Queenslanders [59]

By Emma Scragg

I didn’t know where Port Stephens was before the day we turned our wheels and bows southward for the Rock n Roll weekend. Originally our little intrepid band of northerners, consolidated on a trip last year paddling up Fraser Island amongst whales, dolphins and turtles and the odd sandfly, had planned a trip to Tassie. Weather and wind predictions deterred some and a bit of surfing on the web led us to the NSWSKC weekend event as a tempting alternative morsel – an alternative definition of the name of an old music style and a chance to fine tune our random paddling skills.

The band of four hairy men (beards, spikes and tufts) and two of the fairer sex arrived late on Friday night to warm greetings of “Queenslanders!!,” like the novelty we probably were. Boasting a large flotilla of plastic, glass and wood and without a Mirage in sight, we were ready for action after our long drive. The night paddle as a warm up (none of us had trained for the weekend or our week that followed) across the bay was an enlightening journey into group incohesion as we strung across the width of the water. Tiny headlights and distant houselights merged as the sea burst with lively life, jumping on our decks and into our armpits.

To make us feel at home, the skies stayed deep blue, with fluffy clouds and the ocean and dazzling beaches seemed straight out of a Whitsundays brochure with a frolicking dugong completing the picture. As Queenslanders (Brisvegas and Gympie), we were a little cautious of the cold sea temperature of the new south. Fortunately, our forced wet exits and roll attempts during workshops, supervised by patient instructors, were greeted with faces and pfds full of lukewarm saltwater.

We all voted enthusiastically for more “silly” races, rather than the more conventional testosterone-charged straightlines. The handicap race was a great spectator sport and proved to be a mental and physical challenge. Assisted by our cycling and tango-dancing prowess and interstate co-paddlers, we didn’t come last in our respective races.

We learnt other new skills out of the water, too – how to pack a kayak, the cons of high-tech safety gear, how to make a sail and how many beauty products to equip ourselves with on a Bass Strait crossing for optimum paparazzi presentation.

George’s mouth (rarely shut), John’s earth shattering groan of joy, Jaimie’s handmade boats and Cait’s youth ensured we didn’t participate unnoticed in the activities and social events.

We’ll be back to perfect the Eskimo roll, and provide some competition (minus esky in the Rosco) for the expert doublekayak- rollers next year!