We have the Avon Descent, South Africa has the Dusi. Kevin and Wendy White have done them both.
Kevin’s first impression of the Avon in 2009: “Its hard, if it was in South Africa, it would be a three-day race”.
He completed his first valley run on his own, starting out at lunch time. It was almost dark when he got to Bells ! He had learned enough to caution any newcomers against taking the Avon Descent lightly
But it would be the start of a remarkable campaign for the South African born paddler. He took out third place in 2009, was second to fellow countryman Hank McGregor in the low water the next year and went on to a fourth place in 2011
In 2012, Kevin made a serious assault on the K2 title with champion WA paddler Simon Roll but they managed to wrap the kayak around a rock up-stream of Championships. Despite that, the pair patched the hull and managed to finish the race.
He took a year off in 2013 to support a paddler from South Africa and has paddled the last two with Wendy in a mixed K2. They have won doubles and mixed doubles both times.
Wendy’s experience prior to the Avon also set her up well to meet the challenges of the event. She teamed with Helke Melvville for her first event and then she and Kevin paddled together in a K2 in 2014 and 205 to win both doubles and mixed doubles
Wendy, “I have total confidence from the start because I know Kevin is so good at reading the white water”.
With his many [almost 20] years of experience on the Dusi and a few other big races in South Africa, Kevin is used to endurance. He ran 25km with the kayak on day one of one of his Dusi races. He found Avon 2010, the low-water year, extra hard but was able to complete it with a good place. He would advocate a low-water alternative for the Avon similar to the philosophy on the Dusi.
Advice from Kevin and Wendy for anyone contemplating the Avon is, “You are only as fast as you are stable, make sure you choose a craft that has the best chance of keeping you upright”. They say their K2 they paddle together is extremely stable and assures them smooth passage through the Avon Valley.
While the Avon Descent would not be for every husband and wife combination in WA, the achievements of Kevin and Wendy White clearly demonstrate what might be possible for other couples looking for a “little bit of adventure” !!