As I look at the line-up of Komodo uniforms of the last 7 years I see the growth of something special. From the borrowed Lifeline singlets of our very first year when we watched every final from the sideline; to the hand-designed dodgy ones of the years when we partied for a month when we made a grand final; to the slightly more professional 2XU top today.
Every year I say to myself “OMG that was the best Nationals yet” but I’ve never thought about why.
I could say that it was the:
- venue: a regional village-like atmosphere with a quirky racecourse and gorgeous backdrop of gums.
- competition: The emergence of ACCA, YRD and Different Stokes as well as the usual strong prems crews has really given the Premier 20s category some grunt. It was tough.
- Premier paddlers who shone more brightly than the Masters and had to work twice as hard in stiff competition for brilliant results.
- fact we have cobbled a 20s crew of licorice allsorts; stubborn, pig-headed, irreverent Frank n Beans to step up the game into the big boys league and re-invigorate Premier 20s opens.
- picture of every single Komodo left with a medal around their neck. I don’t give a flying f(&(&*(k about results or places; but the medal signifies something more; the journey, story, memory and adventure.
- member (Pix) who started paddling when Elvis was playing and won his first medals in 25 years of paddling surrounded by his Band of Brothers.
- sight of CYL; a boat of 25 year old, 60kg fast twitch paddlers in the Grand Final of 200m, looking across in disbelief at 94kg Tommo in the stroke seat with their jaws dropped.
- 50% of the Premier category who were masters who had already raced (and raced hard) for 2-3 days.
- 20% of the Nationals crew first season paddlers; or those joining us for their first Komodo Nationals (Em, Amanda, Claire, Jeremy, James, Chris, Evan, Luca, Hammer, Gerard, Adam) and the smiles on their faces were heart–warming; their paddling inspiring.
I could say it was the results. Holy shit the results:
- Masters mixed 200m – gold
- Masters mixed 500m – gold
- Masters mixed 2000m – gold
- Masters women 10s 500m – silver
- Masters women 10s 200m – gold
- Masters opens 10s 500m – silver
- Masters opens 10s 200m – silver
- Masters opens 10s 2000m – silver
- Premier Mixed 20s 200m – bronze
- Premier Women 20s 500m – gold
- Premier Women 20s 200m – bronze
- Premier Men 20s 500m – silver
- Premier Men 20s 200m – bronze
- Komodo Women awarded the 2017 winners of the AUSDBF Gamble-Lewis Trophy as the fastest women in the country overall.
But that’s not it. It’s actually nothing to do with Nationals at all. It’s the Shadow.
In Canada they video the perfect paddler and then overlay the ‘shadow’ over actual footage of you paddling. The shadow is the outline of what I see when I look at you. I see the perfect paddler you are and will be. I start the season with one mission; for every single Komodo to finish the season a better, fitter and stronger paddler than when they started and having a cracking time along the way.
Nationals is that moment at the end of the season when I look in disbelief at a boat of Komodo paddlers and know they are paddling better than I ever can or will. It’s the moment I know members have outgrown their shadow and smashed my expectations. My heart crushes with pride every single time; and that is why EVERY Nationals is the best ever. The shadow is no more – it is flesh, blue and white, heart, trust and is reality. It is you.
At the end of the day the special Komodo recipe is nothing fancy. It’s merely that we are a bunch of mates who really dig paddling, and really dig paddling with each other. As long as that never changes, we will always have something special. What an incredible season.
So to all Komodo: social, competitive, Nationals or no, I can only say thank you. You bring me joy.