IT has been a while between celebratory drinks for Port Macquarie-Maroro Outrigger Club paddler Kevin Owens.
Three years in fact, since he won a silver medal at a national title level.
But he was back in amongst it on the Hastings River on Saturday when he won the OC1 golden master (over-50) men’s division at the 2016 NSW OC1/2 outrigger titles.
Owens and wife Kerry founded the club and the legendary surfboat coach is known up and down the coast.
Using local knowledge to his advantage and despite a tough start, Owens did what he had to do to finish first over the line in the 10-kilometre course.
He completed it in a time of one hour, four minutes and 45 seconds – the second fastest time overall in the short-course division.
“It was a good start, a bit congested at the time, but I used the currents to my advantage,” Owens said.
The well-known club member said while the sun was out, conditions were challenging.
“They had to move the course inside because the wind was up and my canoe is probably better suited to outside conditions,” he said.
“What they call the rocker is under my seat which enables the canoe to cut through the water a bit better when you’re out in the open ocean.”
The secret to his success was keeping the foot on the throttle.
“Being a short course, you’ve got to keep going and I used the run-out tide and the wind to my advantage,” Owens said.
“40 years (paddling) in the river will help you with that.”
Club spokesperson Garth Norris said it was unfortunate the club didn’t have the opportunity to chase any other titles.
“It’s such a huge undertaking for any club who gets to host these sorts of events,” he said.
“Because you’re out on boats and volunteering and making sure everything runs smoothly you don’t get a lot of time to paddle.”
Port Macquarie had four other Australian champions who didn’t have the opportunity to paddle due to claiming hosting rights.
“(Coach) Wes (Byrnes) is an OC2 mixed champion and it’s unfortunate, but it’s the way it is,” Norris said.
While it required a lot of hard work, hosting state titles allowed the club to showcase the sport to the area.
“As a small club we love hosting events like this because it’s great to see people down on Town Green seeing these canoes head out into open water,” Norris said.
“It increases the sport profile in the community and we contribute to the NSW zone by holding these events.”
Mollymook paddler Greg Sutcliffe was the quickest male over the line in a time of one hour, three minutes and 50 seconds.
Sandy Hauraki from the Great Lakes was the first woman over the line.
Sydney’s Nathan Purll roared down the coast from Point Plomer and completed the long-course (17-kilometre) division in one hour and 12 minutes.