Local Appreciation

There was a lot to Appreciate today. I was that lucky guy who was given a large dose of Covid for Xmas meaning I didn’t see Xmas or New Years eve festivities. I had been instructed to return to activity carefully and not stress my system. Yes of course I will do exactly that, although I neglected to mention that I had a short session in my playboat least week which resulted in a bit of regression.

It was a great day. I found a space in the beachside carpark, even though there was a school holidays (or school Horror Days) sailing class underway with a gaggle of parents milling about.

The weather was as forecast with the temperature around 30 degrees (C not F) and the sea calm. I launched quickly with the promise of a little over an hour on the local coastline. The first kilometre was great with breathing easy and heart rate under control. The second kilometre not so good as I could feel a distinct lack of fitness. I slowed somewhat and decided on a very gentle pace for the next 5 kilomteres so that I could enjoy the surroundings.

Cirrus clouds were sweeping across the sky, filtering the sun, the sea and horizon blending together.

The water was crystal clear as I nudged the kayak bow close to the rocks along the shore.

You can see the coastal walk which is steep in places. I have never counted the steps but there are a lot of them. Luckily the walk links coffee shops at Merino Rocks and Hallett Cove where one can recuperate for the return journey.

I had time to say hello to the Cormorants and Seagulls who had been resting on the shoreline after fishing for breakfast.

The professional fisherman were working hard casting for squid. This guy is almost a permanent fixture on the coast. If the wind is under 25 knots you will see him plying his trade.

I plodded along Appreciating the coastline and how lucky I was to have it as my local paddling spot. In future I will make a point of slowing down and taking in the view instead of focusing on my smart watch vibrating my time per kilometre. I was not the only one enjoying the morning, although some seemed a little hesitant to jump in.

My day of Local Appreciation left me feeling happy to be alive, however, my body was telling me it needed a nice coffee and a long nap. Luckily Robyn was able to steer me to a beachside coffee spot for a 3 shot latte and thick raisin toast. I would take care of the nap later.

Hope you have a great week.
Ian

Back to Work in 2023

Go on, get back to work you mob. Stop clogging up the cafes and bars during the day and creating traffic chaos at the local beaches. Get back to your office, or more likely your home work station, if you are trying to avoid Covid 19. Stop scaring the dolphins and us older generation with your stinky, noisy jet skis and fishing boats. Free the beaches from your gaggle of kids, dogs and sand castles.

Leave it for us retired folk to enjoy, and enjoy it we did today with a little bit of surf play.

A small window

I never saw Spring. Maybe it had more pressing engagements elsewhere. None of those lovely Spring days with the sun shining and the temperature starting to show signs of what’s to come. No watching warm red sunsets with a favourite beverage. No sunburnt nose from forgotten sunscreen. No need to check your kayak for spiders lurking under the seat. No need to have a hat for every occasion.

None of that.
We had water. Not the type you paddle on, but the type that comes in bucket loads, drenching everything and everyone. The type that causes massive flooding river systems, inundates whole towns and livelihoods. With the rain comes the wind; howling, screaming, terrorising wind that wipes out all in it’s path.

Gum trees snapped at the trunk
The road was passable as the level dropped

Luck was on our side as we sheltered from flooding rains in the Australian “outback”. We reached a bitumen road that headed south towards home, our path flooded in many places. I had the kayak on the car roof but fortunately the creek systems fell just as quickly as they rose.

Summer was closing fast and finally a small Spring weather window opened. Not enough time to get in any substantial sea kayaking journeys but long enough to fit in a little surf play.

Summer will come, the waves will be clean and uncrowded, the sea kayaking perfect with pods of dolphins, the water crystal clear for snorkeling and the mountain bike tracks dry, running smooth and fast.

Dreams are free. In reality I take every FUN I wave I can and here’s a few I took today before the wind reappeared

Steve gets last minute instructions from Philip’s labrador.
You have to earn your wave FUN
Steve gets a small FUN wave
This could get a bit crowded
Fast and Clean

A Desert paddle

It was a cold night; a freezing cold night. I peered out but it was so dark that you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. The clouds cleared and the Milky Way made an appearance in the night sky. With no lights and the moon not rising until 2am it was a stunning display in the desert night sky. I thought of getting up and trying a night sky photo but quickly dismissed that idea.

The morning light woke us and illuminated the houses of Beltana, a small town in northern South Australia. The town is Heritage listed and the buildings have been restored by the residents and we had been camping near the Community Hall.

Another beautiful morning in Beltana. There are many houses now restored and occupied.

This is a land of contrasts with red earth plains and rugged ranges. When it does rain here it has a huge impact not only greening the landscape but also scouring the water courses with flash floods. Old railway bridges still survive as they were built high above the river bed.

Red dirt roads leading to the Ranges
Disused railway bridges high above the creek

We had come to paddle the Aroona Dam, a body of water that was originally built to supply the mining town of Leigh Creek. A rocky vehicle track leads to the dam wall and spillway which has seen overflows in recent weeks.

