When it Blows it Sucks

The winter storms have been with us for a while and now there is another wave of cold fronts lining up in the Indian Ocean ready to flog us with 30-40 knot winds so paddling has been off the fun menu for a while.

When it blows….It sucks !!!

Sometimes there is a few hours of grace between the departure of one cold front and the arrival of the next and today was that day. We managed a surf kayak along the coast in what was rather lumpy conditions, with the waves breaking in a different spot on each wave.

We were testing a new camera setup as well as a new tripod and needless to say “things went wrong”, not only with the camera. However, here’s a short clip from today.

Have a great day….the next cold front is on its’ way
Ian

 

A long time between C-Boats

What’s a C-Boat ? It’s a slang term for canoe and generally one that is used for racing or white water.

Over 25 years ago I thought that it would be fun to try paddling an Olympic flatwater C1. It was extremely challenging having to balance on one knee whilst engaging maximum effort with the paddle. It took me 12 months to be able to paddle the C1 around Delphin Island, West Lakes; that’s a bit over 5km and that was not at full power. I made it to the start line of a few local Sprint Regattas, wobbling my way into the starting lane and somehow managing to make it across the finish line.

That’s me on the way to the starting line….it’s an old photo and has slowly deteriorated, just like the paddler.

I was invited to race a 500 metre event in a C2, when no one else was available. We were disqualified because I fell in with 100m to go, but paddler Hugh Stewart finished strong and upright. Swimming across the line with your paddle is apparently not counted. Later I actually paddled a 100 km race as part of the Riverland Paddling Marathon in a C4 and I think that was the finish of my C-boat career and my right knee.

Earlier I had paddled a Gyromax C1 on a white water river managing to stay upright until the final rapid where I centre-punched an avoidable rock, capsized and was washed upside down into a large eddy.  Everyone was laughing so much they didn’t get any photos.

The Final Rapid aptly known as the “Final Fling”. I was close behind Marty who was paddling a plastic Polo kayak (a Combat from QK in New Zealand from memory) We had decided to try some “odd kayaks” that day !!

Recently I inherited an ageing Gyromax C1 from Roy Farrance, of Canoes Plus in Victoria, and set about restoring the foam saddle and knee blocks. Being vintage late 1980’s the craft was manufactured from cross linked polyethylene which is not repairable, so when the cockpit coaming parted company from the rest of the craft it became a flat water C-boat.

My dreams of paddling it the local ocean surf breaks were dashed; probably a good thing !!! I didn’t want to follow in the footsteps of Jesse Sharp who paddled a Gyromax C1 over Niagra Falls in 1990 and hasn’t been seen since. (the Gyromax survived)

A high price to pay for a world record.

After a re-fit it was down to the beach for sea trials.

Now I remember what it feels like to be kneeling.

In line with “the period” I rummaged around in the shed and found a “Geoff Barker” canoe paddle (circa late 1980’s I think)

Amazingly light and certainly beautiful

I slowly worked on technique…or what little I could remember of it.

Well it’s just another “Toy in the Toybox” according to Robyn but I think it will spur me on to a lot more leg stretching.

To finish off have a look at this vintage piece of film. Linville Gorge 1989 features the amazing (in it’s day) Gyromax and the Perception Dancer kayak (Yep I had one of those as well circa 1984).

Cheers

Ian

Fast and Clean

I started my paddling career watching films of heroic paddling exploits on unknown white water rivers. In those days  the term “16mm film” was something everyone understood and many paddlers had at least an 8mm camera. They gave way to VHS tapes and DVD’s over the years and now there is an avalanche of kayaking footage on social media.

“Fast and Clean” was one of the early films available documenting the 1979 Whitewater World Titles and a great showcase for the paddlers, styles and equipment of the day. Worth a look even today if only for the fashions both on and off the water. See the link at bottom of page and find a nice comfortable chair to watch this 36 minute masterpiece. Maybe cast it to your smart TV for best viewing. There’s also a Trivia Quiz for viewers. You might also look up Director Russ Nichols to see his other works from that era.

It was an inspiration watching slalom paddlers in action and it spurred me on to paddle a couple of novice slalom competitions in Victoria, which was a mere 1600km round trip on a weekend. I think the long drive and the fact that I wasn’t any good, led me to look further afield in the kayaking realm to get my kicks. It’s probably why I started kayak surfing along our local coast and have spent much of my life sea kayaking and dabbling in other disciplines.

“Fast and Clean” it might have been then but nearly 40 years later it sort of “Slow and Grotty”. We still love the surf and take any opportunity to get out there in just about anything that floats.

So on the first day of Winter we found a rather Grotty looking wave and managed lots of slow rides. Any excuse to get out there and have some fun.

It wasn’t that big at times but Steve made the most of any wave

Steve used the small waves to find his limits

Steve found his limits a number of times. This time trying to perfect his back loop…Failed

Ian is enjoying himself or is he madly waving because he just saw a shark ?

