The beach perspective

The wind was picking up a little and the temperature had dropped a degree or two as I stood on the headland watching the wave sets roll in. I could see the low pressure front on the horizon and knew I probably had an hour or more before it hit. I really wanted to get out for a kayak surf but there was just that hint of doubt about the conditions.

There were regular sets of thick waves coming through, so I sat and watched for a while. I could see the shore break booming onto the beach and knew that it would take good timing to break out off the beach but it looked manageable.View from the cliff top

I wandered over to Rhino rock and checked out the swell. Certainly looked manageable from here, high up on the headland.

Rhino rock

Rhino rock

Maybe it would be better in the small bay the other side of Camel rock.

Camel Rock

Camel Rock

Sure; it seemed a little on the  “big fat wave” side of things but manageable. These waves are big, fat and hugely powerful but that means that the ride is fast, furious and sometimes a bit scary. I grabbed the kayak off the car and got my gear ready.

Maybe I should just check out that shore break from down on the beach. Get that “beach perspective”. Yep; check out the “BP” and maybe be a little on the cautious side seeing we are surfing the Southern Ocean swells direct from Antarctica.

They crash onto the craggy headlands and bays around this area of Southern Australia, which I suppose is why the area is known as the Shipwreck Coast.

I walked down to the lower track towards the bay to check out the shore break ”BP” just as a nice set came in.

Nice sets...but that's only the shore break

Nice sets…but that’s only the shore break

Down on the beach for the "BP"

Down on the beach for the “BP”



Errr..... maybe not today

Errr….. maybe not today

Hmmmm………….maybe it’s one of those days when you just need to give it a miss and hang out with the locals.

Chatting with a local

Chatting with a local


Cape Catastrophe

Standing on the white sands of Memory Cove looking out over a beautiful azure blue sea makes you forget the dangers of this area. This sandy beach is much the same as Matthew Flinders saw  when he discovered the area in 1802 and we were standing on the beach 212 years later to the day.


On 21 February 1802, Flinders’ expedition suffered a tragic  loss of crew  when ship master John Thistle, midshipman William Taylor and six seamen were drowned when their cutter capsized while searching for fresh water. The seamen were J. Little, George Lewis, John Hopkins, William Smith, Thomas Grindall and Robert Williams. Flinders was deeply affected by this disaster and recorded place names including Thorny Passage, Memory Cove, Cape Catastrophe, and Thistle Island to commemorate the lives lost and named islands in the area after the crew members. 

Flinders placed a plaque at Memory Cove and a replica is now installed.


We left Memory Cove in sight of the nearby islands bound for Cape Catastrophe and the nearby Sea Lion colony.

Launching at Memory Cove

Launching at Memory Cove

Sheltering behind a small headland to admire the view

Sheltering behind a small headland to admire the view



The weather had been kind to us so far with the temperature  a nice 25 degrees Celsius and the winds just a gentle breeze. We followed the coast line south from the Cove checking out many of the rocky crevices and spectacular cliff faces. The water is deep here, has a deep green colour and is known for crayfish and tuna fishing. We were only a few km’s  from Dangerous Reef. a breeding ground for white pointer sharks so it is likely they too are around here somewhere as well.




This coastline is a mixture of rugged outcrops, dangerous waves, sandy protected coves and long white beaches.



Wave rocks

Wave rocks


Not many people venture this way but sadly some come to grief.


Later we moved on around the peninsula to paddle the calm waters of Coffin bay. An interesting drive over deep sand and rough tracks, but well worth the effort.


Finding the remains of a wrecked fishing boat buried in the sand.


Setting off from 7 Mile Beach it was west in the sheltered bay for lunch and  more sand dunes to climb.



The next couple of days were spent exploring the area around Black Springs.



Later we drove the 20 km sand and limestone 4WD track into Coffin Bay National Park and spent time exploring some of the more inaccessible launching spots.



We spotted a number of the local inhabitants in our travels.
One afternoon 2 large goannas wandered through our camp and climbed a tree near us.


On occasions we had emus wander through our camp.


Kangaroos spent time watching us.


Dolphins whizzed by in a large pod about 30 strong.


