if I’d be able to participate at all,’’ Greenwood said.

‘‘One of the seats in the kayak broke five minutes before the start of the race so we had to pull over and quickly tape it all up before it started.

‘‘It didn’t get off to the best start but they were the only disasters that happened thankfully,’’ she said.

Boyer said although the race was extremely demanding, she relished the opportunity to test herself.

‘‘It was a challenge, but I loved it, I thought it was just fantastic. All the other teams were really friendly and there was such a great atmosphere among competitors,’’ she said.

‘‘It was really tough though. Physically, you had to push through pain barriers that you didn’t even know existed before just to keep on paddling and, from a mental standpoint, the days were so long you had to break down each leg into small sections just to get through it.’’

Despite battling injuries during the race, Boyer had recovered relatively well.

‘‘I pulled up better than I expected. I had a massage straight after it which was pretty much torture but I’m still in one piece which is the main thing,’’ she said.

Boyer recalled one particular leg of the race that had burned a painful memory in her mind.

‘‘It was definitely day four, which was actually the shortest leg coming and it was coming into Torrumbarry Weir,’’ she said.

‘‘The water flow really slows down and it was the day we had the worst head wind, rain, and it was just cold. You just had to keep paddling just to stay warm.’’

The pair had set a goal at $2000, but finished with $3600.

Greenwood said the money would help Dutch Thunder achieve the $5000 deposit needed for animal researchers to come to the area to start researching the effects of scabies on the native koala population.

She said the total amount raised would not have been possible without sponsors Hungie Fangs, Cobram Irrigation, Mogg Osborne, Cobram Thai Boxing, Padman Stops and The Big Strawberry.