Eight months ago the Avon Descent was the last thing on Mandurah man Jay Branson’s mind.
The powerboat veteran was laying in a hospital bed nursing a broken back, neck and sternum after a serious motorbike crash, and was contemplating whether he would ever be able to walk again let alone take on the 124-kilometre stretch of river.
Branson was confronted with the harsh reality the crash may leave him paralysed, and his thoughts were fixated on how it would affect his family.
“At one point I didn’t know if I’d be able to kick the footy with my kids or even just walk with them ever again,” he said.
“All I could think about was how one little moment might change my entire family’s lives.”
But naturally resilient, Branson willed himself to keep a positive mindset and worked on his recovery step-by-step.
After realising he would indeed be able to walk again, he was forced to wear a Miami brace as he attempted to regain his movement.
Branson began pool swimming, pushing himself to his physical limits.
“I remember just getting in the pool and doing my laps, but then I just kept going. I wanted to push my body and see how far it could go,” he said.
Through his own determination and a boatload of support from family and friends, spearheaded by his wife Jane, Branson was able to take off the brace and begin moving more freely.
It wasn’t until June that he started to feel confident he could race the Avon.
“I spoke to my doctors and they said I knew my body better than anyone else, and if I felt I could do it I should just go for it,” he said.
Branson teamed up with good mate David North, and together they prepared to take on the rapids in the 10 horsepower sports division.
The three-time winner had raced in the Avon for 23 straight years, and was determined to make it to his 24th.
Together with North, he was able to get in all the necessary preparation, saying the result didn’t bother him this year.
But miraculously, in what is arguably the most inspirational win in the race’s history, the duo overcame the odds and took the best time by four seconds.
“I actually didn’t have a clue until the organisers told me, and all I could do was act like a five-year-old kid,” he said.
“To be able to share it with my friends and family, who have all been on this long journey with me, made it probably the most special race of my time in the Avon.”
Branson reflected on his journey to the win as one of the most interesting life experiences he will ever go through.
“Some people go through similar things and talk about how traumatic it can be, but for me it was just one of the most interesting times of my life,” he said.
“It was David’s first win and to be able to do it the way we did – I’ll never forget it.
“I’m just looking forward to be able to look back on it in a couple of years now, to be honest.”