Ross Chenoweth 1931-98

October 25, 2020

Ross Chenoweth was a kayaking pioneer. A champion paddler and well-respected administrator, he founded the Ivanhoe Northcote Canoe Club in 1956 (originally known as Ivanhoe Canoe Club) after the closure of the ‘Rudder Grange Canoe Club’. He held the position of INCC Secretary for over 25 years and achieved much within and for kayaking in Australia. He was:

  • One of Australia’s first kayak champions
  • Member of Olympic Council, Melbourne Olympic Games, 1956
  • Competition Secretary, Melbourne Olympic Games, 1956.
  • Co-founder Victorian Amateur Canoe Association (VACA), now Canoeing Victoria
  • Co-founder Australian Canoe Federation (ACF), now Australian Canoeing
  • 1st Australian appointed to the ICF (International Canoe Federation)
  • Chairman of the race committee for first Murray Marathon and for several years thereafter
  • Manager of the Kayak Team for Tokyo Olympics, 1964
  • Life Member of ACF, VACA, INCC

Adrian Powell, 5 time Olympian and long time INCC member, described Ross as ‘Mr Canoeing’ and said:

If it had not been for your insight and strength I may not have become an ‘Olympian’. For everything there is a beginning and you were that beginning of what we now have. Every past present and future canoeist owes you a debt. The man who gave so much to this sport and asked so little.

Pioneer of kayaking in Australia

By the time Ross established Ivanhoe Canoe Club he had already had a long involvement in canoeing, from his membership of Rudder Grange Canoe Club to his involvement at an organisational level, not only in Victoria, but nationally and internationally.

Until then the preferred activity was canoeing and then mostly for pleasure rather than racing, which explains why most clubs are known as canoe clubs today. In 1948 Ross imported two ‘Max Andersson’ kayaks from Sweden, a K1 and a K2. These had a wooden hull and cockpit with a stiff canvas deck at the front and back..

Ross recruited an international paddler, Emil Smatlak to come to Australia, giving him a job in his timber yard. Emil helped kickstart kayaking in Australia by teaching the finer points of kayaking to the canoeing fraternity. At the first Australian Championships in 1951, Ross won the K1 10,000m and paired with Emil to win the K2 1000m.

Ross was a foundation member of the Australian Canoeing Federation and the Victorian Amateur Canoe Association. He was also one of the first two Australian members of the International Canoe Federation. He was instrumental in having canoeing included in the Melbourne Olympics in 1956, drumming up initial support and then acting as location manager at Lake Wendouree, Ballarat for the Olympics. In 1964 Ross was appointed Canoe Manager for the Australian team for the Tokyo Olympics.

Motivating force at INCC

Ross forged his group of juniors into a formidable competitive squad. INCC dominated the ‘Pemiership Cup’ during the late 60’s and early seventies. In 1975, when the first junior team was selected to go to the World Championships in Rome, seven of the eight members were from INCC.

Murray Marathon

In 1969 Mark Thornwaite had an idea for an ultra marathon down the Murray River but got little support from official bodies. Ross got behind the idea, and with his organisational experience was instrumental in the event getting off the ground. He continued in various roles, but mainly as Chairman of the Race Committee until 1985 when a heart attack forced him to retire.

Ross was a true gentleman, an all round nice guy, with a great sense of humour. He devoted a large part of his life to canoeing and its development. Ross passed away on 26 February 1999. We all at INCC owe a great deal to Ross and those who knew him greatly miss his agreeable presence around the club.

Thanks to Lawrie Chenoweth for all the information contained above.