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).