World Championship medallists took centre stage last night at the 2023 Paddle Australia Awards, with a gala event on the Gold Coast celebrating the achievements of the paddling community over the past 12 months.

With six Olympic/Paralympic medals and 21 world championship titles between them, Jessica Fox (NSW) and Curtis McGrath (QLD) were recognised as joint winners of the Paddler of the Year (Olympic/Paralympic Disciplines) award.

Fox was recognised for an outstanding season in which she achieved her tenth individual World Championship win and multiple World Cup medals. While McGrath made a stunning return to international competition this season, winning a bronze and gold medal at the 2023 ICF Canoe Sprint and Paracanoe World Championships in Duisburg, Germany.

“It’s always special to be in that room celebrating everyone, their successes, their stories, anywhere from grassroots and community clubs through to high performance, so to win this award was really special,” Fox said

“To share it with Curt is really special, he’s an athlete that I really look up to and admire and is a good friend. I am honoured to win this award.

“This season as a whole was a great success because of the races where I’ve performed well, and that resulted in a gold medal or a silver or bronze which are all special. But it’s those moments and those experiences, like racing on the Paris Olympic course, imagining what that could be like next year. It was standing on the podium with Noemie and Kate in that Teams event at the World Championship, and doing something that had never been done before.

“You know, those emotions are what I’m carrying and it’s been an amazing year and I am glad I get a bit of a break now and I can digest that and look forward to next year.”

Fox was also named in the 2023 Team of the Year Award alongside teammates Noemie Fox and Kate Eckhardt for the trio’s history making Kayak Team gold at the 2023 ICF Canoe Slalom World Championships in Lee Valley, London.

Noemie said it was special to relive the excitement of the team’s World Championships gold with the broader paddling community.

“For us it was such a special part of our World Championships and great to be able to share that with our family and friends who were on the ground, and to come back now and relive those moments and emotions and reunite as a team is really great. I’m so super grateful to be able to share this moment with the girls,” Noemie said.

“There were so many amazing teams across Paddle Australia nominated as finalists, and it’s so special to have won team of the year with these guys,” added Eckhardt.

Far North Coast Canoe Club (NSW) was awarded the prestigious President’s Award for their resilience in coping with repeated flooding events which have resulted in their clubhouse without power and hot water nearly 12 months since the last flood. 

“It’s really wonderful for the club to be recognised with the President’s award. To be an ordinary club amongst all these extraordinary athletes and organisers fills me and the club with pride,” said Far North Coast Canoe Club President Christine Porter.

“The rain comes, the river goes up, the river goes down and we get stuck into the clean up, it’s a Lismore thing. Regardless, our club members are incredible and our club is going to continue to grow and continue to thrive.”

World Champions Aly Bull (QLD) and Jemma Smith (NSW) took out the Paddler of the Year (Non-Olympic/Paralympic Disciplines) category for their international achievements across events or disciplines not contested at the Olympic/Paralympic Games.

For Bull, it was her back-to-back women’s K1 1000 world titles that secured her the gong.

“It’s always an honour to come to these events and be nominated, let alone recognised. This sport is what we love doing and nights like last night are special, they make all of the hard work worth it,” said Bull.

“It’s such an inspiring room to be sitting in, you know, all these people are incredible and contribute so much, it’s amazing to be a part of such a community.”

While they couldn’t be there to celebrate, Paralympian Dylan Littlehales (NSW) and world champion Ben Sainsbury (WA) were named Paracanoeist of the Year after both recording winning results during the 2022-23 season.

Women’s Canoe Slalom Head Coach Myriam Fox (NSW) was named Coach of the Year, while Queensland’s Claudia Bailey (Sprint Kayak) and Western Australia’s Todd Boreland (Canoe Marathon) were named Paddler of the Year (Junior) and Paddler of the Year (Master) respectively.

Kayaker Richard Barnes was awarded the 2023 Olegas Truchanas Award for his successful and inspiring 2,000 kilometre solo paddle from Hobart, Australia to New Zealand.

