30 November 2009

Larry Gray at the Australian Sea Kayak Symposium

Larry Gray and Tess
Australian Sea Kayak Symposium, Currumbin, Qld.

“When we become one with the sea, a primal part of ourselves is released. We recover that instinct all human beings shared before we distanced ourselves from the living world around us. Ironically we feel more empowered by leaving behind all of the props of the modern world.
Perhaps, that is why so many seek the simplicity of the kayak. It is the ultimate craft for merging with the ocean, for understanding its moods and surrendering to its dynamism. When we enter the ocean in a sea kayak, we combine with a greater force. We start to understand who we truly are and what we are capable of.”
Larry Gray

Renowned Australian sea kayak adventurer, award winning documentary maker and Pittarak sea kayak designer Larry Gray was the guest presenter at the 2009 Australian Sea Kayak Symposium.

Relatively unknown in Queensland’s sea kayaking community, Larry impressed everyone with his unpretentious behaviour. His skills workshops were extremely popular after the opening night audience were kept spellbound during his presentation. Sharing his experiences honestly and with unrestrained physical animation, Larry entertained while his documentarys amazed. Tales of close calls, ingenious gear fixes and an implicit acceptance of indigenous ways, offered an insight into this unaffected man.

Larry’s style might be considered unorthodox in some sea kayaking circles, but it would be a mistake to underestimate him as a sea kayak adventurer or documentary maker.

His first kayak expedition in the 1970's began as 2 mates going for a paddle -that lasted 6 months Mallacoota to Torres Strait Island. During his documentary making career, Larry has captured incredible vision surfing through storms and breathtaking images from his 1980's expedition to Greenland.

His partner Producer Mary O’Malley and son often travel with Larry to remote locations and feature in some of his documentaries.

His continuing passion for indigenous communities and kayaking adventures ensures his life remains the proverbial ‘Boys Own Adventure’. In fact Larry’s boyish charm is evident during his demonstration of the difficult ‘Stealth Roll’.

Larry Gray 'Stealth Roll'
Larry Gray is no ‘show pony’. During workshops he demonstrates only some of his incredible paddle and boat control skills. While he obviously advocates paddler safety and injury prevention, he doesn’t say that what he does is the only way to sea kayak, or his tools (euro paddle and Pittarak kayak) are the only tools to use.
Hopefully this is only the first of many visits to Qld for Larry.
To find out more about Larry, purchase his documentarys or contact Larry Gray and Mary O’Malley visit Pittarak Sea Kayaks

03 November 2009

The Puffin Paddle - One Man. One Brother. One River

Puffin Magic Foundation

I became aware of The Puffin Paddle while reading Fatpaddler's blog. Sean (Fatpaddler), shared this incredible story of tragedy, hope and brotherly love that I now share with you.

On 1 November 2008 James Gribble suffered a severe spinal injury in a freak accident, rendering him a quadriplegic. Waiting to go Tiger fishing on the mighty Zambezi River on a terribly hot day, James merely fainted whilst sitting on a stool, falling backward onto hard sand.

The result of this seemingly innocuous occurrence was catastrophic. The impact of the fall severely bruised his spinal cord and broke his C4 and C5 vertebrae, leaving James with voluntary movement only from his shoulder up.

Due to the remoteness and inaccessibility of the location, it was 30 hours before James reached fully qualified medical care. This delay worsened his condition by causing fluid to collect in his lungs, leading to respiratory complications.

The Puffin Magic Foundation (PMF) was founded with the goal of supporting James throughout his rehabilitation and to expand to support other quadriplegics.
In an effort to raise funds for the PMF, James’ younger brother, Martin will attempt to kayak the length of the Murray River from Albury-Wodonga on the NSW / Victorian border, to Goolwa, South Australia.

Paddling constantly rain, hail or shine, The Puffin Paddle will take 56 days to complete the 2,200km journey and will commence on 1 November this year-hopefully Martin will finish on time and make it home for Christmas with James and his family.

