The Yarra River is a Melbourne icon. But for most people who live in and around the city, it remains a mystery.

Courtney Carthy wants to change that. “The river is yours”, is his message. To help us to discover its full potential, he’s bringing back the Inflatable Regatta.

Returning on February 11, 2017, the regatta will feature hundreds of inflatable boats, all heading a couple of kilometres downstream together from Yarra Bank Reserve.

Sound like fun? It is. Started by Carthy and a dozen friends eight years ago, the regatta went fully public last year and was an instant hit.

In early 2016 the Inflatable Regatta made its official debut on the Melbourne calendar. It featured 560 people on 500 boats, and was so popular they had a waiting list.

To avoid any disappointments in 2017, they’re doubling the amount of boats, offering up to 1000 one- or two-person inflatable dinghies.

Event organisers are also hoping to have live music playing from a stage somewhere along the course, which starts at Hawthorn Rowing Club.

The theme of the day is sharing the river. Instead of asking council to block off a section of the Yarra, the regatta will share it with rowers, kayakers and pedestrians who will watch from the banks.

“It’s nice to share things and share more with people. The natural beauty of the river is just spectacular,” Carthy says, adding that water quality has been steadily improving.

“[The river] is getting better. There are parts of it you can swim in now.”

With their sole sponsor Melbourne Water, the team behind the Inflatable Regatta is keen to do their part to help clean up the Yarra, as well as get anyone who’s interested out onto the water.

If you’re keen to have a paddle but unfamiliar with inflatable watercraft, Carthy has some friendly advice.

“Drop yourself bum first and trust that the boat will be there. And don’t go drinking great big amounts of river water.”

The price includes a boat, lifejackets and oars. If you’d prefer to stay on land, the best spot to take in the spectacle will be from Bridge Road, heading south on the Capital City Trail, on the west side of the Yarra River.

Tickets are available via the website. The Inflatable Regatta is currently looking out for volunteers to help with the running of the event on the day. You can find more information here.

inflatableregatta.com