Author Archives: Fran Diettrich

Avon Descent 2017 Documentary: Water Warriors

When: Saturday, September 02 at 2pm WST
Where: Channel Ten

Join us for an exciting 60 (!) minutes to relive this amazing weekend!


Safety Briefing 2017!

The Directors and Management Crew of this year’s Avon Descent wish all competitors and their support group the very best and hope safety will be high on everyone’s priority list.

It is expected that with the recent rain, the river level will provide the usual challenges and it should not be taken for granted that it will always be a safe journey down river.   River levels change rapidly and can provide unexpected hazards that are to be approached with caution and it should not assumed that they are the same as previously experienced.

  • Be aware of and abide by all the rules of the race.
  • We ask that both competitors and their support crews respect the Private Property of others and in particular, the property owners of the land we will pass through.
  • We ask that if a competitor is in distress on the side of the river that this is quickly identified and appropriate action taken. It would be reasonable to expect that the care of an individual will take precedence over a placing in the race.
  • Overtaking practices is a fundamental in cooperation amongst competitors – the craft that is to be overtaken should be aware that this is about to happen and hold their line while continuing to travel downstream. The craft that is making the overtaking manoeuvre is to make their presents known and take as wide a line as practical and in a safe manner.
  • Safety Flags – please refer to page 31 of the 2017 Event Guide and make yourselves very familiar with them. Yellow being caution, red being stop and black being immediate disqualification. Failure to adhere to course officials and directive flags could result in an event penalty.
  • Railway safety – our partners in this event, ARC Infrastructure, have provided a clear message about safety around the railway tracks and crossings, also on page 31 of the Event Guide. Competitors and in particular those that travel down the valley road are to ensure they are familiar with the wishes and expectations of our railway partners. The respect of the rail personnel and adhering to their instruction is paramount.
  • Withdraw from the race – let us know. The extraction pickup point in the upper reaches of the second day will no longer be a delivery to the airstrip.  Competitors that have been withdrawn from the event, will be transported back to the rail crossing upstream of Emu Falls to await collection from their support crew.
  • When a competitor withdraws from a race, this must be communicated to 0456436500  giving the surname and race ID.
  • Avon Tracker – this APP has been designed to track the progress of competitors and it is in the interest of all to have access to monitor competitors during all stages of the event. This feature is a vital tool in mapping the position of the competitor between checkpoints and this information will influence the action of both event officials and competitor support crews.
  • Competitors are to make themselves aware of the cut off times on each day and comply with instruction if those times are exceeded.

Have a great race, stay safe and enjoy the days ahead.

Tribute to Les ‘Superman’ Somers

Les “Superman” Somers was a fierce and determined competitor over 40 years, competing in extreme sports with considerable success at not only regional but also state and national levels. After his tragic passing in June 2017, his friends decided to race Les’ Spirit Double Ski ‘Black Betty’ – distinctive black and yellow stripes, with which he had done a record 17 Avon Descents –  down the river at this year’s Avon Descent as a Tribute. Team ‘Superman’ will compete in what would have been Les’ 29th Avon Descent.  Have a look out for their support crew over the weekend, as they will be wearing a special blue hoodie designed to commemorate Les with a photo of him training for his 25th Avon Descent in 2010 on the back. Black Betty with the number 449 will start its last journey in a separate grid in memory of Les Somers.

Les competed in his first Avon Descent on a single ski in 1978.

Since 1978 Les has achieved the following places as a fierce competitor in the Avon Descent.

1980 First on Single Ski

1982 First on a Single Ski

1995 Second on a Double Ski with Lois Somers

1996 Second on a Double Ski with Lois Somers

1998  Third on a Double Ski with Lois Somers

2000  Third on a double Ski with Lois Somers

2008  First on a Double Ski “over 55” with Boots Campbell

2010  Second on a Double Ski with Greg Nott

2012  Second on a Double Ski with Greg Nott

2013  First on a Double Ski with Greg Nott

Apart from his commitment and many successes as a competitor with the Avon Descent, Les was also a talented Rugby player, representing WA twice and he was also a dedicated to Surf Life Saving in both Trigg and Bunbury Clubs winning numerous club championships.

In wave skiing, he was WA Champion in 1987 and came 4th at the National Open Men’s Wave Ski Titles in 1987.

In 1998 he competed in the gruelling 7 days Simpson Desert MTB race.  There were 42 starters, 6 finished and Les came in third, pushing himself to the limit in searing heat and endless sandhills.

Additionally, in 2000 he featured in ‘Surfing Life’ as Australia’s Maddest Goatboaters, attempting a 27-foot wave at Gnaraloo!!

Les Somers competed in 4 marathons and numerous half marathon Iron Man Titles, placing 3rd twice at State level and won Iron Man at Trigg SLSC in 1967 and 1968 and won Iron Man at Bunbury SLSC in  1980 and 1981.