Read the blog of Martin's journey driven by love of one brother for another

02 November 2009

Kayak Roll Preparation - "Pre-Rolling'

Like most kayakers, when I first started sea kayaking, learning to kayak roll was on my priority list.
I couldn’t wait to learn to roll believing it would be easily accomplished.
Rolling would be a key skill to letting me go where I wanted to travel in a sea kayak…out in the sea.

Armed with basic bracing strokes, I eagerly attended roll training with a qualified instructor. As I wasn't used to the reality of being upside down underwater, once in the rolling class, I soon realized that suddenly being tipped over underwater was not the most comfortable or familiar environment.
Anxiety mixed with the confusion of being upside down made learning the steps to a successful roll extremely difficult. I finished the training disappointed with my lack of progress, unsure if I would ever be able to master this seemingly complicated skill.

Looking back it is now obvious to me that if you are not comfortable upside down in the water, you are wasting your time and money attending a kayak roll class. 'Pre' rolling or priming is essential. It was only after a lot of getting wet and mucking around in my kayak that I was finally more confident underwater and ready for rolling.

getting comfortable underwater
I’m sure there are instructors around who will take your money regardless of your readiness to roll however GOOD instructors take the time to find out if you are confident underwater, if your kayak fits you and if you use bracing and skulling strokes.

With persistence I could roll but my technique was basic (I would roll back up with force rather then finesse) and unreliable. Introduced to the intricacies of balanced bracing by Greg Schwarz, I was ecstatic when I finally learn the "balanced brace".

balanced bracing
Learning to scull and balance brace gave me confidence underwater and an understanding of how the kayak moved in the water with certain body movements.

I discovered rolling is not about strength and pushing a big bladed paddle into the water to bring me back up. Rolling is more about aligning my body with my kayak, using my body to apply opposing forces with my leg/knee that will turn the kayak into an upright position. Not all kayakers are equal: some are more flexible than others and some have better underwater orientation, so training should be adjusted to the individual.

Hanging out with Greg Schwarz I learned another "soft roll"; the "butterfly" roll.

Greg likes to 'finesse' his rolls and he loves to teach that to others.

I am not a qualified instructor but I recommend aspiring rollers to undertake a lot of "priming" before you take that class.
Become confident with wet exits, happy to hang upside down for a minute (or two) before popping the skirt and maybe, with the help of a knowlegeable friend, start some basic sweep strokes with a paddle float to learn the motion of a roll.
The chances are that unlike my first class, a prepared student will have more luck in successfully completing a roll course than one that has never tipped upside down in his/her kayak.

26 October 2009

Humpback Whale Graveyard - Mud Island

Media reports of the EPA (Environment Protection Agency) towing 3 humpback whale carcasses to Mud Island, close to Brisbane to decompose, has generated keen discussion in the local community.

With limited information and experience in the disposal of dead whales, sea kayakers and boaties alike have been pondering the cause of death and the wisdom of the EPA's Moreton Bay choice of final resting place for these mammals.

What happens to whales as they decompose?

Would the placement of the humpbacks on Mud Island encourage large sharks to the area?

Are there benefits to the environment?

Without a degree in marine science I can only join in the speculation.
Could the humpback whales demise simply be the normal course of nature, which we all now witness 'as it happens', as part of our overpopulated, media saturated world?
Could it be more sinister, as some suggest, and be related to the poor water quality of Australia's east coast, perhaps even linked to the Moreton Island oil spill?

Kate, a well known local sea kayaker, hazarded a solo visit to Mud Island to see what the fuss is about. As you can see from the images (taken on mobile phone cam), there are no white pointer fins breaking the whale fat slick floating on the water.

Kate saw only one whale as the foul stench of decomposing matter was so strong that it quickly drove her from the island. She didnt bother with a circumnavigation to search for the other whales and paddling away, Kate noticed her paddle blades and kayak were now coated with a pungent fatty residue.

