Kayak 4 A Cure

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Brothers Jo and Will Ashley have ‘adventure travel’ in their blood. In 2010 they were home schooled, and they journeyed around Australia. So when mates Callum Small and Will Ashley decided to kayak over 2,000 km down the Murray River to raise money for cancer, bro Jo Ashley couldn’t resist. Cue: Kayak 4 A Cure!

Tell us about your voyage.

We will be kayaking 2,225 km down the Murray River, from the Hume Weir, east Albury, to the Murray River Mouth, south-east of Adelaide. The trip will take 40 days, camping on route. The reason for the trip is twofold; we want to raise $10,000 for Australian Cancer Research Foundation, and we want to spread a positive message about teenagers living life to the full!

Averaging 60 km a day, kayaking in the morning and afternoon, breaking through the day. Because of our age (17 and 18) we have had so much support from the Bellingen and Coffs Harbour communities and their sponsors. We are so grateful to Kim at the Happy Frog who recently put on a fundraising dinner for us. The event raised $2,500! Our school, Bishop Druitt College, put on a mufti day. Pacific City Lion Club (Coffs Lion Club) provided financial assistance when Kayak 4 A Cure was just an idea. Their continued support has also included linking us with Lions Clubs along the Murray River. We are also incredibly appreciative to our major sponsor’s, Sea to Summit, Kokatat, Coffs Computing Services, GME, Rhino Rack, Sea Specs, Area 51 and Coffs Harbour Harvey Norman.

You and Jo are brothers? Where does Callum fit in to the Kayak 4 A Cure family?

Callum was actually part of the team before Jo. I guess I thought up the idea and put the question to Cal to see if he would like to join me. After he got the OK from his parents then we went ahead and started to plan out the logistics of the journey a bit more. My brother Jo (who was completing his HSC) was taking quite an interest in the trip, it was then the duo became a trio. Since that moment there have been countless hours of planning, training and preparation into making this trip a huge success!

What motivated this?

I have a passion for ‘extreme’ adventure. Last year I cycled from Coffs to Sydney with friend, Kale Teece, and raised $11,500 for Australian Cancer Research Foundation. Later I partook in the Kokoda Youth Leadership Challenge, walking the Kokoda track, Papua New Guinea. This fuelled an ambition to take on another adventure. Because I was at school, I needed to come up with an adventure that we could complete during the holidays and after my initial plan of cycling across Australia was thwarted by my parents, I went back to the drawing board and came up with the Murray River kayaking trip.

How long do you anticipate the journey will take? What route are you taking? And across what states?

The trip is anticipated to take 40 days. If we average 60 kilometres a day we’ll complete the trip in 32 days. We have a bit of room for error in the form of weather conditions or the need for rest. The trip is not deviating of the main river system and we’ll be camping on the banks of the river at night. The trip begins at the Hume Weir and, as the Murray River is the border between New South Wales and Victoria, the team will be in both N.S.W and Victoria until the river enters South Australia. It then takes a southerly turn to were the Murray enters the Sea, near Goolwa, south-east of Adelaide.

So where will you be spending Christmas Day?

Mum and Dad are doing a four day Murray River Houseboat trip at Echuca over Christmas. Despite their planning of kayaking 60 kilometres a day throughout the trip, the boys are hoping the thought of a home-baked Christmas dinner will be enough to see them push through their limits and kayak at least 70 kilometres a day in order to be able to spend Christmas day with the family. This will be a big motivation for the first week of the trip and we are sure the thought of a bed and a good meal will spur us on!

Talk us through the training regime?

Training has been a mixture of kayaking on the Bellinger and Bonville rivers as a team and cross training personally. These activities vary from swimming, cycling, running and core strength exercises to keep our fitness levels high so we are able to endure the constant physical output day after day. We also do gym work to build up muscles needed for such an extreme journey. We consider ourselves lucky to live in an area with such a variety of rivers to train on and explore. One of our fundraising ideas has also turned into a training exercise as well. This involves kayaking on dry land with elastic tied to the paddle and pegged into the ground. This puts resistance on the paddle and simulates paddling in water.

Have you had a personal experience with cancer?

Mum was diagnosed with breast cancer when we were very young. Our family have always been fortunate that she made a full recovery. Throughout the years she has been involved in fundraising. Callum’s family has also been touched by cancer so it is an issue that we are all passionate about. With continued research, its possible that our generation will know a cancer-free world.

How can people support your adventure?


We have surpassed our $10k target; we believe that more money raised will not only help to rid the world of cancer, but also raise the profile of the journey which, in turn, spreads the message of teenagers living life to the full and following their dreams to a broader audience. All donations would be appreciated.

This story was published in issue 27 Coffs Coast

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