Haystacks…..not just a load of hay

On our wanderings across the western coastline of South Australia we have come across lots of harvesting at this time of year. Not only are there long road trains carting grain to the silos but also lots of hay being stacked into large haystacks.

These days it’s more likely to see hay in large “rounds” stacked together rather than the traditional haystacks but we have found a couple of unusual varieties as well.

Rounds of hay are more the norm these days

Square bales stacked high

It doesn’t have to be a stack of hay bales to be called a Haystack. On the Eyre Peninsula we found “Murphy’s Haystacks which may look like an old fashioned Haystack but are rock formations.

Murphy’s haystacks

The kayak paddler comes across many and varied landscapes including islands. This one is called Haystack Island.

Haystack Island off the coast of Yorke Peninsula. On a day with glassy swells.

Haystack Island with a change of weather

It might not look like a Haystack from a distance but when your up close it does take on the colours and shape of hay.

Colours change as the light changes

It seems Australians have an imagination for names but for me the best Haystack is my visits to Haystack Island.

The Mystery Coast

The calm was shattered by a thunderous roar as a swell broke against the headland sending a spray of white water into the air. The calm water paddling we had enjoyed for the last couple of hours was over and we were in for some fun paddling along the “Mystery Coast”.

The swell was starting to rise

We call this area the “Mystery Coast” as the weather is always a bit of a mystery. It’s forecast SE winds and you get NE; 10 knots can be 5 or 20 knots and the swell has to be taken into consideration which is not the best situation for kayakers venturing several kilometres offshore.

The day had started early with preparations before dawn as the predicted weather window of calm winds in the morning and an early afternoon sea breeze, had arrived.  We had seen the end of Blow-vember and the promise of more stable conditions had the group heading westward from Adelaide, the capital city of South Australia, with the hope of visiting some of the rugged and seldom paddled Mystery Coast.

Ready to launch

The sea was calm and the sky overcast as we launched. The sea took on an eerie feel as it was difficult to distinguish the sea from the sky and the inky swells rising and falling under the kayak added to the strange sensation.

Milky calm condition in the early morning

Eerie conditions and cloud that signals a change coming later

The calm conditions and photo opportunities made Gavin happy

The swells were gentle

We got up close and personal with a cliffs that towered 90 metres above us all the time mindful that those boulders hanging precariously above fell into the sea at regular intervals. The swells lifted us gently and then crashed against the base of the cliffs sending backwash to bounce us around.

We dodged around the breaking waves to get in close

Steve was always on the lookout for another crevice to explore

Checking out the clear water


We were able to sneak into small ravines that were sheltered from the wind and swell to enjoy the crystal clear waters and views of the towering granite cliffs.

Rodney heads into a calm inlet

Skirting around rocky islets

Rugged and very sharp limestone rocks sometimes very close to the surface

Calm waters in the lee of an island

The area also has some small offshore islands to explore and we paddled close into the cliffs in the lee of the islands and bounced our way past the unprotected sides.  A 10 km paddle out to a sea lion colony increases the senses, especially when you realise that Great White Sharks breed in the nearby reefy waters.

Steve and Ian approaching an offshore island

There are many caves at the waterline and above

This coast was home to many industries in earlier times and many jetties were built to accommodate the fleet of vessels that carted grain, seafood and gypsum.

Some jetties are still functional…

Stenhouse Bay jetty with the gypsum loading chute on the cliff top

…..and others are about to fall into the sea.

The middle section has collapsed and many pylons are gone

After exploring a number of inlets and caves we were able to land on a small protected beach where Steve serenaded a couple of the locals.

Gavin landed on the beach to find a friend had landed with him

Gavin’s friend

If anyone can “talk to the animals” Steve can.

After a quick lunch on the beach it was an interesting paddle into a confused sea created by the increasing SW swell colliding with the ESE wind driven sea. “Wind against Current” always makes for some interesting paddling and quite often reacquaints you with your support stroke.

It’s hard to get the lumpy conditions on film but here’s a try

The conditions dictated that we stayed close together for the last 2 hours of paddling and we all witnessed a large pod of dolphins fishing under our kayaks. They screamed past, some leaping a metre or more into the air as they zig zagged through a school of fish below us. The fish were forced to the surface by the dolphins and then a flock of seabirds dive bombed from above.

Fascinating stuff, but no one got any photos as at the time it was “both hands on paddle”. This was probably not the best time and place to demonstrate your rolling technique: in the middle of a feeding frenzy of dolphins and sea birds along a coast well known for its Great White Shark population.

After many exhilarating hours of paddling, beach combing and wildlife spotting we made our destination and after much lugging of gear and carrying of kayaks we returned to our campsite.

As is our custom, we celebrated firstly with an icy cold beer and snacks provided by Robyn and later moved on more substantial eats and sampled the red wines from several wine regions in South Australia. Tastings covered the Coonawarra and McLaren Vale regions as well as excellent Shiraz from Koltz Wines of Blewett Springs (McLaren Vale region).

Let me pre-answer some of the questions we normally get from readers and people who meet us on the beach.

  1. Yes we are all well on the wrong side of 60. Make that 70 for Rodney.
  2. Yes we are all retired from normal work.
  3. Yes we do this for fun.
  4. Yes my camera is waterproof. I hope !
  5. No we don’t have time to drop in a fishing line while paddling.
  6. No we are not afraid of sharks, stingrays or jellyfish. Well maybe just a little bit.
  7. No we aren’t sponsored by a winery, but would like to be.

Thanks to our paddlers Gavin, Steve, Rodney and Ian who donated their photos to this story and to Robyn for the cold beer, vehicle driving and many other duties.

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


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).



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