Back on land transporting her now greasy Nadgee by trolley, Kate wondered if she would encounter the local dingo, drawn by the smells permeating her kayak as she walked home through the streets.

An experienced solo sea kayaker who has extensively kayaked the eastern coast of Australia, Kate had never encountered a problem like this.

Consideration was given to the merits of using kitchen degreasers, metholated spirits and kerosense to remove the grease and smell of decomposing whale fat.
The decision to try metholated spirits first proved to be sufficient, although Kate is sure there is a lingering 'odour' to her kayak.

Within days of Kates visit, the whale carcasses were no longer to be found at Mud Island. What happened to them remains as much a mystery to this kayaker as why they were taken there in the first place.
All images by Kate Yeomans_used with permission

Update - 26th September 2010
12 months on, Vanilla, Gnarlydog and I revisted Mud Island. Full post and images here - Mud Island Humpback Whales revisited

20 October 2009

Bribe to Moreton attempt

Starring: Vanilla, Gnarlydog, Karrazy, Gary, April, Adventuretess
Guest Appearance: Sea Snake

A late start, incorrectly loaded kayaks and a below G2 pace in challenging conditions necessitated an on-water change to the trip plan.Within an hour it became clear Bribie to Moreton would have to become Bribie to Bribie and while disappointing, the weekend was still enjoyable and a new experience for some members of the group.
Like all good kayak trips, the weekend provided group members with some learnings to reflect on for their next G2 trip. It also highlighted skills that may need to be addressed in future training sessions.
While the plan changed, the group still had the opportunity to experience paddling in 15 – 20kn headwinds against the tide and feel the effects of paddling through highly confused water, but close to shore.
Post Moreton Island oil spill, marine life is returning to this area with plenty of birdlife, dolphins and swimming crabs surrounding us as we paddled.

This 15km crossing can be intimidating, exposing you to a range of conditions. Deep channels, strong currents, shallow sand banks, container ship traffic, marine life and weather variations make this an interesting paddle with few opportunities to stop for a break. Having undertaken this crossing several times in various conditions, the trip was planned with a minimum cruising speed of 5km per hour.

Launch morning proved to be a lesson in patience for participants as en route some were forced to wait out the aftermath of a motorway accident. The group eventually assembled at the launch site where severe beach erosion made packing the kayaks close to the water impossible. Packing was carried out high up in the dunes then the loaded kayaks were carried ** to the sliver of remaining beach to launch. An hour behind schedule the group was on the water.

** http://gnarlydognews.blogspot.com/2009/10/kayak-carry-straps.html for an article on carrying loaded sea kayaks

Within an hour of launching, Gary's GPS read that we were progressing at only 3.5 km/h. This speed was well below the planned pace. A 15 – 20knot headwind, strong outgoing current and the skill level of some group members indicated reaching Moreton would take at least 6 hours – double the planned time on the water. To the disappointment of some, the decision was made to turn back to Bribie.

Close to shore, highly confused water tossed the kayaks around offering the opportunity to low brace in small pitching waves (see movie below). For some this was a welcome chance to play, for others it was an anxious first experience of ‘washing machine’ water.

As conditions did not ease as was forecast and the group were prepared for an overnight trip, the decision was made to postpone Moreton and paddle north to camp on the ocean side of Bribie Island. With the wind and current now at our tails, we made fast progress for the first time that day. The ocean side of Bribie is remote but very busy in summer with 4wd vehicles traffic and fishermen.

Scouting for a semi protected campsite in the dunes, the first 'recon' was a success. Taking it in turns to land in the small surf, off the water a quick perusal of the area confirmed several campsite choices high above the waterline. The beach here was also severely eroded so the kayaks were emptied and lifted high out of the way of 4wdrive traffic.

