AN ELMORE teenager may have become the youngest person to kayak the Murray River solo.
Nick Hunter finished the 49 day adventure last weekend, just in time for him to return home and start the first day of year 12.
The 17-year-old took his kayak from within sight of Mount Kosciuszko to the mouth of the Murray after being inspired by an 18-year-old who achieved the same feat.
"I was sitting around in year 11 and I was a bit bored. I was looking at these websites about the guy and thought 'I reckon I could beat him'," he said.
Nick has strong links to the river. He also lives in Moama, moving each week between his mothers' home and his fathers' in Elmore.
Nick prepared by scouring the internet for stories about others who had made the journey, as well as in-person advice from another who happened to be his environmental science teacher Peter Philips.
He planned everything from food to negotiating South Australia's COVID-19 border checks and closures.
During his trip, Nick woke at 5am each morning, packed up, ate breakfast and began paddling. He would cover 60km a day, finishing at 7pm each night.
"If I got up a little later or wasted time I would lose so many kilometres. It's a mental game as well, so if you lose a couple of kilometres you have this voice in your head going 'oh no, if I lose them here am I going to make my target," he said.
"That doubt starts to enter your mind. So that really has taught me how valuable time really is, and to not waste it."
Nick said the isolation from his support networks during the trip taught him a lot about himself.
"I 'spose some people can't handle being by themselves, which is fair enough. I missed a lot of my mates at around that 15 day mark," he said.
"You just learn to cope with it."
By day 49, Nick was on the cusp of a monumental achievement. However, he was still to navigate one of the most dangerous sections of the trip, Lake Alexandrina.
"I'd gone out into it the day before with a local and the wind was blowing really hard out and whipping up huge waves," he said.
"They were breaking over the bow and I was like 'wow, this is crazy, I can totally understand the force of this and how people have come into so much danger'.
"But I was just having a ball. It was so different from what I had been used to over the rest of the trip. I was so distracted that I left the other bloke behind."
Nick said the scale of what he had achieved only hit him on his last day as he ate lunch and thought about the home stretch.
Officials from the Inland Rivers National Marathon Register are checking to see if anyone younger than Nick can lay claim to being the youngest person to solo paddle the Murray.
In the meantime, Nick is back at school and turning his attention back to his studies. He is also wondering what his next big adventure will be.
"I'm definitely trying to think of something bigger and better than last time. I'm not sure what yet. It will take a bit to top that (the Murray journey)," Nick said.