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