Author Archives: Fran Diettrich

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Sam Pilton- Encouraging women to test themselves in the Avon Descent!

“Flee or Fight Back” could be the strategy for many participating in the Avon Descent, a 124 km white water race for Paddle and Power boats, running from Northam to Bayswater, along the Avon and Swan Rivers, but for Sam Pilton, the call was quite different.  “I felt I was more mentally prepared last year than any previous Avon Descent. I didn’t ‘hit a wall’ with fatigue, a few positive thoughts do go a long way to keep you going” says Sam when asked about her strategy last year which enabled her to become the fastest woman paddler in 2016.

Sam Pilton, from Swan View, is a seasoned paddler who was introduced to paddling by her father at quite an early age.  “I have paddled in 8 Avon Descents and all the lead-up marathon races in the Perth racing calendar. I have been a member of Ascot Kayak Club since I was a kid” recalls Sam. She has completed 7 out of 8 solo Avon Descents, all in the long plastic division except for the one year she didn’t finish. “That year I decided last minute to paddle a K1 and didn’t set it up comfortably. But I am keen one day to try again in a K1” says a determined Sam.

“The Toodyay tea trees are tough, definitely advise trying to memorise the correct route through and have a plan B if the channel is banked up with other paddlers. The hardest part is the last 30kms of flat water paddling before the finish line and almost always into a strong sea breeze.” Sam opines.

The 32-year old never had any experience in power crafting but she is happy with her present status-quo. She ardently believes that she is an innate paddler who enjoys the training all the year round and loves the strength and fitness she gains from paddling.

Last year 193 paddle boats, including double and team- entries, crossed the finish line of which only 20 competitors were women. When asked about such alarming disproportion, Sam replies, “All the kayak clubs in WA have a lot of social female paddlers, we just need to get them interested in having a competitive challenge with their paddling and give Avon Descent a go”

We will see this confident paddler around this year as well. “I’m always out on the water training all year round so I’d say I will be competing again. In all the Avon there is always a close race and huge competitive rivalry which brings you back every year for some healthy competition between the females and males.”

This white-water race has its own pros and cons but Sam Pilton sums up the entire event as an adventure which is cherished lifelong. “You will surprise yourself with what you can achieve and how much fun it is. Completing the Avon Descent is a huge achievement in itself.”

Determination plus hard work, undoubtedly was the winning formula for Sam Pilton as she believed if opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door. But for many, especially female competitors, there is a lack of inspiration and impetus that helps you keep going. “News media do let down the females in sports. Recognition would be a start to help create interest and hopefully encourage other females to give it a go”.

Recognition or not, Sam Pilton’s success coupled with her courage and positive attitude will surely entice and encourage many women paddlers to participate in Avon Descent in the future.

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Worldwide Coverage of the Avon Descent on CNBC

What a great weekend we have coming up for the worldwide awareness of the Avon Descent. Our yearly 30-minute TV -special from 2016 will be aired on CNBC –  not only in Australia but also in Asia, Latin America, Europe, Middle East and Africa. If you live abroad or have international friends, who have always wanted to know what the Avon Descent is all about- this is YOUR chance.

Airing times are the following on March 18th/ 19th:

  • Asia (SIN/HK)              Sat 1430, Sun 1400
  • Australia/NZ (SYD)     Sat 1130, 1430, Sun 1100, 1400
  • EMEA (CET)                  Sat 1130, 1430, Sun 1100, 1400
  • LatAm (MEX)               Sat 1230, Sun 1200

*Cities represent time zones*


Spread the word and let’s bring the Avon Descent to the world!

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Doug Hodson – a cancer survivor proves that anyone can do it!

Sixty year old cancer survivor Doug Hodson of Wembley Downs shows that anyone can be a part of the adventurous Avon Descent, if they are willing to put in the effort.

Doug Hodson was born in Kenya and has retired from a long career in the oil and gas industry. During this time, he and his wife raised their two sons.

In 2008, Doug had an operation removing cancerous cells.  His left leg became difficult to move and he relied on a plastic splint, but that hasn’t stopped his love for  adventure and testing his limits. He replaced his love of running for a sport that focuses on his upper body strength – kayaking.

Doug started to kayak and formed a strong friendship with other kayakers on Saturday mornings where he practiced flat water rafting. In 2013, discovered the Avon Descent and he quickly became eager to participate. Since then, he has competed in three Avon Descents.

Competing in a Team of two in 2016, Doug and his racing partner Roland Bodt, chose a team name, very close to Doug’s heart – “Sock it to Sarcoma”. By displaying not only the name on his paddle, but also wearing the foundations color pink, he raised awareness for Sarcomas, which a very rare form of cancer. (

The Avon Descent is a 45 year old institution where participants paddle or motorboat a 124km race from the Avon valley in Northam to the Swan River. Hundreds of people compete each year as they experience a water race not like any other. Competitors can focus of flat water or test themselves by going on the rapids. Over the years, Doug competed in two teams of four and one team of two, and they have practiced throughout the year, something Doug strongly recommends.

“I think it’s more fun if you’re in a team than if you’re on your own, because you’ve always got someone interested in going with you,” says Doug.

Practice is essential for anyone, whether it is their first time participating or fifteenth.  The WA Canoe Society provides many opportunities for individuals to perfect their form and get used to the wide range of conditions that the river might provide.  This training helped Doug achieve his goal of kayaking down half of the river in 2016 – a feat he is hoping to accomplish again in the future.

The Avon Descent is on the 5th  and 6th  of August and the encourages anyone to push their limits by participating.

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Avon Descent Support Unit Training

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If you are interested in volunteering please visit our Get Involved page today to find out more.