Well it only took five-and-a-half years, but after being the classic miserable bastard solo kayaker for bloody yonks, I finally managed to join my first official Club trip in February this year.
Being the first to arrive in the inky darkness, I did a spot of kayak building then I completed a quick tour around Long Bay, checking out the wind outside the bay that was steadily increasing, running down several swimmers as they dived in and headed for Maroubra, and paddling for my life as Senor Presidente mounted the rocks in his 4WD and chased me down with Senora Presidente waving a paddle at me from the passenger window in what I later learned was a genuine effort to show me where the real launching point was.
Back at the beach everyone oohed and aahed and bowed to the gracious and curvaceous Hybrid III sitting atop down-filled roof racks on Grasshopper’s car, which was flicked from the roof to the beach in one gracious move, most probably due to the vessels 500 gram weight rather than the amazing dexterity of its humble creator.
This ultimately proved to be Andre’s downfall for the 18 km paddle, as the ultra light kayak levitated 4 inches above the waterline and Andre was forced to brace on a continual basis as the chop and winds spun him around. But at least it allowed me to actually keep up with him on the paddle as we discussed in length the significance of Polish sausages and Feathercraft kayaks in the current world economy.
One of the last paddlers to arrive was the highly decorated Baidarkonaut, who still confounds with that uncanny ability to snaffle the perfect car space despite being the last on the scene – a disturbing skill first witnessed by your humble Editor on Mr Eddy’s inaugural Plywood Paddling Party.
Once we were all packed and Sharon had forced us to sign our lives away in case we didn’t return, we were off and paddling onward in a semi-organised fashion.
A quick reconnaissance to the south once we struck the outside provided a tantalising taste of the wind lashing we would receive on our return paddle, and although it cannot be confirmed, Andre almost looked concerned as Hybrid III did another pirouette over the bow of my low-slung folder.
Nevertheless, the group paddled with gaiety and mirth as we spun to the north and we rode some pleasant swell and mess on our way to a beach that may have been Coogee, but my memory is vague and it could well have been Maroubra, Bondi or Palm Beach.
Nevertheless, Trip Leader Extraordinaire Mercer performed admirably as he kept us all within a close distance (despite my initial suggestion for group spread to be “anything we feel like”), and in the process easily paddled double the distance that anyone else managed as he rounded us up like startled sheep as we prepared for a smooth surf into Coogee (or wherever).
Well… a smooth surf for all but me, who performed a gracious foul-up at the end, allowing the others to work on my waterlogged beast as I managed an awkward escape from the waves. Nevertheless, my peanut butter sandwiches were dry and that was all that mattered.
And despite Andre’s and my best efforts to Kamikaze onto the rocks in Little Bay (a brilliant plan that was confounded by the sensibilities of Mr Mercer), we all managed to make it back to Long Bay where we politicked for several hours until it was time to go home. Perhaps one day I’ll make it on another Club trip, however brief, if only I can find another day away from that blasted office.