From The President’s Deck [46]

By Rob Mercer

Many kayakers – local, interstate and overseas – are surprised when they discover we only have around 200 members. Our profile exceeds our numbers. Most clubs have a few adventurous souls and larger than life characters. We have them in abundance!

I believe our Club appears to be bigger than it really is because of the high level of voluntary participation we continue to achieve. In a highly commercial and litigious world we are an outpost of inspired amateurs, where the elite share their passion for kayaking with the rest of us. Some of these people are actually professional kayakers like Larry Gray and Dave Winkworth who generously give their time both on and off the water.

The other reason for the Club’s success lies in its ‘hands on’ approach. Outdoor clubs in general try to tackle an array of issues including political lobbying, promotion, recruitment, gear rental, legal issues, training, trips, magazine and Internet; whereas we focus only on the last four: training, trips, magazine and Internet. Events may catch up with us and this essentially activity based approach, but in the meantime let’s continue to concentrate on paddling and sharing our on water experience.

If you read several consecutive editions of the magazine you will find that there is a mixture of trip reports covering both listed trips and private expeditions. The listed trips tend to be simpler overnighters or day trips but will include some quite challenging paddles. These trips are a core Club activity. They are a stepping stone for the more ambitious, and are a fertile ground for developing partnerships or teams for larger and harder paddles. But for most of us they are an end in itself. To have successful trips you need Trip Leaders and the Club has a policy of providing the appropriate training. The recent course at Batemans Bay was well supported with twenty-one members in attendance. Thank you to all presenters and participants for an excellent weekend. You will find more on this event in a report by Andrew Eddy in this edition of the magazine. On behalf of the Committee, I offer encouragement to all Trip Leaders.

As a Trip Leader the hardest part of your role is making decisions. Decisions about who will paddle, where they will paddle and when they will paddle. Good trip planners are ever mindful of potential hazards. They base their decisions on a sound knowledge of the weather and sea conditions and design safety into their plans by knowing what their options are before they hit the water. The Trips Convener, Stuart Trueman, is always keen to list new trips. He will make an assessment of the feasibility of the proposed Float Plan, taking into account the distance and technical difficulty of the itinerary, the known skill and seamanship of the leader and the proposed paddler grading for the trip.

Some of the Club’s most strident critics believe our grading system, with its emphasis on self assessment,  leaves our leaders with all responsibility but no authority. I can see nothing in the Paddler Grading System which prevents a Trip Leader from exercising the right to exclude a paddler or paddlers for reasons of equipment, lack of skills or fitness. I also see nothing in our grading system which prevents a leader from re-grading a trip, relocating a trip, or cancelling a trip. I notice that Mick Snoad’s recent Grade 2 trip from Batemans Bay required potential starters to demonstrate genuine Grade 2 competencies immediately prior to the trip. On many other trips the leader may make a few inquiries through their network of experienced paddlers to find out about participants, or suggest the prospective kayaker accompany them on a shorter or simpler trip beforehand. These are all valid and I would support the judgment of leaders who exclude paddlers or alter itineraries based on these methods.

People often cite putting something ‘back into the Club’ as a reason for running trips. It is also a great opportunity to share your local knowledge of a favourite stretch of coast and sharpen your leadership, planning and on water skills.