The Canoe Marathon discipline is integral to the fabric of both the Australian and international paddling community.

Taking place over approximately 30-42 km, a Canoe Marathon race involves paddling on either the flatwater of lakes and dams, or the flowing water of a river.

For long-time paddler Michael Leverett, the discipline of Marathon has been one of his life’s greatest passions, and one he fell into almost by chance.

“I started off in Surf Life Saving as a surfski paddler before transitioning over to become a sprint kayaker,” said Leverett.

“I was at the Australian Institute of Sport on the Gold Coast for several years and even went to a Sprint World Championships but got glandular fever in 1995 and that stopped me in my tracks for a bit.

“It just so happened that there was a World Cup Marathon race in Maroochydore that was taking place as I was coming back from my illness. I had never done a Marathon before but I competed in it, absolutely loved it and never looked back.

“Flash forward to now, I’ve got three medals at World Championships and am proud of the fact that I was fairly consistent over a long period of time,” he said.

Leverett reflected back to his first years in the discipline, noting the ups and downs were all important parts of his journey.

“It’s a lot of hard work to be at your best – back in the day I was probably doing about 230km a week plus a fair bit of running,” he said.

“I definitely got better tactically as I gained more race experience and I think I won the Australian Championships about 18 times, but I definitely felt very ordinary about some of my other performances throughout that time too.

“I started coaching along the way as well and have helped some people earn some good results as well, so that side of things has been quite rewarding as well. I think it might almost have been the most enjoyable part of paddling for me to tell you the truth.”

For Leverett, the competitive aspect of racing has always been one of his favourite things about the sport.

“One of the main things I have enjoyed over the years is racing in those really competitive races at the World Championships against those top guys. I love hard racing, I love being pushed and not getting things my own way,” he said.

“For me it just makes it enjoyable having to outsmart someone, or counteract it when someone is outsmarting you, something that has happened to me on numerous occasions. Whether it’s staying with them or attacking straight back, those competitive scenarios really make the racing exciting.

“I’ve lost a lot of my speed now because of my age and various injuries I’ve had, but that World Championships racing is really what keeps me going.”

Now a parent alongside wife and fellow Marathon paddler Kate, Leverett says his family’s involvement provides him with consistent joy.

“Our kids are still young but are starting to get out on the water more and more,” said Leverett. 

“We always hoped they would paddle but have never pushed them into it, so it’s really great that they’ve chosen to be involved now. 

“We have a long-standing joke in our family about our favourite sports because my kids will say anything other than kayaking cause they know it’s what I’m hoping to hear.

“They’re only five and eight, so it’s not serious for them, it’s just something enjoyable we can all do together as a family on a weekend,” he finished.

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