While rarely a competitor except at private or club level Garry, nicknamed for then obvious reasons “Stringbean”, was first a recreational paddler. He became officially involved with canoeing when at 19 he was elected as the inaugural Secretary of the Indooroopilly Canoe Club, on 5th July 1957 and he continued to be a volunteer administrator at club, state and national levels until the 1990s.
The Queensland Amateur Canoe Federation (QACF) was established in 1962, now known as Queensland Canoeing. It was a ‘kitchen table’ committee with Garry Gardner as President, Bernard Draney as Vice President and Sallyanne Vidgen as Secretary/Treasurer. From then on canoe clubs spread state wide. Formalities had to be observed and the QACF became affiliated with the Australian Canoe Federation and the Queensland Olympic Council. Queensland Canoeing is now an organisation with a dedicated office and paid staff.
Since the 1950s sport in general has expanded and Queensland paddlers have represented in Canoe Polo, Marathon, Paracanoe, Sprint and Whitewater at Nationals as well as World Championships, World Cups, Paralympics and Olympics.
Garry during the intervening years between 1957 and his death in 2001 continued to support ‘his sport’. His accomplishments have been chronicled and his efforts in canoeing and the Olympic movement were rewarded by the presentation of an OAM in 1990. At one stage when he was simultaneously Commodore of Indooroopilly Canoe Club, President of Queensland Canoeing and President of Australian Canoeing, a father of a well known successful international paddler referred to him as ‘the godfather of Australian Canoeing’!
Before the Montreal Olympics he coached a ‘rebel K4 crew’ which defeated the long standing top team at the national trials and was selected for 1976 Olympics. An aspect of the winter training regime, he had erected a plank with 2 kayak seats and footrests across his home pool.