A pleasant pre dinner happy hour was spent together in the dune grass, contemplating the meaning of life and reviewing the day, the view of Moreton Island teasing us in the distance.

In the evening, 3 of the group opted to go ultra-light and sleep without tents. There are several lagoons on the island so ultra-light camping requires a heavy application of tropical strength insect repellent. After the success of Vanilla’s home-made ‘Sand Fla Van’ in the Whitsundays, the concoction was shared around and we settled in for another glorious night under the stars.

Woken only once during the night by donuts (not the deep fried delicious kind, but the ‘beach bogan’ tear up the beach in your 4wd kind) we rose the following morning refreshed and bite free.

Vanilla’s early morning beach walk revealed a large sea snake lying on the sand just above the tide line, close to camp. Appearing to have difficulty making its own way back to the water we were concerned that this exquisite reptile would come to grief on the busy beach. The sea snake was gently encouraged back into the safety of its water habitat.

The forecast of increasing winds encouraged the group to start early. Launching was non-eventful and we enjoyed a slow paddle back with a 10knot head wind and an occasional dolphin for company.

Arriving back at the launch site close to high tide there was very little beach to land on. Kayaks had to be quickly hauled high out of reach of the encroaching tide.

While the trip may not have gone as planned, being adaptable meant the weekend was not wasted. The decision to turn back was not made lightly. As a QSKC trip leader I lead trips that offer others the opportunity to kayak, test their boundaries and increase their skills within the safety and structure of Australian Canoeing guidelines.
Just as I learn something about kayaking and trip leading on every paddle, I hope the members of this group learned something that will enhance their kayaking experience in future.

14 October 2009

Kayak Rolls and Skills

If you enjoy accessing quality information, videos and sea kayaking links, I recommend visiting Derrick Mayoleth's website www.kayakquixotica.com
I'm currently hooked on this section of the website http://www.kayakquixotica.com/video-section/index.html it shows some great technique captured on video of different types of rolls and related skills.
When I was first learning to roll, I didnt know the difference between pawlata, C2C or sweep rolls and I recall feeling some frustration because I could only see what was happening on top of the water. As soon as the instructor went upside down and I could no longer see, it became 'secret kayaker business'.
Looking at the short movies filmed from different angles on Derrick's website provides a clear guide to what's going on above and below the water.
Rolling isnt always about survival, it is also about having fun. I can't wait to get in the pool or out on the water and try to recreate some of these moves - perhaps not the bowling ball roll (?)...
Kayaking is an in water sport after all!

01 October 2009

Tide Race Fun in the Whitsundays

tidal race (c)
Starring: Vanilla and Gnarlydog
Image: Tess Dodd
Youtube Movie: VanillaVids

During a recent trip to the Whitsundays, we were lucky enough to cross through some small tide races that were perfect to play in, which a few days later become not so small and a lot more challenging.
Closer to home, it can be hard to find these conditions to paddle in, although on a couple of occasions, I have found similar conditions on trips to Moreon Island and around some islands and headlands on the Gold Coast and in northern NSW.

29 September 2009

Tsunami Rangers Visit

Enjoying the Oregon Coast
Tsunami Rangers Captain Jim Kakuk and Commander Eric Soares will be guest speakers at the 2010 NZ Coastbusters.

This is exciting news, as the opportunity for kayakers down under to see these guys in person is rare. If you don't know much about Jim, Eric and the Tsunami Rangers or their style of kayaking (hard to believe, but not impossible), you can find out more by visiting their website http://site.netopia.com/tsunami/door/

One of my favourite reads is 'Extreme Sea Kayaking' by Eric Soares and Michael Powers (foreward by another SK legend Derek Hutchinson). If you enjoy playing in caves, rock gardens or surf of any size, or simply enjoy reading about it from the safety of your arm chair, I highly recommend tracking down a copy. Contact Eric direct to order the book or any of their inspiring, action packed dvd's eric.soares@csueastbay.edu

For more info on the NZ Symposium in Feb visit http://www.mmcl.co.nz/CB2010/

Planning a February holiday now....