Things happen when old paddlers get together in the surf. They play “Roller Surf”, gaining points if you can make the other paddler roll. The game begins when all are on the water and ends with the first serious injury or new drowning experience. It keeps everyone on their toes and looking over their shoulder !!

Ian scores a point on Steve

Michael reckons he’s on a winner with possible double points

Michael takes a small wave

Finds the bow disappearing

Then does a disappearing act of his own

Rodney “its my Birthday” Biggs slides another one right

Gets in a bit of a pickle

Inspects the bottom for a while

And then rolls back up with just enough breath left to blow out the candles on his Birthday cake

Well that was our first day of Winter. Hope you enjoyed yours as much.

And here’s  Fast and Clean. Thanks to Roy Farrance of Canoes Plus in Victoria who found the film for me. Roy was also the coach and organiser of those Novice Slalom events I attended, which just proves there are people older than me. Roy never slows up and is currently at the 2018 ICF Canoe Wildwater World Championships Muotathal Switzerland along with competitor Dita Pahl. Dita coaches and competes for the Canoe Plus Racing Team and is representing Australia. GO DITA 🙂

And our Trivia Quiz questions.

  1. Describe Australian Team special marching style
  2. What happened to the Australian C1 paddler
  3. Who was the now famous Kayak Educator paddling C1
  4. What river was the USA trials held on
  5. Name a K1 model being paddled
  6. Name a C1 model being paddled
  7. Name 3 paddle manufacturers you saw

Cheers and have a great Winter (or Summer if your in the other half of the world)…..Ian Pope

Mother’s Day Paddle

It’s Mother’s Day today in Australia. A day honoring the “Mother of the family” and a day that is celebrated in over 40 countries. Generally it’s flowers and chocolates or maybe a special lunch for Mother but in my case Robyn had requested a quiet paddle somewhere.

We’ve been travelling in places that haven’t seen water for a while, riding Fatbikes in a desert landscape and if you missed the photos they are here. Having headed more towards the coast we saw a small lake on the map and Mr Google told us it was a fresh water lake suitable for swimming and boating.

A perfect place for a quiet if short-ish paddle on Green Lake and with a camp site on the banks it really was perfect. We drove into the heart of the Wimmera District chatting excitedly about the opportunity for a paddle. What about a swim as well I thought. It might be chilly but that would really wash off the desert dust and there’s nothing better than a bracing dip.

We pulled into Green Lake and found a great campsite right on the sandy bank.

Sandy banks and a great view

There were ancient but serviceable picnic tables and facilities so nothing else to want for.

NIce place for lunch

But it seems that one thing was missing on this perfect Mother’s Day. Yep you guessed it: WATER. Green Lake has been dry for the last 18 years.

Dry as a bone

We chatted with a couple of locals and legend has it that there used to be a tree in the middle of the lake which was a bit of a nuisance to the water skiing fraternity so some bright spark decided to pull it out. Sort of like pulling out the bath plug I think as it broke the lakes’ base layer and all the water disappeared down the plug hole.

Maybe this is the remains of the tree

Now we sit here looking at the old water level gauge and wonder what it was like when local families camped here on Mother’s Days past and the place was alive with sounds of play. Now it’s just us and the only sound is that of a Kookaburra laughing in a nearby tree and a crow calling in the distance.

A reminder of what once was

And on a brighter note there is talk that the locals have raised enough money to reseal the lake and it will return to its’ former glory sometime in the future.

Have a great Mother’s Day.

Anzac Day. A day to remember.

Anzac Day is a national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand that broadly commemorates all Australians and New Zealanders “who served and died in all wars, conflicts, and peacekeeping …
Having paddled with a number of veterans and those currently serving in recent years, I  have a great respect for the sacrifices that have been made in the past.
However, as this next piece shows, it was not always a day that I remembered.

“I know that voice”
It was 4 am on a Sunday morning and I could hardly hear the alarm for the beating of the rain on our little cottages’ roof. The wind howled through the trees outside as I clobbered the alarm and fell back into a half sleep.

The last couple of weeks had been poor weather with weak cold fronts constantly passing through South Australia bringing drizzly cool days, and today was no exception with showers expected for most of the day.

I realised that Gavin and Michael would be here soon and contemplated just a few more minutes in bed. I thought they know that I am always late, but then Gavin is always early so I slowly dragged myself from the warm bed.

The mountain of gear stacked neatly in the hallway needed only the last minute additions of fully charged camera batteries and such like, which I dutifully attended to, crossing off each item off my list. All ready to go, just as I heard Gavin’s car pull up out the front. Gavin bowled in, looking just like someone who is always awake before five, which of course he is, followed by Michael who hasn’t seen this time of darkness since our last trip.

