CHRIS HAYWARD, 24, is a record setting kayaker. Chris was an adventurer from a young age and is the youngest person to ever kayak the length of the Australia's longest river, the Murray. Since then Chris has continued to challenge himself and in 2014 he became the first (and only ever so far) to have completed a trip back upstream the length of the Murray, from source to sea. Chris continues to inspire others to live an adventurous lifestyle as he plans his next big trip.
TOM DUNN: How would you describe Chris Hayward?
CHRIS HAYWARD: In short, a little crazy and at times a little overly ambitious.
TD: Where did your passion for the outdoors come from?
CH: As a kid I grew up with a love of nature, especially animals. I was lucky enough to spend part of my childhood growing up in the bush which is where I honed my skills and interest in the outdoors and survival.
TD: In 2014 you set a world first becoming the first person to kayak from Sea to Source the entire length of the Murray River. Where did the idea come from and what drew you to the challenge of paddling upstream?
CH: Well oddly enough in 2012 I set the record as the youngest person to kayak down the Murray, for a while I was satisfied with that, until I realised some younger fella will probably attempt it and beat my record. Knowing I could never reclaim that record, I was determined to complete a first, something crazy that no one had ever done before and could not claim from me. That's where the idea came, to return to my adventurous roots on the Murray and become the first person to kayak all the way up.
TD: Not content with the challenge of going against the current, you also continued from the headwaters of the Murray on a 350km hike to the summit of Mt Kosciusko, making your full trip 'Sea to Source to Summit'. What inspired you to add that extra bit to an already extreme challenge?
CH: In short, because I could. Looking at the map of the Australian Alps where the source of the Murray lies, I noticed it was not too far from the tallest mountain in Australia. Whilst I was in the area, I may as well have gone to have a look and decided to incorporate it into the expedition for a full sea to summit experience.
TD: The trip took over 6 months to complete and saw you travelling in temperatures that ranged from between minus 6 to positive 48 degrees Celsius. Preparing a kit to suit paddling, hiking and the elements you were facing must have taken a while?
CH: Surpringly it wasn't too hard. I've always had a particular immunity to the cold so I wore pretty much the same shorts throughout the entire expedition. The toughest part about the logistics was where to leave the kayak when I switched to the backpack, luckily there was a local caravan park who helped out with that. My biggest mistake was miscalculating just how hard the hike would be after spending 4 months sitting in a kayak, and the first week was total hell and very painful. I also miscalculated the time it would take meaning the last week of the hike I was on rations that became very small - a small bowl of rice and red lentils per day.
TD: Looking back after a few years what stands out about the trip? What were the highs and lows that have since become your favourite stories to tell?
CH: Oh where do I start. Highs were the people! All the incredible people that were part of the journey. Also the snakes! I am a trained snake handler and did a few rescues along the way, it was incredibly fun. The lows were pretty low at times, I landed in hospital half way down in Swan Hill with bacterial gastroenteritis and mercury poisoning. It was a low point that almost ended the expedition. I was also kicked in the family jewels by a kangaroo while rescuing it from deep mud when the river was low.
TD:What does holding the world first mean to you?
CH: It's an achievement that no one can beat. In our time when the opportunity to explore new ground is getting smaller and smaller, being able to accomplish something that no one has ever successfully done is truly an incredible feeling.
TD: As you mentioned, this journey wasn't your first trip on the Murray in a kayak and apart from facing the other way, did you notice a change in the river from your first trip to the second?
CH: Yes. Absolutely. Interestingly for my first expedition in 2012 the Murray was in flood and (the water level) was very high, while in 2014 it was rather low so I have had the privilege of seeing the Murray in both states. When it was in flood, in some areas it was a real struggle to find a good camp spot as the river flowed over the beaches or had turned normally dry land into bog. When it was low, there were sections I had to drag the kayak over because there was not enough depth or flow.
TD: On both trips you spent large amounts of time alone on the river. How did you cope with the loneliness and/or boredom?
CH: Music and letting yourself lose your sanity. That's the only way. If you want to sing out, sing out. If you want to dance, have a dance. You're by yourself for long stretches, and you need to learn to enjoy your own company. My music kept me focused. On the occasion my iPod went flat, it was tough times. There was one case where it was 42 degrees and my music ran out by 10am. By 12pm I was thinking of all the animals I know the sound of and trying to mimic their sound. The cows that I paddled passed must have thought I was absolutely bonkers. That said, it's amazing how much you learn about yourself when there are no distractions and you are going through tough times alone.
TD: What would be your dream trip to complete?
CH: Antarctica! The first, solo, unsupported and unassisted return journey to the South Pole. If I do that, I will retire as I cannot beat it. To challenge myself, when I started adventuring I made a rule that my next expedition must always be twice as hard as the last.
TD: If you could summarise your adventuring experience in one sentence what would it be?
CH: The quintessence of life, always being on the brink of losing your mind and finding yourself
TD: Along with your trips you've also been influential in setting up a number of social media groups to connect Adventurers (both serious and amateur). What was the appeal of connecting others?
CH: I felt the adventure community was close knit and small. Everyone seemed to know everyone, but there was no central meeting place to connect this global community. As such, there was very little resources for aspiring adventurers to reach out and get some answers. This is where the idea came to connect seasoned adventurers together to share tales as well as allowing aspiring adventurers to ask questions and find resources.
TD: You've also started adventuring in another way, running tour groups and starting your 'adventure life coaching'. Have you moved on from big expeditions or will we see Chris Hayward setting more records soon?
CH: I would absolutely LOVE to do another major expedition, at this stage I am simply just working on ideas for the next one. But in the mean time, I am equally loving micro adventures and getting back to nature. Being a tour guide is an awesome experience, like an adventure but with 24 people from all over the world. Adventure life coaching mixes my background in adventure with a bit of the wisdom from a rocky life, getting out in nature helps break down barriers and I love helping people.
TD: Would you recommend paddling the Murray River to others?
CH: Absolutely. It can be life changing. I believe it to be the quintessence of life. You have one goal. Get to the end. Every decision is about that goal. Your belongings are reduced to the necessities for life and achieving that goal and only what you can fit in your kayak. Life on the river is beautiful, simple and peaceful.
TD: What advice would you give to someone who wanted to start living more adventurously?
CH: It doesn't have to be big or hard. Go for a hike after work, explore your local area on weekends, go for a simple overnight camp. Adventure does not have to be climbing mountains and setting world firsts. I started in my backyard in a second hand tent when I was a kid. When you're in that tent, you could be anywhere in the world.
TD: Any final thoughts to leave us with?
CH: Get into adventure! Live life to the full, it's not about the breathes but the experiences. Live for them and you'll be happy.
Get in touch with Chris
Facebook - @wanderingadventurer
Website - iamchris.com.au
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