Marathon paddlers from around the nation will converge on the Murray River this weekend for South Australia’s premier long distance event, the Riverland Paddling Marathon (RPM).

Run by the Marathon Canoe Club over the King’s Birthday long weekend every year in June, the RPM has become a staple event on the marathon calendar since its inception in 1988, attracting paddling enthusiasts in all types of craft including kayaks, canoes, surf skis, surf boats, dragon boats and stand up paddle boards.

Martin Finn has been volunteering as the Race Director of the RPM for the last 25 years and could not be a bigger advocate for the event.

“The Riverland Paddling Marathon really is the event of the year for us, it really does bring the marathon community together and it’s a fantastic celebration of paddling,” said Finn.

“We’ve had nearly 1500 paddlers nominate for the race over the past 36 years, and while most of our paddlers are from South Australia, we do get a large contingent from Melbourne and from Lane Cove River Kayakers up in Sydney and also the occasional paddler from Queensland or Western Australia.

“The Murray 200 race is a continuous paddle over three days and is the backbone of the original event, but we also have several other races people can take part in if they’re not interested in the longer distance,” he said.

The RPM incorporates the Murray 200, the Murray 200 Relay, the Murray 100 and the Riverland mini-marathon within the three day event that runs from Berri to Morgan.

For Finn, it’s the community that inspires his selfless service.

“I’ve been running the event for 25 years and it’s been fantastic to watch the event grow, it’s part of what keeps me coming back each year,” he said. 

“Numbers dropped off during Covid but we’re seeing numbers grow again now, and it’s just joyous to see the older paddlers come back every year and younger paddlers develop a love for paddling on the Murray.

“We’re supported by the Amateur Radio Experimenters Group who do my communications for me and have done for many years and also the Victor Harbor Goolwa Sea Rescue Squadron who provide safety and rescue boats. It really is a community effort,” finished Finn.

With a long history in marathon and ultra-marathon paddling, Bill Robinson will take to the water this week for his record-breaking 25th Murray 200.

Aiming to complete the event alongside eighteen year old grandson Archie, Robinson notes that this year’s event will be special.

“In my opinion the Riverland Paddling Marathon is one of the best marathons in the whole country. I’ve paddled for most of my adult life and still absolutely love it, and no matter where I go, something about the Murray River in South Australia keeps me coming back,” he said.

“Martin Finn has been volunteering for 25 years now and he really is a wonderful fella, the Riverland Paddling Marathon and its paddlers owe a lot to him.

“It really is a great event and one of the friendliest as well. We have some serious paddlers turn up who are looking to break records, but we also have people who come along who are looking to paddle more socially.

“This year I’ll be doing it with my 18 year old grandson Archie which is very special. As a family we all love to get out and exercise, so it’ll be fun to be part of his first Murray 200.”

Bill Robinson mid-way through the Murray 200 in 2013

A seasoned paddler having travelled the entire length of the Murray in 2005, Robinson has also crossed Bass Strait in a kayak and has completed more than 20 Murray 400 events.

While setting records hasn’t been his goal, he admits he has set a fair few, and is looking forward to taking part in the Murray 200 once again this weekend.

“I’ve got 24 Murray 200’s under my belt so this one will be my 25th. I don’t go out to set records but I accidentally set this one, I think the person who has done the next most Murray 200’s is at 17,” said Robinson.

“The Murray 200 takes you through some really interesting and beautiful country, including the absolutely spectacular cliffs near Waikerie. Each morning we go through a lock as well, they’re pretty incredible things.

“I would advise any paddlers who like the Murray to consider the event. If you’re unsure of yourself, do the Murray 100 in your first year to dip your toe in the water, that event makes for quite a relaxing and fun long weekend,” finished Robinson.

To find out more about the Riverland Paddling Marathon, click here.