Matt Cleary
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Charlie Heaton-Armstrong from North Narrabeen has laid claim as the best junior kayaker in Australia after the Paddle Australia Canoe Sprint Championships in Adelaide.

Competing in the U/16 age group, Heaton-Armstrong stood on the podium at the West Lakes course and was draped with medals in:

  • K1 200m – Gold
  • K1 500m – Gold
  • K2 200m – Gold (with Luke Chaffer, 16, from Warriewood)
  • K2 500m – Gold (with Chaffer)
  • K4 200m – Gold (in the NSW boat with Chaffer, Michael Dunbar and Alexandar Raikuna)
  • K4 500m – Gold (with above)
  • K1 1000m – Silver
  • K2 1000m – Silver (with Chaffer)

Heaton-Armstrong was later selected in the Australian team which will compete in Komatsu, Japan, at the Asia Pacific Sprint Cup in September.

The 16-year-old from North Narrabeen attends Manly Selective School in Freshwater and is a member of North Curl Curl SLSC and Sydney Northern Beaches Kayak Club.

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Luke Chaffer (left) and Charlie Heaton-Armstrong, national U/16 champions in the K2 200. Pic: Michelle Heaton-Armstrong.

He told Beaches Champion that he was surprised by his success having caught Covid-19 three weeks before the national regatta.

“It didn’t hit me too badly in terms of being sick. But afterwards it spiked my heart rate and made everything feel a lot harder.

“So when I got to Adelaide I was really surprised with how well I was going and how fast I was. I was expecting a lot slower,” Heaton-Armstrong said.

Perhaps it helped?

“Maybe!” Heaton-Armstrong laughed. “It was the first time I’d stopped training for three months. It had been non-stop.”

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Michael Dunbar: the testing material of national U/16 kayaking. Pic: SNBKC.

Heaton-Armstrong said his most memorable race was the K1 500 in which he recorded a personal best and bested Dunbar, a long-time rival and team-mate.

“There’s people who are always really good at their races and I’ve never been one of them. But someone who has been is Michael Dunbar.

“And to go up against him and do a personal best on what’s considered one of the slower courses on Australia was a really great feeling,” he said.

Heaton-Armstrong – who would win gold with SNBKC team-mates Dunbar, Raikuna and Chaffer in the K4 200 boat which represented NSW – paid tribute to his mum, Michelle, and dad, Toby, along with coaches Ross Chaffer (a Sydney 2000 Olympian) and Christine Duff (a former Australian team manager and Paddle Australia Coach of the Year in 2021).

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Australian champions in the K4 200m event (L-R) Alexander Raikuna, Michael Dunbar, Luke Chaffer and Charlie Heaton-Armstrong. Pic: SNBKC.

It was a stellar meeting for SNBKC with further gold medals to Zoe Shirdon and Tarren Elliott (of the Illawarra) in the Womens U/16 K2 500m while Shirdon and Dunbar won gold in the Mixed U/16 K2 500m.

Harrison Taurins and Lucas Raikuna took out gold in the K2 500 for U/18.

Heaton-Armstrong, Chaffer, Dunbar, Raikuna and Shirdon were later chosen in the Australian development squad for the meet in Japan.

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Zoe Shirdon powers away. Pic: SNBKC.

Elsewhere, Manly Warringah Kayak Club, based out of Narrabeen Lake, found gold when Carlito Vesely teamed up with Christian Ireland of the Makai Paddlers club in the U/14 Mens K2 1000m.

A veteran of four National Championships, Vesely, 12, told Paddle Australia Media he was “just trying to beat the older kids and have a lot of fun at the same time”.

“I prefer the longer distance, the 1000s, because some of the older boys are a bit stronger than me, but I beat them in the fitness,” Vesely said.

Vesely added that he not only enjoys the competitive aspect of the spot, but getting to paddle in some beautiful places at the same time.

“I just love paddling, because you get to be on the water, and you can paddle anywhere you want.

“You can train, and get fitter and healthier – it’s a good sport to do and it’s fun as well,” Vesely said.

Further showcasing the northern beaches as a paddling powerhouse, Ann Lloyd Green, Fiona Rae, Pauline Findlay and Geoff Horsnell were selected in the Australian Canoe Marathon Team Masters and will compete at the Canoe Marathon World Championships in Portugal in September.

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