BeIng an Aurora has brought me many challenges physically and mentally. It has taken me to Singapore, Korea, Macau, China (twice), Canada, USA, Hungary and in 2016, Adelaide hosted the Asian Championships. I’ve paddled in 40 degree heat, at high altitude, stifling humidity, in fast flowing rivers, on purpose built courses and lakes, each presenting their own challenges. One of the perks is meeting paddlers from many countries and watching different styles and techniques.
Being an Aurora is a year long journey. It is not for everyone as many factors affect your decision such as personal finances, leave availability and your family. It begins with a desire to do something a bit different and outside your comfort zone, setting long term goals and simply committing to the process. The fitness test can be challenging but is very achievable with perseverance.
The training camps are where we vie for selection, meet paddlers from all over Australia and start the bonding process necessary to form a team. Factors that help are a competitive spirit, paddling flexibility as you may not paddle in your usual spot, mental toughness, physical fitness and a sense of humour. A strong camaraderie forms within the group and friendships form that can last for years. I am still in contact with teammates from my first campaign in Florida in 2011.
After this, the journey continues. If the competition is in October, as it was in 2017, you will train with your own clubs and later in state based Aurora boats for 10 months. You will make sacrifices to everything to fit in 3-4 gym sessions and 3-4 boat sessions a week as you hone your skills physically and mentally. The Aurora’s gym and boat training program is tough and demanding. It can change you or bring out a different part within you which has been dormant. We are all amateur athletes, for myself the process is about pushing my limits and being the best I can through 100% commitment and perseverance.
Finally there’s the racing. The excitement of flying to a foreign country, wearing the coat of arms on your national polo shirts. Paddlers come from all over the world. The Asian teams are semi professional, The Chinese team trains 3 sessions a day, 6 days a week. The Russian and Ukrainian teams boast ex Olympic paddlers crossing over from canoe paddling, with the Olympic rings tattooed to their massive arms. The racing is hard, fast and furious. We all love to medal, but the Aurora’s goal is always to give your 100% best performance and to race your best race possible. The Aurora’s team spirit and culture is strong, competitive and positive in a sport which must surely rank as one of the ultimate team sports where 20 (22) paddlers come together in perfect unison.