Well Met Geoff Burke

09 Feb
Well Met Geoff Burke

Geoff Burke

The people you meet, eh. Over the last few weeks the Hunter Kayak Klan has gained a few new members. Some are complete or near beginners but a few are some gnarlier sea dogs with plenty of stories to tell. Some belong to the Central Coast Canoe Club where racing kayaks keep them hard. I had my first paddle with these blokes a few weeks ago when we paddled from Norah Head to Bird Island and back. Pretty routine coastal trip really but on a stretch of coast I’ve not paddled before and with new company. One of these was a chap visiting from the UK by the name of Geoff Burke. At first glance, Geoff looked like a beginner due to the fact he was in all borrowed gear which seemed to make him look decidedly ad hoc. Appearances can be deceiving because this bloke can paddle.

It wasn’t until last Sunday when Geoff’s quality really stood out. We paddled from Catherine Hill Bay to Spoon Rocks, a routine local paddle against some excellent cliffs with gauntlets and cutaways. Geoff hugged the cliffs and rode the rebound with an effortless confidence while the rest of us stood back. It occurred to me that Geoff was still alive and that going in there with him might be fun. So I did. It made a huge difference to my confidence to be in that mess with someone who could obviously paddle and I found I was tuning in to the movement of the water. I could feel an immediate skill upgrade. Not skill in paddling but skill in kayaking. There’s a difference. I learnt no new strokes or techniques but rather I learnt to merge with the boat. The distance between paddler and boat was removed and I just knew I was fine. My enjoyment of the trip really escalated. I’ve paddled this coast many times but never with such control.

When we returned to Catho, we had to do a beach landing on a shore break with a crowded beach. Most landed without incident but I was struck in the back by two large breaking waves and though I had no problem, they really spooked the timing out of me. I moved up the beach away from the crowd and tentatively crept back in. My landing was pinpoint and perfectly timed but my surf confidence had abandoned me. Now, I can surf a kayak, no problem. I totally knew it was my confidence but couldn’t overcome its loss.

Geoff asked to borrow my boat which I was only too pleased to hand over. He then entertained us with some beautiful surfing complete with a perfectly controlled endo, a surf roll and a precision landing. An amazing performance that left us astounded.  But I can do this. I’ve done it before and in bigger surf. I should have gone out there with him but didn’t. I was privately angry with myself for this failure of confidence and it still bugs the hell out of me. It was a critical lesson. I have most of the same skills as Geoff but the difference is that he KNOWS he can do it every time and I don’t. I want to punch myself in the head. Such a promising improvement as a kayaker only to be given another obstacle to overcome and a hard one.

Ten minutes after Geoff’s display he informs me in a pretty matter-of-fact way that he and some mates once set the record for paddling across the North Sea but didn’t know, or seem to care, if it had been beaten. Gawd, I’ve got some work to do.


Posted by on February 9, 2011 in Kayaking Life


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4 responses to “Well Met Geoff Burke

  1. Fat Paddler

    February 10, 2011 at 1:53 pm

    Don’t beat yourself up Brad, we’re all human! The fact is before you lost your nerve you were exceeding previous limitations and having a ball whilst doing so. Life is a series of highs and lows, good times and bad, yin and yang. The important thing is you are out there living it. 🙂

  2. Simon McGuire

    February 10, 2011 at 3:32 pm

    Nothing like a good couple of uppercuts to wake us Brad. I have needed a few over the years.

  3. John Anderson

    February 10, 2011 at 10:24 pm

    It was certainly a pleasure to paddle and chat with Geoff. I look forward to catching up with him next time he’s over or next time I’m over there.

    Confidence is a strange thing. You have to admit though, the ocean is a cruel mistress but she does have a sense of humour 🙂

  4. Geoff Burke

    February 11, 2011 at 10:55 pm

    Thanks for your comments Brad you flatter me…..but my insanity goes a long way back. It must have been something pretty hairy to have given your confidence such a hammering. From where I sat on the 2 trips I have paddled with you, your experience and kayak handling skills were self evident…..get back on that horse and kick ass mate!!!
    Many thanks for the warm welcome and hospitality you guys have show me throughout my stay, I will stay in touch via the Klan and hope to make it back over soon. If any of you guys are daft enough to come over to the UK, we will make you most welcome …just drop me a line…John let me know when you are coming, I can’t guarantee I can warm up the icy North Sea though!!! Thanks again folks


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