14 September 2009

Whitsundays 2009

Thirteen days kayaking and camping around Qld's Whitsunday Islands, exploring remote islands & hidden sea caves and fishing for watermelon. Full trip report here soon... click the link to check out some of the fun we had playing in a small tide race http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pv7yCOojrVo

Coastal Paddling - Damiano Visocnik

Evening- Damiano Visocnik

Coastal Paddling - Damiano Visocnik

01 June 2009

Playing in Moreton Bay

Starring: Smurfy, Gnarlydog, Vanilla, Mark Thurgood and Adventuretess

Graham 'Smurfy' Dredge hanging around in the chop

Our small group of kayak buddies headed out to find some action. Unfortunately, conditions were mild and a repeat of a previous surfing trip to the same area was not to be. The unknown is part of the allure of spending time in the elements - no two days are the same and you must adapt to the conditions, challenging or benign. Members of the group were still able to have some fun and practice in the chop - for me a highlight was being able to watch and learn from the most qualified Sea Kayak Instructor in Qld, as he enjoyed a rare play day.

Mark Thurgood from Qld Canoeing is currently the highest qualified instructor in Queensland: Level 3 Sea Instructor, Level 2 Whitewater Instructor, Flatwater Instructor

Nordkapp LV loves it wet and bumpy - so does the kayaker!

As conditions flattened out, our attention changed to rolling (a ritual performed on every trip). As each of us rolled under Mark's watchful eye, we greedily soaked up the observations of a pro. Like Craig McSween, Brian Towell and Rob Mercer, watching Mark Thurgood handle his kayak is like watching a well rehearsed ballet - effortless, all style and technique, no tricks or fireworks - just complete unity with the kayak and water. I have heard the theory that any roll that gets you up is a good roll, but watching Mark (and the others) inspires me - When I grow up, I want to be just like them!
Til next time...

23 May 2009

Pool Play

Feb 2009

After a frustrating morning repeatedly failing my roll, I decided to hit the pool with the video camera to try and discover the problem. Having footage of myself helps me to identify what I am doing right and what I need to change. These low res images taken from the video are to demonstrate what I mean. Looking at them I can see exactly what I am doing, not just what I think I'm doing. Filming yourself is an invaluable tool, give it a try!

18 May 2009

Currumbin Fun

Starring: Adventuretess, Gnarlydog, Vanilla, 30Knot Melt, Gillian, Papa Smurf & Playboat Allan

'Smurf in the Surf ', learning to brace
Heading out of the creek mouth, a dozen surfers were close to the point catching the breakers wrapping around the rocks. Our small group headed for the longer breaking swell to the north. With a reputation for carnage, today conditions at Currumbin 'Alley' were perfect for playing and learning on long gentle waves. The day was Graham's first in his new Assateague - in true Aussie style, he quickly gained the nickname 'Papa Smurf' because of its bright blue colour. Despite warnings that conditions would be small and ideal for beginners, Allan optimistically brought his playboat along. Not having much luck out the back, Allan left us to play in the break closer to shore, displaying enviable boat control skills learned through a strong whitewater background.
Never afraid to try new things it came as no surprise to see Vanilla surfing a wave next to Gnarlydog, trying to video all the action with the camera clutched in his teeth!
We all had to work hard to get onto the waves but once on everyone had good rides, some on the same wave, some almost holding hands... Every now and then a big wave rolled through providing a more exciting ride or for the unprepared, the opportunity to high brace or try a roll.

Small strong waves perfect for brace & launch practice
As the swell flattened out, we ended the day close to shore with Papa Smurf practicing braces. The improvement in Grahams confidence and skills proving the change from a 'stable' plastic rudder boat to a glass skeg kayak was the right choice for him.

