Member Profile [22]

Max & Sheila Newman

By Leigh Hemmings

In their 60s, Max and Sheila’s energy and enthusiasm for the outdoors come across strongly. There’s an innate love for preservation of wild places, of local conservation, and a sense of fun and good fortune at being alive to it all. The exquisitely hand crafted model of a Greenland skin kayak which has pride of place in their home gives you a clue about Max and Sheila’s most recent kayaking experience. (See next issue of NSW Sea Kayaker) but they began with local trips.

I asked about life before sea kayaking. Max it turns out was the catalyst for their shared paddling adventures since he has a background of adventure travel trips. Ten years of Himalayan trekking and white water rafting gave him a good grounding in outdoor experiences. And while Max started off Sheilas paddling (they went courting in a kayak on Myall Lakes) a son of a friend started Max off by inveigling him into the Hawkesbury Classic. That Max’s partner was 25 years his junior didnt seem any bother. Max and Sheila now regularly compete in the classic. (This year was Max’s 5th and Sheila’s 4th.)

Asking them why they go sea kayaking you get an inkling of their personal philosophy as well as their enjoyment of being together. Akin with many paddlers, the feeling of being in love with life and at the same time being able to share silence, total isolation and freedom were motivating factors which they both feel just as strongly today. And there’s that sense of space tinged with excitement which grips them each time they launch the boat and head off — be it in south west Tasmania or on the Spit to paddle across the Harbour for breakfast. It is in the latter supposedly ‘civilised’ sort of paddle where you sense their enjoyment of the known mixed with the unknown. It might be a harbour surrounded by nearly 4 million people, but there is still a sense of being alone and slightly vulnerable.

Max and Sheila still have their first boat (an Estuary Twin), but it has been joined in the garage rack by a Tasman Twin. The Tasman they rate as an excellent dry boat, fast paddling with good storage. Also tucked away is a folding boat, the Amphibian 11 (designed by Peter Poole), a purpose purchase for a very special trip– Bathurst Harbour in south west Tasmania.

The Bathurst Harbour trip was mentioned by both as providing two memorable sea kayaking experiences. Firstly when they were kayaking on what seemed like molten glass, then were later dismissively pushed back over the same water when the famous west coast weather let loose. Max and Sheila also nominated paddling in the ice fields of Greenland (see next issue) and sunsets on the Great Barrier Reef as some of their most wonderful sea kayaking times. Not so wonderful was a rugged experience off Hook Island.

Max and Sheila always paddle as a team, they regard this as essential to utilise each other’s strengths. Sheila has a much greater sense of direction (she steers from the front), while Max is stronger. Naturally both would encourage others of their age and younger to take up sea kayaking. They rate the activity as inexpensive and practical, using boats which are easy to handle and have low upkeep. Paddling, they say, gives them a feeling of strength as well as helping to maintain their fitness and health. This is not to give the idea of a pair of fitness fanatics who live at the gym prior to major paddling trips. I asked about the preparation for their Greenland trip and was told they had done a lot of gardening!

As for likes and dislikes on trips –they would both like to know why no-one has yet designed a spray deck that doesn’t leak! If they could have found it, such a skirt would have made it onto their personal essentials trip list. This is now a padded seat, Pelican box (for cameras), Mars bars and a Goretex hat made by Outdoor Research.