Coffs Coast paddlers take on the mighty Murray

It takes three hours and nine minutes to drive from Yarrawonga to Swan Hill in Victoria.

However, in a paddle craft, following the twists and turns of the mighty Murray River the same trip of 404 kilometres takes some five days to complete.

This is the challenge that paddlers from the Coffs Coast Dragon Boat Club began on Monday November 18, as part of 450 registered paddlers for this year's event.

The Massive Murray Paddle is one of the world's longest paddling races and the longest event of its kind in the southern hemisphere.

It attracts all sorts of paddling craft including canoes, kayaks, surf boats and stand-up paddle boards.

And this year, a dragon boat towed all the way from the Coffs Coast.

The local Coffs Coast group of 20 are only the second dragon boat crew to compete in the race in its 51 year history.

They have three support members and are paddling in the club's smaller 10s boat instead of the usual larger dragon boat which holds 20 paddlers.

They are completing the course as a relay race with two teams paddling two or four legs each day, aiming at eight paddlers each leg paddling up to 50 kilometres per day for five days.

It's not an event for the faint-hearted or those lacking fitness. It attracts an eclectic mix of paddlers, all choosing to paddle for various reasons. There are the large fully staffed teams and youngsters from the many school and scout groups also organisations like the Country Women's Association and the Mates 4 Mates, a support group for current and ex serving military personnel who have suffered injury or illness.

Along with the unique experience and the adventure, The Massive Murray Paddle provides an opportunity for people to overcome challenges, whilst forming lifelong bonds and is also a fundraiser with all competitors raising money for a charity, community or sporting group.

In the past two years alone the event has raised over $541,707 and over 3000 volunteer hours for local charities and community service programs.

This is the 16th year that Victoria Police have taken at-risk Indigenous kids on the Massive Murray Paddle. Their team this year 100 strong is known as Dungulayin Mileka, which means 'from the river, to the river'. And while other competitors are raising money, the police aim to raise awareness and improve their relationship with Indigenous youth.

According to Coffs Coast organiser, Helen Palmer, "It'll be tough but amazing.

"And we will be seeing the mighty Murray from the best vantage spot - the water.

"We will stay in caravan parks along the Murray. The whole race supports the communities along the way. We are raising money towards our own club house and boat storage shed, a goal the cub has been working on for many years."

The Massive Murray Paddle uses the phrase 'Connecting people, river and country' as the event is a platform for assisting those in need, generating business for the towns along its route and educating people on the history of the Murray River.

At the heart of this iconic event is its mission to give back to the communities through which it passes and respect their culture and the River Murray and its origins.

For more information about the Coffs Coast Dragon Boat club,see www.coffscoastdbc.com.au