The right kind of stroke

GROWING Old Living Dangerously (GOLD) is an over-50s paddling group that would give most youngsters a run for their money.

Before hitting the water, South Fremantle physiotherapist Gillian Henderson puts the group through its paces with a half-hour exercise regime.

Previously, people would rock up, grab their paddles and hit the water, which turned out not to be such a good idea.

“If you take a bunch of people over 50 kayaking for an hour and then ask them to get out, they can’t,” Ms Henderson says.

“Now we have people in their 70s…doing squats with the best of them and then lifting heavy boats onto high racks.”

Which is great for overall fitness, especially as we get older, Ms Henderson says.

“Lifting is good because resistance work is so good for us.”

As is the mental stimulation and social networking.

• The Growin Old Living Dangerously (GOLD) paddling group. Photo supplied

“It’s become very a social and supportive group. There’s a lot of bonding on the water.”

GOLD was established and continues to be run by Colin Thorpe, who after years of working for the UWA Sport and Recreation Association, retired and promptly returned as a volunteer.

With the help of other volunteers, new paddlers are put through water safety training, which includes learning to rescue others in trouble, or getting out of an upturned kayak and re-righting it, called a “wet exit”.

“Some people are terrified, but once they do it the fear is gone because they know how to get out,” Ms Henderson says.

The group meets at the UWA boat shed on Matilda Bay in Crawley.

The exercise session is followed by a BYO lunch, then paddling for about 90 minutes.

Back on shore, boats are washed down and stored before afternoon tea, overlooking the river.

A seven-week introductory course includes exploring the upper and lower Swan and Canning Rivers.

People must be able to swim 50 metres; but apart from that it’s open to anyone over 50.

The next course kicks off in March.

For more information on GOLD, or to register your interest, email


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