Author Archives: Fran Diettrich

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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.


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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 (http://www.agradeglassandaluminium.com.au) are supporting this trophy.

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


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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.


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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.


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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:

https://personalchallenge.gofundraise.com.au/page/AdamPrince0


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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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Luke Dooley – the ‘Kalbarri Kid’!

Luke Dooley, known as the ‘Kalbarri Kid’, is a formidable force in the paddling scene while balancing the life of a typical teenager in his final years of high school.

Being in year 11 at John Forrest Secondary College in Morley, he is still unsure of the future but knows that kayaking will certainly be a part of it.

Luke became interested in paddling when he wanted to win the first prize at the Kalbarri Cray and Canoe Carnival race, run by Canoeing WA. Consequently, he persuaded his Mum to take him to Perth to get him set up with paddle equipment and training.

He started kayaking at the age of ten. In Kalbarri, he did all his training by himself and only came down to Perth for competitions. Now, at sixteen, he trains with others and competes in two or three competitions per month.

Luke has been mentored by Terry Bolland, who is a qualified and respected Canoe/Kayak Instructor and paddler in WA and a very experienced expedition paddler who has undertaken amazing trips and expeditions in Australia and overseas.

The Kalbarri boy raced his first Avon Descent in 2016, where he was just able to scrape through the age requirement of sixteen, competing against many older competitors.

“It’s pretty daunting, but there’s great satisfaction when beating them. That’s for sure,” says Luke.

It was indeed a very successful year for the 16-year old, as he finished as the 21st competitor in his category- out of the 63 contestants, who made it through the finish line.

Despite his young age, Luke has a lot of experience and a bright future ahead. He competed in the Marathon Nationals in the Gold Coast in 2016 and will compete in South Africa this December. This does not mean that the Avon Descent will be easy for Luke. “It’s so much further and much more of a challenge,” says Luke.

Luke recently moved from Kalbarri to Perth so he can spend less time travelling to the competitions and more time on practice and schoolwork. Balancing school life with his busy kayaking regime can be a struggle as he has five structured training sessions per week.

His advice for other students who have a busy schedule is, “You have to keep really organised.  If you fall behind, it’s very hard to catch back up.”

One of his goals for the future is to travel to Canada where he will participate in canoe journeys and kayak expeditions.

Young, talented Luke Dooley is a great example of the new generation of paddlers and we can’t wait to see you this year for the 45th Avon Descent. Entries opened 14th May.

Luke Dooley (right) with his mentor Terry Bolland (left). 


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EARLY BIRD – advantages

Early bird offers you so much more than just a bit of a discount and is only available until 31 May.

 

DISCOUNTED ENTRY PRICES

Receive 10% OFF the Standard Entry Price

 

New in 2017! Stand Up Paddle Boards are coming to the Avon Descent!

Stand Up Paddle Boards receive an additional $50 rebate on entry fees as our promotional category for this year only.

 

NOMINATE FOR PRIORITY GRIDDING

This year top grids will be determined by a Qualifying Race held at Scrutineering in Bayswater on the 23rd of July

Want to be in the top grids? Then you need to nominate! You can do so during EARLY BIRD ONLY (14-31st May) and you must tick the appropriate box in your online entry form.

All following grids will be determined on a First Come First Serve basis.

 

NOMINATE FOR YOUR OWN RACE ID

If you enter during Early Bird you will be able to nominate for your own Race ID number

Paddle Craft can nominate any number between 302 and 999.

This number will then be reserved for you for the following year should you wish to use it again.


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Entries are now open!

Welcome to the Avon Descent 2017!

The entries for 2017 are now open. Please create your ‘myAvon’ account first by clicking the blue “myAvon” button in the bottom right of the page. Click ‘Register’, fill your details and you will have your own account. Now you will notice a new option on the myAvon menu ‘Enter the Avon Descent’ where you can submit your entry for 2017!

If you have any questions, please have look at our Event Rules for 2017  https://www.avondescent.com.au/competitors/event-rules/ 

For any other sport-related questions, feel free to contact Sport Coordinator Sean Dunstan sport@avondescent.com.au


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Cyprian Ubah – International work force for local community event!

Not many people are aware of the number of volunteers it takes to organise the Avon Descent each year. You would be surprised to find out that we have over 30 Management Volunteers and even more interesting is the fact, that over 80% have an international background. Having volunteers from all five continents working on a traditional and iconic event in Western Australia brings, not only a great added value to the event, but also shows their appreciation for the local community.

One of them is Nigerian born Cyprian Ubah, who is making his mark on the Avon Descent as he brings in his strong analytic and project management skill in the planning and development of the event.

The thirty-one-year-old Cyprian grew up in Lagos, Nigeria and moved to Australia in 2014 to study Masters of Project Management at Edith Cowan University. He graduated in 2016 and is currently pursuing his career in project management.

“My greatest achievement so far is being able to come to Australia and prove myself,” says Cyprian.

As Cyprian says, in Nigeria, he was “managing corporate projects, so that’s what sparked off the idea of coming here to study project management and help me evolve my skills”.

Cyprian is assisting in the capacity of management coordinator and logistic planning for the Avon Descent. He is actively in charge of preparing and updating all management documents, risk plans, general logistic plans and updating risk registers.

Local community engagement is a strong part of Cyprian’s values. He intends returning to Nigeria after gaining the relevant international experience to pursue a career in politics.

“I want to be a law maker and a senator someday,” says Cyprian. Volunteering gives him the opportunity to give back to the community that he is a part of. When he is not working, Cyprian enjoys working out and playing soccer.

Would you like to be part of our Volunteer Management Team? We are always looking for new people to join our team, in the areas of Event Management (coordinator@avondescent.com.au), Sport, Graphics, IT (all enquiries to sport@avondescent.com.au) and Marketing and Media (marketing@avondescent.com.au ). Send us an email to find out more and start your volunteering career with the Avon Descent.

 


Recent News and Announcements

 

Want to get involved?

Avon Descent Support Unit Training

The Avon Descent offers a wide range of volunteering opportunities from rescue and recovery to administration, event management, marketing and graphics design and we are always seeking new talent to help us in delivering an amazing event.

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

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