Coast Busters Sea Kayak Symposium [34]

Shakespeare Bay, New Zealand

By John Wilde

I was invited to attend this symposium by Vincent Maire, founder of the Auckland Sea Kayak Network. I was asked to present the Key-note address for Saturday evening on Adventure Kayaking, workshops on safety, based around the Lyme Bay incident in U.K., talk briefly about paddling venues in Australia, and to chair discussion on a series of practical rescue scenarios that took place with all participants on the Sunday morning. A fair work load!

This was my first visit to New Zealand, and I was impressed. What a friendly crowd they are. From meeting Peter Sornmerhalder of Auckland Canoe Centre, my chauffer for the weekend to catching up with all the committee who put the event together and meeting some of the greats of Sea Kayaking, such as Paul Caffyn, I had a ball. Despite some problems with the weather (it rained and blew like I haven’t seen in Australia for a long time) the whole event ran very well, though there were a few head-aches for the committee as they had to reschedule practical sessions around the weather pattern.

From ‘Ancient Mauri methods of navigation and weather prediction’ to sea kayak slides of trips ranging from Turkey to New Caledonia to ‘Modern electric helpers’ and all things between few issues or areas were left untouched.

lllere were-practical sessions for all skills levels, and the three hour scenario practical saw close to a hundred paddlers on the water. A note here, New Zealanders don’t like carrying kayaks, instead they use a nifty device on a set of wheels and watching them approach the beach reminded me more of a golf tournament than a sea seminar, as they pull their little carts behind them. Another gadget for the ‘Old Sea Dog’ to investigate.

One of the funniest sessions I saw was Rebecca Heaps ‘Essential Sea Kayaking’ what to take on a trip, how to pack it, what gear is essential, where is the margin between comfort and survival. That lady could survive a nuclear holocast from her sea kayak, no wonder she needs a trolley to move her boat around, but beware Dave Winkworth, she carries things you haven’t dreamt of taking in your kayak.

There were serious sessions from Paul Caffyn on handling extreme sea conditions, topics such as planning overseas trips and even issues of campsite access and fees for use of facilities were hot topics, as sea kayaking has become so popular in some parts of New Zealand that pressure is mounting on land use.

A large marquee was set up for trade displays and many boats and products were available for sale and testing. The Albatross is a popular Auckland designed boat, with a very user friendly hull design, but unfortunately the cockpit is so hight at the front that it is difficult to stay in to roll. The designer does hope to have the boat manufactured in Sydney soon, but the fore-deck needs some re-modelling to be sea worthy. Another boat of note is the plastic Perception ‘Sea Lion’, a new boat on the market with excellent comfort and handling characteristics, probably best for the Novice to Intermediate paddler. This will also be available shortly in Australia.

A gadget that a number of paddlers may be interested in is a waterproof, mini size V.H.F. radio Uniden HH 940, ideal for inter-party communication or emergency coast-guard contact in popular areas. Having only the week before, attempted to rescue my friend Nick Kalma, and failed, I bought two on principle. Many New Zealand paddlers now keep these clipped to the front of their buoyancy aid for general communication. I have yet to investigate how effective they are in Australia but is many countries you can receive up tO date, accurate weather conditions and predictions on given weather channels.

They are not currently available in Australia but in New Zealand they can be obtained from Michael Swift, 33 Chorley Avenue, Massey Auckland for $348 N.Z. plus sales tax and postage to Australia. Weighing 235 grams they are not an encumbrance.

I would like to thank Vince and his committee for inviting me over, and providing such a friendly and informative environment. Well done New Zealand.