Luke Dooley – Athlete Profile
Luke Dooley – Athlete Profile
We thought we would catch up with an inspirational young chap from a small W.A town (of less than 2000 people), who flew under the radar and took out a major title last year… He’s currently 16 and we asked him to share with you a bit about his journey paddling solo from the small town of Kalbarri.
Luke first began paddling when he was ten years old, heading out occasionally with his mother in short plastic sit on top boats. His goal was to complete the Murchison Dash of 16.5kms, which at the time, seemed a monumental task. In 2011, at the age of ten Luke entered, and finished it (with mum by his side) in a time of 2:50 hours.
Bitten by the paddle bug, Luke began doing some more regular training sessions alone in his mum’s affinity. The following year, again completing the Murchison Dash in a time of 2:15, despite the fact that his paddle had snapped a blade off halfway through the event.
Luke says, “In May of 2013, I bought a K1 off Terry Bolland from Canoeing Down Under, whom I’d never met before. It wasn’t until late December of that year that I could paddle more than 500 metres without falling in the water. It was such an achievement to be able to paddle it after seven months of swimming. From then onwards was when I began to take training a little more seriously. I returned to Perth in May 2014 and spent a week there being trained by Terry at 0600 every morning and entered every race which was on that week. My skills improved immensely in such a short time and I had a lot to focus on after that.”
When you think of dedication and focus, Luke embodies this. He trained with no coaching and usually completely by himself, apart from the odd paddler on the river as they were passing through on their holiday.
“Mum and I spent several hours in the car together as trips to Perth became more and more frequent and my increased performance amazed everyone on each trip. I decided in 2016 that I would enter the National Marathon Championships which were being held in Gold Coast that year. I was 15 years old and never been on a trip like that by myself before. I caught the bus to Perth, stayed at Terry’s house and helped out in his shop during the wait for my flight. I had no idea of the competition I was up against during the race; all I wanted to do was try my best. I was borrowing a K1 off Mark Lawson, a fellow paddler also competing there. Much to my surprise, I came through the K1 race to win a gold medal. This news shook the state when I returned at how a 15 year old kid from the bush no one had ever heard of had entered a national level race and won gold without ever having a coaching lesson. What made this so impressive is that I’d done all the training off my own back with no other regular paddlers for 600kms.”
In August of that year, Luke was finally able to enter the Avon Descent (due to the age restrictions). This was a big event for Luke as it was a “proper man’s race” and all of his training was still being done alone in Kalbarri. The race was only his third time ever event in white water and he had registered to do the entire 125km race solo in his long plastic ski.
Luke adds, “It was quite gruelling, but I was able to complete the distance in a pretty good time, despite the fact that I got a hole in my ski and had to do the last 35kms of flat water in a heavy, sinking boat. What’s more is that I was able to beat Terry who was in a DR boat. It was a very proud moment for me crossing the line of my first Avon Descent, especially as I was by far the youngest person in the race.”
In January of that year, Luke decided to make the move down to Perth to do some proper training. In Sydney this year, Luke won bronze in the U18 K1 nationals and his mate from the Ascot Kayak Club, Max Smith, and Luke won silver in the K2 event, meaning we they are heading to South Africa this September for the World Championships. (Unfortunately Luke didn’t make the K1 team, but it has just motivated him to make it happen next year.
When asked about what motivates Luke, he responds, “I enjoy a good challenge to prove to myself what’s possible. I have come to realise that it’s up to myself to make sure I do what I can to see what I’m able to achieve. Each challenge I do, I come back stronger and prove that I was indeed able to complete it. The main reason I love challenging myself is that when I’m out either on the trails or on the water, covered in sweat, mud, dirt and blood and I am able to push onwards despite every bone in my body wanting to lie down, I prove to myself how much I can do and that gives me a sense of purpose. They see me out there doing training sessions at uncomfortable hours every single day and I often get asked why are you doing that to yourself? I always answer, “because I know there’s a lot of people out there who are training much harder than me and I’m just trying to keep up with some of them”. There’s also a great deal of pride involved with taking on massive challenges and coming though the finish line with no assistance.”
“I enjoy Adventurethon because it is one of the harder challenges out there. Almost all of my training is in a kayak and multisport races like Adventurethon really get me out of my comfort zone because they are more than just kayaking. There’s always going to be at least one stage of the race which is not as easy at the others and it’s that weakness which makes you truly work when it starts getting tough.”
In 2016 Adventurethon Kalbarri Luke participated in an Ultra team of three. Luke did the mountain bike section and the heavy rains which belted down the day before made the Kalbarri course one hell of a challenge.
“The mud was so thick, by the time I’d done only ten kilometres, I’d run out of places to wipe my hands clean. I remember coming doing the back of Meanarra Hill which usually would indicate that all the hard sections were over and it was a nice roll down the descent to the finish. Mother Nature was determined this year not to let me off that easily and the back of that hill became the hardest section of the whole lot. What’s usually a dirt track had turned into sticky clay because of the rain. The wheels on my bike completely jammed and I had to pick it up on my shoulder and run it for nearly two kilometres until the mud was clear enough that I could ride it again. It really was one hell of a battle getting through what is usually quite a nice course but once again, I pushed through and crossed the line very happy with myself.”
This year Luke is doing the full Ultra Adventurethon Solo which should be a great test of how far he’s come since last year. He adds, “I’m very much looking forward to the event, especially as it’s my hometown and what better way is there to have a tour of it than the Adventurethon?”
“My ultimate goal is to have a top ten finish in the world marathon championships, although there is still much training to be done before that happens! I would also like to follow in the footsteps of Terry Bolland and do some epic sea kayaking trips around Australia. There’s a lot of hard work to do both on the water and in the classroom and I’m looking forward to it all!”
What a great guy – we look forward to watching you achieve every single thing you set your mind to. That determination and focus is infectious and we know you will do it! Keep an eye out for Luke at Adventurethon Kalbarri, June 3rd!
If you would like more information on Adventurethon Kalbarri head to www.adventurethon.com.au/events/kalbarri