Former Slalom paddler and long-time Slalom coach and administrator Peter Eckhardt won the Excellence Award.

“My contribution, it comes from wanting to give back and being thankful for those that went before me,” Eckhardt said.

“My experiences as a younger person in paddling were very foundational to who I have become, so I am always grateful for that and those people. I don’t contribute in the same way, but that’s my motivation.”

South Australians Tracey Tapscott and Mark Bulmer won the Technical Official of the Year Award.

Demi O’Brien (WA) was recognised as the Club Coach of the Year while Allana Bold (QLD) was awarded Instructor/Guide of the Year.

The founder of Newy Paddlers, New South Welshman Darren Forbes won the Volunteer of the Year award for his consistently selfless efforts that see him donate 20 hours of his time each week as Throsby Creek’s only accredited coach. 

His energy and passion to make things happen and create change means that he is well respected in the club and the local community.

Jonathan Crowe (NSW), Don Marsh (TAS) and Shaun Rice (WA) were all named as Award of Merit recipients.

Dean Gardiner (NSW), Siobhan Goble and John Young (VIC) were presented the Services to Paddling award.

Sue Natoli (VIC) and Myriam and Richard Fox (NSW) were also inducted into the Paddle Australia Hall of Fame, a fitting honour for the extensive and significant contributors to paddling, and in particular Canoe Slalom.

Myriam and Richard Fox’s daughter, Jessica Fox, said she was proud of her parents and their well deserved recognition.

“I’m so proud of my parents who were honoured last night with their induction into the Hall of Fame. It made being in that room even more special, there were a lot of emotions, it was a lovely way to celebrate,” said Jessica.

Outgoing Paddle Australia President and newly awarded Paddle Australia Life Member, Andrea McQuitty (TAS) said it was a great celebration of the Australian paddling community.

“One of the great things about paddling is the diversity within the community and within the sport. A night like last night celebrates that, and allows us to bring all those different groups and disciplines together,” said McQuitty.

“It’s not only a good night in terms of recognising their achievements but also in bringing everyone together socially. The fact that it only happens once a year makes it even more special.”

Paddle Western Australia’s Rosalie Evans was also recognised with Life Membership for her service to the sport and community.

“I’m so surprised and incredibly overwhelmed to have been awarded life membership. I love this sport, I’ve always been passionate about this sport, the people in it and all our disciplines. I will honestly treasure this forever,” said Evans.


Paddler of the Year (Olympic/Paralympic Disciplines) – Jessica Fox (NSW) and Curtis McGrath (QLD)

Paddler of the Year (Paracanoe) – Dylan Littlehales (NSW) and Ben Sainsbury (WA)

Paddle of the Year (Non-Olympic/Paralympic Disciplines) – Aly Bull (QLD) and Jemma Smith (NSW)

Paddler of the Year (Junior) – Claudia Bailey (QLD)

Paddler of the Year (Master) – Todd Boreland (WA)

Team of the Year – Senior Women’s Canoe Slalom Kayak Team (Jessica Fox, Noemie Fox, Kate Eckhardt)

Coach of the Year – Myriam Fox (NSW)

Club Coach of the Year – Demi O’Brien (WA)

President’s Award – Far North Coast Canoe Club (NSW)

Volunteer of the Year – Darren Forbes (NSW)

Instructor/Guide of the Year – Allana Bold (QLD)

Technical Official of the Year – Tracey Tapscott (SA) and Mark Bulmer (SA)

Excellence Award – Peter Eckhardt (TAS)

Olegas Truchanas Award – Richard Barnes 

Award of Merit – Jonathan Crowe (NSW), Don Marsh (TAS) and Shaun Rice (WA)

Services to Paddling – Dean Gardiner (NSW), Siobhan Goble and John Young (VIC)

Life Membership – Rosalie Evans (WA) and Andrea McQuitty (TAS)

Hall of Fame – Sue Natoli (VIC), Myriam Fox (NSW) and Richard Fox (NSW)