30 April 2009

The Edge

Noel Davis, Hearts Gone Walkabout

It's scary and breathtaking living at the edge of your life
just you, the edge and the vast unknown
and echoing down the valley of your heart
the constant call to trust

Yet how quickly that edge becomes a settled place without an echo
a niche to line and realign until you feel satisfied
lulled into complacency by the now safe 'edge'
til your peace is undermined by a new awareness
out beyond the edge of who we have become.

19 April 2009

Cleaning Out the Sinuses

An awesome day playing with the guys between Moreton and Bribie Islands.

Starring - Adventuretess, Vanilla, Gnarlydog, Andrew, Graham, Paul and Danger Eddie.

It was joyful to see 7 kayaks getting tossed about in the messy waves. Still kicking myself that I didnt capture on film Vanilla's rise, fall, dip, dive and brace on a large wave or Danger Eddie's backsurf-stern rudder with a flip on another biggie.

best viewed in HQ mode , full screen (tabs at bottom of window above)
Most impressive kayaker of the day for me was Graham D - well done man!!!
We all finished the session by clearing out the sinuses trying to earn icecreams (3 successful rolls in a row and you get an icecream). No one did 3 - they all did MORE! Hats off to Andrew who did a different roll each time.
Had lots of fun and surprisingly, I did not fail 1 roll - successfully rolling with inuit style paddle and wing paddle and also successful re-enter and roll, thanks to Paul W for simple,clear tuition - it made all the difference.

15 April 2009

Team Red Easter at Girra

Starring: Adventuretess, Gnarlydog, Silverfox, Vanilla, Sean and Mini-me

The magnetic pull of granite slabs lured Team Red (plus 4) over steep mountain ranges, past lush paddocks and trendy wineries to Girraween National Park. Passing campsites heaving with 4wd and shiny new camp gear it was obvious the forecast rainy weather had not deterred the holiday hordes. Always preferring remote experiences, Team Red (plus 4) spent the following days off track exploring prehistoric granite cracks and hidden waterholes around the park. All styles of navigation were used with varying success; map & compass, GPS and 'rock compass'. Vanilla demonstrated crafty skill, creating leg saving gaiters for Mini-me using the sleeves of a t'shirt and a shoe lace. Mini-me has declared photographs of her wearing said gaiters 'not for publication', but if you close your eyes and imagine what a Khazakstani fashion student would create as leggings for male strippers - you'll be halfway there. There are an abundance of orchids and mushrooms growing in the park. A surprise discovery hidden in the fields was a rare, edible type of mushroom (please do not go out and pick and eat field mushrooms without expert advice - you can die). The pace over the weekend was relaxed, the environment lush and scenic and the company enjoyable. For images from another successful Team Red (plus 4) weekend http://www.flickr.com/photos/gnarlydog/3440695356/in/set-72157600724215182/

06 April 2009

Sea Kayak Rescue Techniques

K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Sweetheart)

Had the opportunity to try out a new assisted rescue being touted as 'revolutionary' in kayak circles. Each time I've attempted it I have found it complicated, time consuming and injured the rescuer and the rescuee. Having said that, I will await detailed instructions from an 'expert' before totally dissing it. After all, there is no 1 way to paddle, roll or rescue. In the meantime, I'll stick with the fast and simple assisted rescues I currently use.

I found this great link with videos for assisted and self rescues as well as rolls and more. http://www.qajaq.no/technique.asp?id=15
KAMERATREDNING translates to assisted rescue and EGENREDNING is for self rescue - you can figure the rest out as you go.

Peel Island Overnight

Ultralight Style

Team Ultralight - Darren, Graham, Vanilla (paddling with a stick), Gnarlydog & Adventuretess

We headed over to Peel Island late in the afternoon with the goal of camping overnight ultra-light style - no tents, minimal gear (but taking all required safety equipment). We first undertook this trip last Winter and I was keen to see how inventive the Summer crew would be by comparison. After flooding rain and high winds earlier in the week, the weather had settled for enjoyable paddling conditions.