Wedge tailed eagles circled overhead looking for an easy meal.


Sea Lions lazed about on the rocks.

Sea Lions doing what they do best---relax on a warm rock

Sea Lions doing what they do best—relax on a warm rock

Sea birds of all varieties squawked overhead.


Of course there were other less cuddly locals.


A great place to spend a couple of weeks exploring the coast. Lots of interesting paddling locations ranging from calm to challenging all with great scenery and wildlife.

We headed east coming across the familiar landscape of the inland areas and decided to divert to the north Flinders Ranges for a week of exploring. 


Surf kayak review–Jackson FUN

I eventually finished a more formal review of the Jackson FUN having paddling it as a surf kayak for over 4 months now. Initially it took some time to get used to, as it is much looser than surf kayaks that I have been into for years. It was like returning to my origins in surf kayaking when we paddled any kayak in the surf, not what was specifically designed for ocean wave surfing. See my first paddle comments here.

IMG_3291    Easy take-off   Fun on small reef break waves

The beginners perspective.
If you are just starting out in surf kayaking this kayak is a really a winner. It is stable and easy to get out through the break with reasonable directional stability for a playboat. When paddling out through broken waves the FUN maintained stability and allowed you to lift up and over the white water simply by leaning back to raise the bow.

On a wave the the FUN was easy to get into the wave take-off area and quite predictable when dropping down a steep face. The beginners who paddled the FUN started off on smaller waves to get the feel of the kayak but were soon confident on larger waves. The kayak has a flat, planing hull design meaning that aggressive leans or stern rudder strokes may cause the stern to break loose. An unintentional 180 degree spin into a back surf is a little disconcerting for beginners but soon most paddlers have it under control.

Intermediate perspective
The Fun is just that, a lot of fun. The comfortable cockpit and easily adjusted outfitting means paddlers are happy to stay out for hours, pulling 360 spins, backsurfs, cartwheels (intentional and unintentional)  and generally having a great time.

This playboat is easy to handle and allows you to try lots of manoeuvres with confidence and when it doesn’t work the FUN is easy to roll. As with most playboats the low volume stern and bow allow ease of manoeuvring, however you still need to drive this kayak or it will break loose on larger wave faces.

top turn and over     Nice top turns

Comparison to specialised surf kayaks

It really does come down to what you want to achieve in surf kayaking. If you are looking for a kayak that equals a surfboard or wave ski then you need to look at the specialised craft. This is a white water playboat being used in the surf and is an excellent craft for playing in waves and having fun. Just a fantastic kayak to paddle when the surf is not so good and you’re looking for a way to have fun and get wet.

Jackson Kayak Specs.
Length 2.03m     Width 68 cm     Volume 238 litres     Capacity 75-100 kg

Paddler 1
Height   170cm
Weight   90 kg (or more after Easter)
Experience  Many years paddling sea kayaks and surf kayaks

Great Fun kayak. A great change from more specialist surf kayaks but especially good when surf was smaller allowing me to still have fun on manoeuvres like 360 spins, catwheels and backsurfs not possible with other surf kayak.

Loved the ease of adjustment on the backrest and the Happy Feet footrests.
Lots of fun to be had even when the surfs not so good.

Backrest cords are a bit of a pain dangling on my legs, but I would soon fix that.

Lots of FUN. Very comfortable outfitting and would recommend to anyone.

Paddler 2
Height 175 cm
Weight 76 kg
Experience  Beginner in playboats and surf kayaks

Had great fun every time I paddled out. Started on smaller waves and soon got the hang of the FUN. I was able to get some nice waves and 360 spins as well great slides down larger green wave faces. Thoroughly recommended as a great FUN kayak.

Very predictable and forgiving handling when the wave closed out on me.  It is easy to roll which gave me confidence to go for bigger waves or faster manoeuvres. Loved the easy adjustment on the backrest making it easy to do a quick launch, paddle out and then tighten backrest.

I would put some sort of grab loop on the rear handle as it was hard to hold onto as I climbed over rocks to get back up the beach.

Very impressed with this kayak in the surf. Just lots of FUN and will definitely be looking to purchase.