You need to portage to get to the launch spot down an interesting track, rocky, narrow and washed away in parts from recent flood inflows but we managed, picking our way down to the water.

Once on the water we enjoyed the company of various water birds including a variety of ducks and a lone pelican.

This one was far from home. Probably following the creeks towards Lake Eyre which is also filling with water.

We had been trying to photograph the native Tortoises that are abundant in the dam. They would pop up their head next to us then disappear at lightning speed. These slippery little suckers were going to be a challenge to add to our photographic collection. (Later we walked along a nearby ridge and saw tortoises sunning on the surface but the camera was in the car)

A number of Wallabies watched us from vantage points along the shoreline seemingly unperturbed by the kayak and camera. This is an area inhabited by Yellow Footed Rock Wallabies and we saw some on our drive in, but none around the dam.

The rock formations are stunning, even more so at water level. Here’s a few photos that hopefully give you an idea of the rugged beauty of this desert waterway.

Robyn always manages to get in the photo
Looking towards the dam wall
Steep rock faces are a feature of the area

We spent a morning paddling, drifting, watching the wildlife and enjoying the sun. We hope you get out and enjoy the beautiful Spring weather and maybe the freezing desert nights.

Ian and Robyn

Some things remain the same

Some things remain the same

I stretched forward and flipped the spraydeck over the coaming and checked the fit all-round. How many times have I done that I wonder. Thousands of times, tens of thousands of times or more; I try a quick calculation in my head and I’m immediately hit with a searing “ice cream headache”, not from the mental gymnastics but from a wave that snuck up and pounded my head.

That’s better. Making it out during a lull in waves

It’s been with me a while now, this kayaking thing. From the 1970’s when I started in river touring kayaks and graduated into just about every discipline of the sport. I have been a competitor of sorts, mainly thinking of myself as someone that “made up the numbers ” due to my lack of training time, or more likely ability.

One thing remains the same; Surf Kayaking. I loved it from the first time I took a river touring kayak out through the break and ran down a small wave. Lots changed in that time both in kayak shapes and equipment. Does anyone remember the Johnson Surf Shoe (kayak) or Valley Moccasin ? I owned both as well as an Australian designed Rosco Phase 3 Kayak and locally made Olymp 75 kayak.

Let’s take a small wave to get the feel of the kayak

Back from meandering through the past I paddled out into a freezing morning to test out my latest kayak, a Jackson Rockstar V. I jumped a dumping wave and stayed upright whilst pulling a couple of 360 spins followed by a long backsurf. The next couple of waves were not so glorious, ending in a sound dumping as I tried a forward loop. The kayak felt great and will be better with a few minor seat adjustments.

Here’s a flat spin sequence. I promise to try it on bigger waves next time !

I found another kayaker (Steve) grabbing a few icy waves as well.

I only captured the last part of his wave

Here comes another 360 spin on a small wave and then back surf.

We bounced around in the waves until my body was near frozen then grabbed that last wave to shore.

Steve heads inshore. Frozen but happy.
Heading for a strong coffee and lemon cake.

Back on shore and suitably warmed with coffee and cake I checked out a couple of archive boxes I had seen in my shed. Sure enough amongst the certificates and other stuff was an article written about our early Surf Kayaking in a magazine SA Canoeing 83.

I scanned some pages below and I remember the two people who produced it.
Phil Read who wrote the surf article
Noel McPharlin who took the surf photos using a Nikanos waterproof film camera

Yep I was there on another page as the first Secretary of Canoe Polo Committee that started a pool competition in June 1982. It seems a lifetime ago, probably because it was, and it meant that kayaks would become my recreation and occupation. Anyway, have a look at pages from that era.

Have a great day
Ian Pope

Bumper Boats

Bumper Boats, Dodgem Cars and the Ghost Train were my favourite rides as a kid. Whenever there was a show or fair in town I was there looking for excitement and spending my money on rides, hot dogs and fairy floss. As I got a little older I still rode the Bumper Boats but often got kicked off for “rough play” and my fascination with the Ghost Train drifted towards the scantily clad girls on the high trapeze.

Times change but somethings stay the same. Hot Dogs were out and Falafel Rolls are in, and the Ghost Train is no longer scary, but I still get that Bumper Boat feeling every time I hit the surf.

The wind had dropped and the offshore wave recorder showed some activity, although the glassy waves were not as large as we hoped, but still provided some Monday Bumper Boat action.

Steve (R) gives Ian a little BUMP
Waiting for the next wave set
Charles looks like he’s lining up for a BUMP
Steve (R) chases for another BUMP
Turtle takes a clean wave to stay out of trouble
Steve showing his style on a small wave
Charles looking for a victim perhaps
You can see Steve but can you spot someone else
Here comes Steve again
Ok. Who is giving way first ?
Steve capsizes and it looks like everyone heads in for a BUMP
Turtle staying out of trouble again
…and enjoying another clean wave
So we all headed shoreward to finish off a great morning paddle.

It was a beautiful morning with a nice mob of paddlers and bound to be repeated soon.