Carolyn Nankervis

Parking – Avon Descent Weekend

 Traffic Information for Spectators

DAY ONE – Saturday 5 August 2017

Pit Area operated by: Northam Lions
Road closures in place from 10:00 am Friday 4 August, 2017 – 12:00 pm Saturday 5 August 2017

May still be closed for repairs

Operated by: Northam SES
No personnel on the bridge, just traffic signage

Signs erected by: Taborda
Bridge closed with full detour in place

Operated by: Northam SES
Two personnel there from 7:00 am until stood down by Race Director

Operated by: Toodyay Football Club
Bacon and Egg Burgers, Coffee, Tea and a sausage sizzle. We have a food trailer with a generator and
lighting plant.
COST: Charge admission for parking

Operated by: Northam SES
Two personnel there from 7:00 am until stood down by Race Director

Operated by: Northam SES

Operated by: Merilyn Holmes and friends

Sausage sizzle, bake sale, hot chocolate and hash browns for sale.
COST: $5 per car – all money raised will go towards Nicole’s bike ride to help Conquer Cancer

Operated by: Taborda
Half road closure

Operated by: Toodyay Lions Club
$10 per person for RaceHUB entry
$20 per person for combined Campsite and RaceHUB entry
$10 per car for Day Parking

Free entry for children under 12

DAY TWO – Sunday 6 August 2017

Operated by: Gingin Chittering Lions Club
Shuttle bus supplied to and from airstrip
COST: $10 per vehicle wildlife park entrance fee, collected by the Lions.
Support crews with passes not charged

Operated by: Bullsbrook Fire Brigade
No shuttle buses at this location
Gates open at 8:00 am for Bullsbrook Fire Brigade to get their trucks in
Department of Parks and Wildlife collect park entrance fee
COST: $12.00 per vehicle (up to 12 occupants) wildlife park entrance fee

Operated by: East Swan Fire Brigade
Shuttle bus from parking area at the State Equestrian Centre to Bells Rapids, option to walk 2.0 km
along road
Parking access for VIP City of Swan guests with passes
COST: $10.00 per car for parking and shuttle bus between the State Equestrian Centre and Bells Rapids,
collected by Traffic Volunteers at the State Equestrian Centre

Kevin Lucas: The man behind the lens!

If you want a man who’s streamlined, sharp and serious – then Kev Lucas isn’t the guy for you but his photographs certainly are.

Whilst the world of sports photography might suggest someone needs to be as disciplined as its subjects or as fierce – Kev certainly doesn’t take himself that seriously. He’s a mad surfer; lover of all sports and his business attire involves “fancier boardies” than the ones he’s meeting me in today.

Kev has been the man behind the lens of the Avon Descent and Aussies in Action Sports Photography for the last 16 years and as the countdown to the event draws closer, we sit sipping coffee and take a walk down memory lane of an event very near and dear to his heart.

It was back in 2000 that the first digital camera – the Nikon D1- came out and made sports photography possible. The body alone was $12,500 – not including any lenses – and was a 2.75-megapixel camera (your average iPhone is about 8 megapixels). The memory cards for the money shots were an astronomical $485 each for 96 megabytes. Kev and his wife Wendy were the first business in WA to take advantage of the Nikon D1 and went on to set up their home business around photographing sporting events – in which they have been very successful.

Kev laughs as he recalls setting up at his first Avon Descent in 2001 at Sids Rapids; he was  standing in the water up to his knees, shooting as the paddlers and powerboats came by, whilst Wendy who was tucked up on the riverbank, was processing the shots as Kev took them, on her laptop being powered by a generator attached to their Ford Ranger.

Things are a little different now; often with a team of 6 or 7 photographers set up at the best viewpoints of the Avon – some of the cameras allow Kev to wifi the images straight to the team in the caravan (that’s taken to their big events) to process them.

In 2008 when the water was at its highest level in 20 years, Kev decided to compete in a single kayak. Having never paddled in whitewater before, he admits to being a bit scared in a few moments – especially as 197 competitors had pulled out prior to the start of the event thanks to the water level. He came off at Supershoot but that one dunk into the river was the only time he came out – surprising himself as he made his way through Sid’s Rapids. As he made his way to the finish line, running up onto shore – he wondered where his photographer (who had been stationed there all day) had gone? Turns out to have a toilet break, so there is no photographic evidence of Kev’s achievement. We both laugh at the irony.

The water level of the Avon has come to be quite notorious in the last 10 years – with the organisation having to add “Hell or Highwater” to the event title given some horrifically dry past years. While one might not consider the water to be a photographers concern, for Kev it is a numbers game; the fewer competitors, the fewer photographs.