Surf Kayaking – FUN at any age

Surf kayaking is my greatest kayaking pleasure; well at the moment anyway. I have been returning to some surf breaks that I first tried to board surf at when I was about 16 and then haunted when I was in my thirties. Now a few years later, or maybe that’s decades, I’m still here with an even greater sense of FUN.

Late 1980's. Bells Beach Victoria. 1 car 3 skis 3 white water kayaks

Late 1980’s. Bells Beach Victoria. 1 car 3 skis 3 white water kayaks and lots of FUN. That’s me in the middle.

I owned and surfed many specialist surf kayaks over the years as well as a whole swag of wave ski’s during the 1980’s and 1990’s.

Small day at Pondalowie Bay South Australia.

Small day at Pondalowie Bay South Australia. Marty Williams at play.

As we are the driest state on the driest continent there’s no white water paddling to be had and certainly no playboats in kayak shops, but luckily I was able to borrow a Jackson FUN from a friend interstate . Now this is very much a white water playboat and I am a little heavy for it at 88kg but it is certainly comfortable.

IMG_3291 IMG_3296

First paddle. Nice wave peaked up, paddled to take off, dropped down the face and threw my weight into a bottom turn. The FUN spun 180 degrees, I screamed backwards, lent back too far, dug the rear deck into the wave, back flipped and airborne as my head kissed the deck.  Cleaned out the sinus anyway !!!.
Hmmm…. this kayak needs a little more finesse than I used with a finned surf kayak.

Another hour or more in some pretty choppy waves but lots of FUN. I’ll write a review of the Jackson FUN, for surf kayaking, after I get it a little better under control. We shot a little footage but the camera malfunctioned, however you should get the idea.

Cheers…Ian Pope
“The best surfer out there is the one having the most FUN”… Duke Kahanamoku. 

Guess who’s got a new Cagdeck ?

Guess who’s got a new Cagdeck ?

Super comfortable, lightweight and of course fashionable, yep that’s my new Cagdeck. A combination spraydeck and paddling jacket (Cag).

Ok, I do use a Greenland paddle and have occasionally been seen practicing my rolling off the local beach in winter, but I think I will draw the line at wearing the traditional Greenland Tulik (Tuliq). The most active paddlers in Australian cold water conditions are slalom and rodeo paddlers and I found that the top paddlers in that arena all seem to use a one-piece Cagdeck instead of a separate spray deck and paddling jacket (Cag). I talked to a couple of coaches who spend considerable time on the water and they were sold on the Cagdeck combination for maximum dryness and comfort.

So it was a Cagdeck for me. The standard spraydeck and Cag meant 2 layers of neoprene around my waist which I found a little restrictive and sometimes uncomfortable. On a longer paddle the Cagdeck is more comfortable and allows different layers to be worn underneath without feeling too bulky. In the surf kayak, where I spend a lot of time getting wet, the more comfortable waist also allows easier movement and therefore harder turns and often some panicky support strokes.

If you happen to be practising rolling in cold water then simply add a neoprene diver’s neoprene hood for extra warmth.

Cagdecks are mainly available in small cockpit sizes because they are made for the competition slalom kayaks and they will fit many of the Greenland style kayaks but I couldn’t find one big enough to fit my Nimbus Njak sea kayak. Luckily a couple of phone calls and I had one being custom made through Liquid Life kayaking gear.

I even did a paddle along the coastline, stopping in for a coffee at a café and yes there were a couple of strange looks at my paddling attire, but try that in a Tulik and you risk setting off the armed robbery alarm.

Check out some of my happy cagdeck surf kayaking photos at the bottom of the page.
Happy Paddling
Ian Pope

Cagdeck                                                              Tulik

Pros                                                                      Pros
Keeps water out                                                   Keeps water out
Comfortable fit                                                     You look like a Greenland kayak expert
Latex wrist seals
Super-stretch neoprene neck seal
Neoprene deck stretches to fit
Easy to get on/off

Cons                                                                      Cons
Can be a little hard to fit fibreglass                     Not accepatable attire in Cafes
cockpit rims

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