There is a very good chance veteran paddler and record holder Darryl Long will finish his 35th Avon Descent this year.
When he does it will be another personal triumph for Darryl, but, this time tinged with sadness.
In January, Darryl’s partner Sue Quick died as the pair set out to paddle the Blackwood River. Sue was last year’s women’s Avon champion and a much loved and respected member of the Ascot Kayak Club and the broader paddling community.
Darryl, who holds 13 men’s singles titles, knows the Avon Descent field will be sparing a thought for Sue at the start line in August and his own efforts will be a tribute to her spirit and love of the sport.
“That day on the Blackwood just shows how anyone’s life can change in an instant,” said Darryl. “The river was up, but there was nothing about it that said we should not be on it and there was nothing apart from the routine hazards we deal with all the time as paddlers.”
“The incident involving Sue just shows that it is the danger you do not and cannot perceive that turns to tragedy.” Darryl said.
The 35th Avon for Darryl will also wind back the clock 20 years for he and his mate Paul Genovesi. The pair still hold the doubles record set in 1996 and will line up again this year.
Paul is training hard to overcome major shoulder surgery. In fact, his team of carers at Western Othopaedic Clinic are sponsoring Darryl and Paul this year.
“Sue knew Darryl and I were planning our comeback on the 20th anniversary, and she was very supportive of it,” said Paul.
“The Avon is an examination, a test. We know what the questions are going to be and it is all in the preparation,” Paul observed.
Although a champion paddler, Darryl has also tasted Avon adventure in a power boat. He competed in 2001 and 2002 in 8hp Standard and despite some mechanical setbacks was right up there with race pace for his class.
An official legend of the Avon Descent, he has also experienced the amazing change of moods the river can produce. Darryl says his fondest memory is probably 1983 when he set the men’s singles white water boat record of 7hrs 56mins 9secs that still stands.
“That year, we had a three and a half metre river for the race. But it was nothing like the level earlier in the week….over seven metres” recalled Darryl.
Paddling has been Darryl’s life and it remains so. He designs and makes boats and paddles through his business Universal Plastics in Welshpool and still loves the way the sport attracts new paddlers who want to know everything they can about the Avon.
Let’s hope the remainder of 2016 is very positive for Darryl. “I think it shows that you need to live and enjoy life one day at a time and not make grand plans for the future that might stop you doing this.