Aussies in Action shoot the Avon Descent each year free of charge. This comes from both a personal and professional appreciation of the event and more than anything, a love of the community that the event creates. In Kev’s own words; “there’s bugger all money in it – if we worked out the hours it’d be something like $5 an hour we get for it. But it’s enjoyable.” There’s no denying that technology has also proved to be a challenge for them; with a considerable uptake of “Weekend Warriors” or amateur photographers taking advantage of the competition for a little something on the side. Not to mention the fact that everyone carries a camera around in their pocket – and a smart phone is a convenience that is difficult to compete with. But the Avon Descent is part of Kev’s history; home to family and good friends; big laughs and bright memories.

Kev’s been there to witness power boats barrel rolling, double kayaks going down Sid’s Rapids backwards and the hairier side of the Avon – when competitors have been pinned by powerboats and kayaks sea-sawing on obtruding rocks. He’s seen wipeouts in whitewater and whirlpool madness. But his favourite moment of the Avon?

“At the Northam Weir at the start, when you get the paddlers come up and then hit the ramp – it’s just this log jam and we’re looking at it with a 600mm lens and you can see that it’s just this – the lens compresses it – it’s this big jam and I’ve been there and it’s dangerous – people get clipped in the head by paddles but you can see all the faces and it’s just a magic vision of those and all those faces.. It’s just a crazy introduction”.

When I ask him why he shoots the Avon his answer is “to tell the story”. His photographs are about the journey that a competitor takes from the moment they first get onto the water to that last triumphant one when they step out. It’s about capturing their struggle, determination and ultimately – hopefully – their joy when they have achieved the magnificent feat that is the Avon Descent.

Lastly, I challenge him to sum it all up in one word – to which he laughs, pauses for a moment and then says “Epic”.

Epic indeed. With a man who truly cares about the event and the community involved in it, I’d say that the 2017 Avon Descent – like the 16 before it – is in pretty good hands… Can’t say the same about the boardie standards though.

Aussies in Action provide a package of all your digital images (between 20 and 40) from start to finish in high resolution for $135.

The King of the Valley!

We are excited to announce a new award for Powerboats this year – the King of the Valley!

The fastest craft to race the river from the start line of day 2 -Cobblers Pool- to Bells Rapids will be awarded the ‘King of the Valley’.  This section of the river is commonly referred to as the Valley. As many racing campaigns have been won and lost in this section of the race, the Avon Descent really revolves around this part of the Avon River for Powerboaters.  It is a real art form, being able to drive the technical section well, and it is quite often not the winner of the event that is the fastest down the Valley.  Therefore, it is a really special talent, when the winner of the Avon Descent also wins the Valley run. Last year, Michael Prosser & Perrin Franks in boat 007 managed to, not only win the race, but also be the fastest boat in the valley.

 With this in mind, a lot of racers feel that the recognition of this ability will be a great addition to the event. There will be a perpetual trophy on offer for the fastest team, as well as a $500 prize. This trophy has some historical significance in that it is made from the bottom half of an outboard engine that was recovered from the river bed half way down the valley following the first Avon Descent. Perth based company “A Grade Glass & Aluminium ( are supporting this trophy.

 Who will be the King of the Valley in 2017? We can’t wait to find out!

Shaun Collins: How the Avon Descent helped a young man out of depression!

The Avon Descent has meant so much to many people over the years, and few can say this more than Shaun Collins. After years of a chronic depression, he entered the Avon Descent to help his recovery. It has given him a passion outside of work and strengthened bonds with family and friends.

Shaun started work as a refrigeration technician at 16. After nearly a decade, he decided his passion was in finance so he set out on a new career path as a financial planner. This led to long hours, which impacted on his work/life balance.

“I didn’t mind it. It’s kind of my identity, like many Australians. It got to a point where it took over,” says Shaun.

Over the years, this worsened his depression.

“To me, depression has nothing to do with feeling sad, I had a great life, was successful, had a beautiful partner, great friends, but despite all of this there was no meaning to life. You feel empty. You feel dead inside,” Shaun explains. He became inclusive, stopped attending events, and talking to friends.

Not willing to let the depression take control of his life anymore, Shaun searched for something that could help. He was attracted by the Avon Descent and similar races that are popular within Western Australia. Shaun got in contact with lifelong friend Ben “Dover” Davis, who he had known since pre-primary, and was more than willing to compete with him. They participated in an event with the West Coast Dinghy Racing Club.

After their first race, Shaun was hooked and became eager to compete in the Avon Descent.

He had heard about the Avon Descent multiple times throughout his life as he was born and raised in Perth. The Avon Descent is an epic white-water race from Northam to Bayswater, which is 124km. It is in its 44th year and is a two-day race on the 5th and 6th of August.

“I don’t think many people thought we were serious. We had only been in the boat three times before competing in the 2016 Avon Descent. Unfortunately, they were unable to finish due to technical difficulty.  We are wishing him luck with his goal to finish the race this year.