Adjusting our course to allow for the incoming tidal flow, we swiftly paddled toward the western side of Peel Island as the sun set behind us. The last time I paddled over in the evening, we had following sea and breaking waves. The conditions this evening were extremely mild which was a bonus for those on the team experiencing their first night paddle. Reaching Peel, we continued up the western side, the tide just high enough to traverse the extended shallows surrounding the Island. Panicked bait fish jumped around us in the shallow water alerting us to the fact that bigger fish were just out of sight. In the early evening darkness we could still see the sandy bottom with the occasional patch of rock or coral.

Darren quitely advised us that we had company. It was thrilling to see the dorsal fins of sharks slicing through the water, keeping pace with us as we headed north. I wonder about the size of the dorsal fin in relation to the size of the shark. Staying close for a short time, they disappeared as we began heading around the top of the Island.

Silver clouds lined the night sky filtering the light of the small moon. Without the use of torches our eyes adjusted and we were able to safely paddle around neptunes obstacles and at times in the shallows, could see through the water to the bottom of the bay. Arriving at Platypus in the darkness, the group were keen to set up their makeshift accomodations, all but 1 choosing to camp close to the beach hoping to evade biting insects. Later in the evening, retiring to our tentless shelters after enjoying a gourmet happy hour surrounded by citronella candles & candle lanterns, the stillness of the night was broken by the sound of strong wind sweeping toward us across the bay. This was followed soon after by heavy rain, giving tentless & shirtless campers a reprieve from the relentless biting insects.


Rising in the morning, the bay was busy with yachts scampering for home as the wind changed from ENE to a stiff southerly. Packing up the ultralight camp did not take long. On the water soon after the turn of the tide, our group headed south west to allow the light wind and the flow of the outgoing tide to assist our passage crossing to Cleveland Point. Passing Horseshoe, a protected bay usually filled with yachts and boaties, only 1 boat remained at anchor. As we paddled, the wind dropped until it was barely 5 - 10knots. Stopping just past the south western reef protecting Peel, a few kayaks turned upside down and right way up successfully, one volunteering to be rescued.

The paddle back to Cleveland was a kayak sailors dream, it was a shame that none of us had our sails on! The flow was strong as we reached Cleveland Point, the water distinctly changing from sea green to mission brown. Once across the bommies into Raby Bay, the flow and wind diminished but the murky water discouraged further rolling. All 5 returned with more good memories and a few mozzie bites. I highly recommend ultralight Summer camping on Peel, but would also recommend taking a mosquito net to sleep in.

Images Damiano Visocnik & Tess Dodd

Umina Beach NSW

16 March 2009

Weekend on the Surfside of Bribie Island

Bribie Island Surfside
(3 days before the oil spill)

Starring: Adventuretess, Vanilla, Gnarlydog, Andrew, Sean, 30knot Melt & Danger Eddie.

The plan was to paddle up the outside of Bribie Island to camp on the more remote northern end, playing in swell and surf along the way. I was hopeful for conditions to test my new Nordkapp LV, but I learned a long time ago that pursuing outdoor interests requires no expectations and a flexible attitude to accommodate changes in weather, gear and personalities. On this trip it was all good, if a little bit small – the surf, not the personalities!

A gentle southerly on our backs and the assistance of a brisk outgoing tide ensured the group reached Woorim within an hour of launching from Bongaree. Approaching the flagged public swimming beach, we were chaperoned to the outside of the designated swimming area by enthusiastic lifesavers in orange rubber duckies, who should be congratulated on their ability to effuse authority while wearing zinc and speedos!

Enjoying the conditions but always considering options, on water discussion soon turned to Sundays forecast 30knot easterly wind and 2m swell. There was semi-serious discussion about taking advantage of the forecast by altering the trip plan to head east to the northern beaches of Moreton Island to camp instead. The group consensus was to stick with the original plan, so we continued our foray north.

