A prevailing attitude in our klan is the desire to advance our kayaking skills with a particular emphasis on Sea Skills. As a result of our determination, Rob Mercer and Mark Sundin of Expedition Kayaks sponsored a weekend of tailored tuition at Umina beach at Broken Bay. This spot is perfect for sea kayaking as it gives ready access to a wide range of conditions from rebounding heavy swell to surfing and picturesque river cruises. Our relationship with Expedition Kayaks is becoming almost symbiotic. As our klan grows, we generate business and in return we get access to great gear and awesome instructors. I’ve written before about how kayaking businesses and the paddling community are vitally interlocked and our relationship with EK is almost like a benchmark. EK is our shop. Sure we buy from other stores but when we want the elite kit we call them. In return for our business and promotion we get unbelievable service and advice as well as friendship.
I can’t tell you how excited this weekend has made me. I don’t get away as much as I’d like and on the drive down in my fully packed Volvo I had the windows down and Kiss blaring at full volume from the iPod. The Ocean Beach Holiday Park at Umina is the perfect venue for camping as well as kayaking with great facilities and location. When Rob arrived we were disappointed to discover that the sea was as flat as a pancake with barely a ripple. So much for sea skills training. Anyhow…
On Saturday morning we all departed for Box Head, a notorious rebound site where Rob planned to drill us in a variety of skills. We were met with a gentle swell and glassy conditions. After a few assisted rescues, which we did well enough, alarm bells started ringing. Sea Sickness! In me! I’ve never been sea sick and I couldn’t believe it started now. I left the group momentarily for a quick spew. Rob was on top of this as his trained eye could see my bowed head and slow movement. I was OK for a while but after we headed back around the headland, I got worse and hosed my spray deck with a tasty melange of beans and pikelets. Yummy. Rob called us into Lobster Beach, a pretty little sandy retreat just inside Broken Bay. Here, after resting, John Anderson gave me two concentrated ginger tablets that exploded like mini nukes in my mouth causing sufficient discomfort to forget all about sea sickness. Thanks John. Worked a treat. While we were having our lunch, a pod of several dozen dolphins entertained us with some acrobatics and fish herding. Their show was enjoyed and appreciated and they left before we could get into our boats and join them.
For the rest of the afternoon, we surfed on the lengthy bar break near Ettalong and honed our skills until overcome by exhaustion. We plodded back to camp and then trotted off to the RSL club for dinner and the Bledisloe Cup which the All-Blacks won. This greatly pleased the increasingly intoxicated Sundin who annoyed everyone with his damned kiwiness. Back at camp again we sat around the campfire (Trangias) and talked shop for hours.
Sunday was even more fun as we test paddled the kayaks EK are currently selling and receive personal instruction from Mark and Rob. Being a rather large bastard, I could only fit in a couple of other boats with any chance of getting out again so I paddled the North Shore Atlantic and the Rockpool GT. Now the Rockpool is the boat of the moment with everyone raving about it and deciding to put it on their short lists. It is amazingly well fitted out but though I could fit in it easily, I found it quite uncomfortable and difficult to control as a result. This was pretty disappointing as everyone else was fighting over it and I felt like I’d missed out on something special. I’d like to have another crack at it but set up the seat and foot rest for a better fit.
All was not lost, however, as the North Shore fit me like a glove and performed like a dream. It’s a bit like my Impex but in a coupe version. It is tight around my hips and thighs without pinching or cramping and has amazing secondary stability. I would own this thing in a second and might yet. In fact, paddling this boat momentarily made me regret buying the Assateague and I had to get back into it to make sure. Nope. The Assateague is still my perfect boat. It has more volume than the North Shore and is not as nimble but it fits perfectly and handles nearly as well. I still love you, blue.
Exhaustion took over again and we called it a weekend. A perfect weekend. The klan bonded and improved, we heard loads of stories and just enjoyed the kayaking life. It’s why we paddle and why we got into this in the first place.