I get asked this a lot. Friends say ‘why do you need to get qualifications?. You’re not competing are you?’
Well, no, but…
If you take look at Derrick’s interview with Freya at Quixotica, she talks about never bothering with grades and BCUs and clubs. I guess, I’ve been to sea more times by myself than with the NSW Seakayaking Club, completely unsanctioned. As a lowly Grade 2, I can’t do sea trips with the club without a suitable trip leader or instructor. Fair enough. The club has a duty of care and a need to maintain standards. But really I don’t need the club or any skills recognition. When I was in the surf club, I routinely paddled a surf ski along the coast, without a guide, a map, paddle float, whistle or pfd. In fact I paddled armed only with a pair of Speedos. So why, at 45, is the club so important to me?
When I was young I involved myself in all manner of dangerous pursuits: motocross, abseiling, shooting and anything that took my fancy. These days I’m a whole lot more cautious to the point of inaction most times. The club makes me engage with my sport even when I’m not paddling. The grading system makes me set goals to get to levels I’d otherwise not get. The biggest advances I’ve made in skill have all occurred during club activities like Rock n Roll and training.
Freya Hoffmeister is a driven woman who can naturally set and achieve huge goals. I wish I had some of that but in truth, I don’t. I still have the need and desire to be at those limits, to push myself and experience something most people don’t see but if I don’t surround myself in all the cultural baggage of kayaking, I just won’t do it. I suspect most members of the club are like that even though we can boast a good nucleus of impressive adventurers.
I think I’m as good a paddler as half the members of the club in terms of straight ability but that’s only a small part of the kayaking equation. The real part, the hardest part is doing the time. My paddle resume is pretty short. I’ve had some nasty experiences and done a heap of miles but so far I’ve been to very few places and done very few trips. The only way to change that is to commit to the club because I just won’t do it myself.
So good luck Freya, as you set out to circumnavigate Australia. It’s pretty exciting but I really think you don’t know what you’re getting into. I guess Paul Caffyn has been of singular help but Australia is not like Europe, America or even New Zealand. It’s a bastard of a place. Everything wants to kill you, even the sun, and nobody lives along most of the coastline. When you’re paddling the Bight, nobody will be there. Nobody. You may as well be paddling on the moon. You can’t walk for help if you find a place to land because there’s nothing for hundreds and thousands of miles. You will just have to march or die. I intend to watch your progress and cheer you on because even at my age it’s good to have someone to admire and this adventure will be in the back of my mind when I set out for somewhere more prosaic one Sunday morning.