The vibe in the group was relaxed and fun with members of the group cooling off rolling in the warm glassy water. With little wind and still protected by distant Moreton Island, the swell was well below the forecast size but every now and then a beautiful larger set would roll through sending kayakers scurrying to try and catch them before they dumped noisily onto the beach. The time spent learning to quickly manoeuvre kayaks was rewarded here.

Further north, a notable difference to previous winter trips here was the number of 4wd’s on the beach. There were dozens. We found out later during an afternoon beach walk, the 4 wheel drivers were as pleased to share the beach with pedestrians as we were with them. A mix of locals and tourists, some even shouting ‘Welcome to Bribie’ in French at us as they sped past us on the beach!

Anticipating a late lunch at camp, the rest of the group stayed offshore while our intrepid ‘scout’ Sean braved the Bribie dumpers to investigate prospective campsites. Relaunching, Sean surprised us all, himself included, with his amazing flexibility as he was pounded by an unexpectedly powerful set – few sea kayakers can bend backwards onto the deck of their kayaks like that without the need for chiropractic intervention, and no one got a photo!

On finding the perfect campsite, we were all quickly off the water without incident; although you might spot Melt at ‘Sunglasses Hut’ – no matter how many times they go into the sea, sunnies just don’t float!

Beachcombing, chilling and pipi hunting filled the early afternoon. Graham (aka Vanilla), the groups most experienced hunter-gatherer offered tips on locating pipis along the beach. Being the daughter of a keen surf fisherman, to find bait for dad while he fished, I was taught the ‘pipi twist’, but Vanilla’s system expended less energy and yielded better results. Perhaps the ‘twist’ was my dad’s way of wearing me out?

The small waves getting stronger on the incoming tide, Melt and Eddie returned

to the surf for some playtime.

best viewed in HQ mode

Later with the pipi’s soaking to purge them of sand, happy hour was enjoyed together in the dunes, sharing good company and an autumn water views. The beach ‘highway’ was quiet as the incoming tide sent the 4wd’s home, the only activity now provided by nature. There was much action in the sea as large marine life thrashed around close to shore and flocks of birds dived hungrily into schools of fish further out. The mozzies were also hungry, attacking bare and unprotected skin with vigour, prompting discussion on the development of new repellents and mozzie proof clothing.

Sunday’s forecast indicated our return trip against the tide could include a strong headwind, so the group rose early to return south. Taking turns to launch, Melt got the most surf ‘facials’ with nearly every wave breaking on him while Andrew lost, then recovered his hat mid surf zone.

A messier swell today was not as enjoyable to catch although the shoreline was still fun for some to play in. The current was strong and our progress slow, stopping for a snack at the beacon we were quickly pushed back along the beach from where we had just paddled.

The slower pace allowed us to talk and plan future practice sessions in the surf. Near Woorim there was a sand barge shooting a massive stream of sand into the water just beyond the shark nets. We toyed with the feasibility of paddling under the sand arch when the stream stopped and the barge headed off to dredge more. Woorim was busy with plenty of swimmers and SOFTs (Sit On Flat Top kayaks) in the water. Paddling close to shore we observed schools of mullet darting through the shallow water while sky divers skilfully plummeted toward targets on the beach. The sand barges efforts have created a wave that rolls right into the swimming area from beyond the markers. If it was a little further north or south, it would have been perfect to surf. Once past the designated swimming area we were once again joined by our friends in the orange rubber duck who chastised some of us (no names) for taking a ‘shortcut’.

Bribie Island is a sea kayaking delight providing conditions suitable for all level of kayakers. With the damage from recent Moreton Island oil spill, I hope it isn’t long before the ocean side of Bribie returns to the pristine environment we enjoyed this weekend.

Images by Eddie Safarik and Damiano Visocnik

23 February 2009