The gear was loaded and I found that Michael has claimed the backseat for the trip and I had the duty of riding in the front with Gavin, ensuring that he was awake during the drive. How anyone can stay awake listening to ABC Radio at that time of the morning is beyond me, but duty called.

Sombre music, then marching bands: hell what was this stuff he was listening to? We passed along the foggy highway out of Adelaide to the tunes of the 127 th District marching band or some such mob, thinking that I wouldn’t be able to take eight hours of this.

Passing through Tailem Bend I realised what was happening. It was Anzac Day.

There was a group of 200 or so people gathered at the park, with many spilling onto the roadway, forcing us to crawl past. I remembered back to my only time of being at an Anzac Day dawn service, when I must have been about 10 years old. I vividly remember the service being held in a local park in Parkside where I grew up, but can’t remember who I went with, or what happened afterwards. Just the short service and the music.

Sunday morning on ABC radio is Macca in the morning. I listened to the introductions and then vagued out while staring at the unchanging landscape of the mallee country. Macca had people ringing in to recount their views and memories of Anzac day.

As I rolled along in the front seat, listening to Michael’s snoring in the back I heard a woman’s voice saying that she had just come from a dawn service held with her husband and only one other person. It was a Tasmanian accent, quite distinctive but pleasant to listen to. Sounded in her late 40s or thereabouts, well spoken and confident. I didn’t hear where she was from, assumed Tasmania, but she was talking about their dawn service held on the top of a hill at the site where four RAAF flyers had died in a crash near the end of the war. They had been on a training run or similar and had engine problems resulting in the crash. The bodies had been buried elsewhere but there was still the scattered remains of plane where a small memorial was erected. She spoke of the isolated area that they from, describing the wallabies on the hill and sea views from her kitchen window. Sounded like a great place to me…

Then off we headed. Victoria to Tasmania by sea kayak.

Gavin, Michael and I stood at the base of the cliff, on the tiny windswept beach, looking up at the zig zag track that leads to the lighthouse keeper’s cottage. We had had a long hard day, crossing from Hogan Island to Deal Island, with lightning greeting us just before our dawn departure. The wind was OK before dawn but talking by phone to the duty forecaster in Tasmania I knew that we had only a few hours to get off the island or be there for some time.

The winds had risen later in the morning as we sailed and paddled our way to Deal Island in the Kent Group. Rising wind and rising seas had made for a rough ride, with worse on the way. We paddled strongly knowing that the sanctuary was only a couple of hours away, however the front grew closer with steadily increasing force. Rising seas and wind from the rear quarter made for interesting times. We eventually made shelter in the lee of Erith Island with a 40kn headwind screaming towards us as the main front hit.
The paddle along the Murray Passage was demanding with the wind coming head on between the Islands, as Michael powered past us determined to land first. Maybe he was just glad to be near a safe haven after having suffered two capsizes whilst sailing that morning, or maybe the lure of a cup of tea and Mars bars had scrambled his brain. He is a legend in the world of chocolate bars, carrying large packets of Mars Bars and the like when we go paddling. Still, you can’t complain when he insists on sharing them out after paddling, but I still think that anyone who calls them carrots is still a little unusual.

We set off fully equipped for the climb up the Deal Island path with extra supplies of Mars Bars and Snickers stuffed in our pockets. Half way up the path we paused briefly to admire the view and call in to our families. The surprise of the caretaker was evident when we strolled up to the cottage, certainly not expecting paddlers in this weather, but as always we were invited in for tea and scones.

It was unsafe to proceed to the campsite and hut on Erith Island so we were able to bed down in the spare cottage on Deal. We had the opportunity of a hot shower and a real bed and that was not to be knocked back. A quick shower and change of clothes and up to the caretaker’s for high tea.

We entered the cosy warm cottage and met our hosts Dallas and Shirley. They are caretakers on the island for three months at a time, with this being their second time here.

Bloody hell, I know that voice!, the soft but distinct  accent coming from the kitchen sounded familiar, but I didn’t recognise the face. Shirley plied us with scones with jam and cream and tea, while I thought about where I knew her from.

When talking to Dallas about the awful weather heading our way it came to me. Have you been on the radio lately? “Yes, twice on the ABC talking about Deal Island”. Did you have an Anzac dawn service here? “Yes just three of us, up near where the plane crash site”. It was her, the voice on the radio that cold rainy Anzac morning. Strange things seem to happen when you go paddling.

We were marooned on Deal Island for eight days waiting for the weather to moderate. The winds stayed at around 60 kn for most of that time with huge seas battering the island group. We did wallaby musters, helped other blow-ins and had many other adventures in those eight days and many more on that 19 day crossing of Bass Strait.

Deal Island looking towards Erith and Dover Islands

Deal Island looking towards Erith and Dover Islands

Now every Anzac Day not only do I remember those who fought in our wars but I think of that lonely crash site on that lonely little island.
Ian Pope