Queenslanders flooded across the NSW border to make a splash at Australia’s biggest one-day paddling event on Sunday.
Each year hundreds of paddlers from around the country make their way to the Brunswick River for the Mullum2Bruns Paddle.
Almost anything goes when it comes to getting from the start line in Mullumbimby to the finish 10 kilometres away at the footbridge in Brunswick Heads.
And while the fundraising event features some racing among stand-up paddleboarders (SUP), kayakers and dragon boaters, it’s generally all about fun, laughter, colour and imagination.
The Northern Rivers paddle is a must-do for Brisbane’s BrisSUP Club which has been attending for five years.
Club president Ilka Schoenefuss said the weekend away was a favourite event with about 50 members spending the weekend in the region.
“There’s a sense of coming together for a special weekend of paddling,” she said.
“It’s the community here, we love sharing what we’re doing and it’s a beautiful location to paddle [and] the water is clear.
“Most of us live on Moreton Bay and the water’s usually not so clear so it’s great here.”
The event is also when the club awards the Nick McDonald trophy, an encouragement award carved from recycled silky oak, to any stand-up paddleboarder in the Mullum2Bruns Paddle.
“Nick was an integral part of the club, he was a founding member and very passionate about the sport,” Ms Schoenefuss said.
“He passed away just over two years ago and it was very tragic and he was way too young.”
Ms Schoenefuss said the club was considering a similar event in Moreton Bay, perhaps paddling around Coochiemudlo Island, and hoped local kayak clubs, dragon boat clubs and ocean skis would consider taking part.
“There are so many beautiful waterways around Brisbane and the Northern Rivers.
“The creeks, the rivers are usually calm with clear water and clubs are often doing try-before-you-join events, so if you see our logo, come and say hello. We’re always happy to help out.”
The Woolly Mammoths, a team of eight kayakers from the Indooroopilly Boat Club were there to race, as they’ve done each of the past three years.
Like everyone, they were drawn there by the beauty of the river and spending time in a small and friendly coastal town.
“The event has such a warm, organic community feel about it,” Greg Scanlon said.
“Whether you enjoy dressing up for a Huckleberry float or are seeking to challenge yourself in a race to the finish, the river is a great place for both on any type of craft.”
Dragon boats set pace for dressing up
Fancy dress is very popular, with entire families dressing up and all kids under 12 wearing life jackets.
There were farmers in a tinny, Smurfs in an outrigger and a Viking flotilla, with one group from Fig Tree Pocket and Chelmer bringing their own Caesar and donning togas for their seventh paddle.
The dragon boaters were among the more enthusiastic dressers-up, with fairies, fruit bats, mutant ninja turtles and State of Origin footy fans among the colourful crews.
For the Red Dragons from Redcliffe doing their first Mullum2Bruns Paddle, it was a chance to have some fun dressed up in khaki, with (unloaded) water pistols.
“We’re ‘Border Force Queensland’ because we’re in NSW, so we thought we’d be a border patrol,” Cheryl Rigby, the club’s president, explained.
“We decided a couple of years ago that we weren’t as competitive as other clubs and everyone was getting disheartened so when we’d get up to the start line, straight away you could feel it in the boat.
“So we’ve started going to a few regattas and it’s just picked everybody up — we picked up a third and the smile on people’s faces and the way they talk on the bus home, it’s like they got gold.
“That’s the way the club should go, doing some more of those fun, social things and building team morale.”
Looking at the colourful fairies aboard the Lennox Heads Rainbow Dragons’ entry, it’s hard to believe dragon boat racing could be competitive.
“Sometimes people hide under the costume, so you think they’re not taking it seriously, but when they get on the water everything changes,” Ms Rigby said.
She said dragon boating was a great way to meet people and get healthy, and some members found they were able to cut back on their blood pressure medication after joining the club.
It’s All About Community
The Mullum2Bruns Paddle is hoping to raise more than $30,000 for the Brunswick Volunteer Marine Rescue, the Brunswick Surf Life Saving Club and the Brunswick Heads Visitor Centre.
Kim Rosen, coordinator of the visitor centre, is just one of many volunteers getting the paddle up and running each year.
She said the event, which had drawn up to 1,200 entries in some years, was not only about fundraising but about supporting local business and highlighting the best of the seaside village of Brunswick Heads.
“About three years ago, we found out it was the biggest paddle in Australia and we haven’t heard of any other paddle events bigger than ours,” she said.
“We love our visitors from the north and any time Brunswick opens its heart and arms to visitors, it’s good for the economy.
“And the paddle fits in perfectly with our eco-friendly, family-friendly focus in Brunswick Heads.
“We’re all about the simple pleasures.”