Caption: Kelly holds off Connor Baxter and Kai Lenny as he rounds a buoy at the Gorge. Photo: Gorge Performance

Margetts holds off young champions Connor Baxter and Kai Lenny as he rounds a buoy at the Gorge. Photo: Kim Rueter of Gorge Performance

Kelly Margetts | Inside the Mind of the 42-Year-Old Columbia Gorge Challenge Champ

Recent performances from Australian waterman, 42-year-old Kelly Margetts, are going to show: age should be a matter of little consequence to racers. Just last month, Margetts put on an outstanding performance to win the upwind distance slog at the recent Naish Columbia Gorge Paddle Challenge, keeping the best paddlers in the world in his rear view mirror. Then it was back home to Australia, where he went straight into another competition—the ultra-competitive Queensland State Titles. Showing little evidence of jet lag, Margetts finished second to veteran paddler Beau O'Brian in the distance race. He then took a few minutes to talk with us about the Gorge, lifeguarding and how an advanced training regimen (and the occasional beer) enables him to stay ahead of racers half his age.


SUP: How did you tune up in preparation for the Gorge event? 

KM: I followed an eight week program going into The Gorge race but was lucky enough to spend the last week before the race in SoCal surfing, hanging with friends and tapering my training sessions. I got to Hood River a few days early to get a good feel for the place and stayed with Trav [Grant] and Titouan [Puyo]. We got a few paddles in and were treated to some amazing food (thanks Florence!), so by race day I was raring to go.


What was challenging about the conditions in this year’s race?

Well for a start everyone was expecting wind like the couple of days prior to the event. Instead we had a light headwind and an up current race. Everyone knew it was going to be a slog but we can’t control what Mother Nature provides and in the end I think those conditions helped me win.


This was one of the most stacked fields in the race calendar. How were you able to hold off Travis, Danny, Titouan and the rest of the field in the final stages? 

I went into the race with a very basic but specific race plan. During the second half there were times when I was able to conserve energy and control my speed. I was confident I was on the fastest board and that my training program had me prepared for the end of the race. It was Connor that pushed me to the last buoy but I knew if I could get him and the others off my side wash and on my tail for the last turn to the beach I could hold on for the win and that’s how it played out. I was so stoked to put it all together.


You beat a lot of guys who are in their 20s and 30s. How have been able to sustain your high level of performance in your 40s? 

We have a great training group at home on Currumbin Creek, I follow a training program from Mick Dibetta at, which basically consists of three interval sessions per week, specifically tailored to the next event we are training for. Plus I make sure to get a technique session in once a week. But I think the most important part is to have fun. It’s easy to be good at something you love and are passionate about, I’m obsessed with technique so I am constantly working on ways to make myself a more efficient paddler. Now take all that and wash it down with a cold beer and you’ve got my formula!


What impact has your lifeguarding had on your SUP performance? 

I think lifeguarding has more of an impact than most people would realize. The way I see and understand the water and weather from being around it all day everyday really helps. I definitely have used that knowledge to my advantage plenty of times in races.


How do you balance work, racing and family life?

Haha, yeah balance is a good word! Our training group starts sessions in the dark while everyone else is still sleeping, which allows me to have a full time job and as much time with my girls as possible.


What are your goals for the rest of the season and next year? 

My focus now is the Pacific Paddle Games and it will be good to be back at Dana Point. Hopefully I can back up this result at the Gorge with another solid performance there. Then literally the day we arrive home we have our Aussie Titles which determines who goes to the ISA Worlds. I’m hoping to make the team again.

My aims for next year are to stay happy and healthy and continue mixing it up at the front of a few big races.


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