Ross and Robyn Bingle take class win in 2017 Massive Murray Paddle

A Bangor couple is feeling justly proud of themselves after taking a first-in-class result in Australia’s longest flat-water race.

Ross and Robyn Bingle, aged 60 and 56 respectively, were the fastest on handicap in their double kayak in the Massive Murray Paddle, run from November 20 to 24.

Four hundred competitors from across Australia tackled the 404km race from Yarrawonga to Swan Hill, along the NSW-Victoria border. First staged in 1969, it is the longest event of its kind in the southern hemisphere, and one of the longest in the world.

The Bingles have been racing for around six years but paddling as a recreational interest for much longer. They had barely recovered from the Hawkesbury Canoe Classic (111km) when it was time to head south for the start of this one.

“I’ve just completed my second Hawkesbury while Ross did his third as part of our ‘Very Big Year’,” says Robyn.

“A VBY is a challenge to race 1000km in one year, so as well as this one and the Hawkesbury, we have done the state marathon series, the Clarence 100 and the Myall Classic.

“This was a race we always wanted to do and after hearing how much fun Steve and Kate Dawson had doing it last year, we decided it was an ideal opportunity to do it as part of our VBY this year.”

The Dawsons, from Woronora, took victory in the Murray event last year in a double, but decided on independent efforts this year, finishing as fastest male and female individual paddlers, with Steve winning the event outright.

Both couples are members of the Sutherland Shire Canoe Club and train on the water year round, also using other activities such as running, walking and swimming to stay race-fit.

Steve says the Massive Murray Paddle is an amazing event to be part of. “We enjoyed it so much last year we knew immediately that we were going back. We’ve made lifelong friends on the race.

“Everybody is so supportive and friendly. Everybody understands that just finishing is a monumental effort, and it doesn’t matter whether you’re a brickie or a politician. You’re all equal on the water.” 

Steve says they didn’t need to do too much persuading to convince the Bingles they should be part of it.

“Friends at home see the updates and photos on social media and start to wonder what they’re missing out on. We come back smiling and happy. They’re on the hook for next year before they know it. And next year is the 50th, so Kate and I will definitely be going back.”

Robyn and Ross are also planning to do the event again, with Robyn saying how much they enjoyed it.

“We’re both very pleased with our result. We wanted to just paddle the Murray, so winning made it more exciting and pushed us more each day.

“It was a great experience and very challenging, but there was a great number of lovely people involved in the race which made it fun. Everyone encouraged each other on. We would love to do it again.”

And according to Robyn, working together as a married couple in a race doesn’t have too many downsides.

“In the five days of racing Ross only had to apologise once, and he did that very quickly as he knew we would lose too much time otherwise,” she laughs.

“It is good to have an interest together and we have made some great friendships from being involved in the club.”

TOTAL TIMES FOR THE 404KM EVENT

Steve Dawson: 30h:29m:23s

Ross and Robyn Bingle: 31h:47m:11s

Kate Dawson: 32h:51m:02s