“It helped me achieve a better work-life balance which in turn helped give me my passion for life back. A man without a passion is like an Avon boat without a rudder,” says Shaun.

The Avon Descent has impacted on Shaun’s day to day life as he and Ben like to compete in one race per month with the West Coast Dinghy Racing Club. These races, as well as the social events, helped Shaun reconnect with his family and friends.

“It has given us our friendship back in the way that it forces us to spend time with each other,” says Shaun while talking about Ben. He has also reconnected with other important members in his life, including his father who is the team’s support crew.

Shaun also changed jobs to one with a better environment, which helped with his mental health. He still appreciates the impact the Avon Descent had on his life.

“The thing that got me out of it (depression) is I took a chance. I went to my mate and he saved my life by agreeing to do it with me,” Shaun says.

If you or anyone you know is struggling with depression, please contact a GP or any of the mental health services.

The Fenn’s – A story of a special father- daughter bond and 40 Avon Descents!

Powerboating is all about the team- effort. You need to find a partner in crime that you can, not only trust but especially rely on in every situation. Who would be a better crew member than your own father?

That’s what medical scientist Mahony Fenn from Wattle Grove thought as well. Even though they may have busy lives, the 36 – year old and her father Peter have been able to bond over power boats ever since she was a teenager. “I have watched my Dad race ever since I was born, and entered for myself as soon as I was able to, in 1998.”, Mahony remembers.

Her father, Peter Fenn, is a 67- year old semi-retiree, who has competed in the first Avon Descent in 1973 in the kayaking division, but quickly realised that powerboats were a better option for him. As Peter will be competing for the fortieth time this year, he will only be the second person in the history of the Avon Descent to ever achieve this number of races.

Mahony grew up with powerboats and started competing with her father, once she turned 18. Since then, they have raced in the Avon Descent together fifteen times.

Powerboats bring the two together in more ways than just competing, as they build a new craft every three years. “It is nice quality time”, Mahony says and Peter adds “It’s a really great way to spend time with your daughter”.

In 2016, the “Just in Scales” – team raced in the 10hp Standard category and came in as position 13.

The father- daughter team is looking forward to another great year and would not want to miss an opportunity to race down the Avon and Swan River. Ever since her first Avon Descent, Mahony only missed one race and was not delighted – “I didn’t enjoy sitting on the river bank watching in 2013 while I was pregnant with my daughter, but I was straight back in the next year.”

Peter has two other children; Michael, who works with him as a scheduler in his weighing scales business and Andrew, who has pursued religious life as a monk.

“It’s quite interesting to have a monk as a son,” says Peter as he tells stories of going out with his son in religious attire. While neither of the sons has followed their father’s and sister’s passion with powerboats, they are very supportive of their family’s interest.

SUP- competitor races for good cause!

This year is the first time, that Stand Up Paddleboards will be allowed to race in the Avon Descent.  SUP in Whitewater – crazy, you might think. Nevertheless, Adam Prince is keen to take on this massive challenge for a cause that is very close to his heart.

After Nepal was struck by a series of devastating earthquakes in 2015, his brother in law and sister founded the “Friends of Nepal Association” (FONA). With a current first target of $10,000, Adam would be able to fit out a classroom for a new school.

To read the full story and support his campaign, please visit:

Brad Harvey: Novice paddler prepares for his first Avon Descent!

Even though the Avon Descent is filled with seasoned competitors, it doesn’t stop novice athletes from attempting the gruelling 124km white water rafting race. Brad Harvey is one of these competitors.

Growing up in Western Australia, Brad had heard of the Avon Descent throughout the years, yet a busy life and constant travelling had prevented him from entering until this year.

Brad travelled across Australia to follow his wife, who was a nurse in the army. After having lived in Brisbane, Queensland for three years, they moved to Victoria for another nine months. In 2016, they finally moved back to Western Australia.

It was only during his stay in Victoria that Brad’s interest in kayaking was ignited as he lived close to the Murray River. Since then, his passion for kayaking has grown.

“I really love my river kayaking more than anything,” he says, “with WA’s wide range of scenic rivers – what’s not to love!”

Training will be difficult though as he has an eleven-month-old son, but Brad is not one to back down on a challenge, saying “I would love to prove them wrong.”

Even with this busy life, Brad still finds time to practice tennis as well. The 28-year old coaches at the local tennis club two days a week. Brad is very proud of this as he says, “there was like nothing at the tennis club in Harvey, but I sort of brought it back to life.

Brad is currently working in the juice production for Harvey Fresh, who will be sponsoring him this year. “I wouldn’t be able to afford the gear if it wasn’t for them,” he says.

We can’t wait to see you prove them all wrong. Good luck Brad!

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