It was in 1993 in my second term as president of the NSW Sea Kayak Club that I started Natural Wanders.
In the years leading up to this I had been working in the IT industry and with shift work I seldom had weekends free to take part in our club paddles. I did, however, have the good fortune to be living on the edge of Sydney Harbour in Balmain and paddled almost every day before I started work at 3pm. On my more energetic days, I would paddle 30 kms before work. On lazy summer days I’d grab a good book and paddle off to take my pick of harbour beaches. What I did set out to do though was gradually explore every nook and cranny of Sydney Harbour. I put my plastic Puffin to good use landing in some rather precarious places at times to explore on foot. I’d paddle back to Balmain and wait for a passing trawler or ferry so I could surf a few waves off Peacock Point before putting my kayak away at the last possible moment and racing off to work late as usual.
As well as the Puffin, I also had a Tasman Twin (purchased second hand from Perc Carter a past club president) and when friends from out of town dropped by I’d take them for a paddle in the ‘Queen Mary’. A visiting friend from Germany wrote to me on their return to tell me their paddle with me on Sydney Harbour was the most memorable experience of their six months traveling in Australia. I remember it was one of those perfect, crisp winter mornings where the water was so still the eddies were like many mirrors each reflecting the harbour bridge as we paddled towards it. That really sowed the seed for starting Natural Wanders.
Twelve years have now past since starting Natural Wanders and I am still out there each weekend showing others our fantastic harbour. I count my blessings every day I am out there (well maybe not when that damn winter southerly is blowing).
Nearly twenty years have past since I took the wrapping off my new plastic Puffin and took my first tentative paddle in it from my house at East Balmain feeling very game that I’d paddled all 300m across to Pyrmont. I am still leading Natural Wanders kayak tours today in that same Puffin (a cross-linked polyethylene model). OK the bright yellow is now a rather strange mustard yellow but, hey I think I’ve got my money’s worth (it was $800 hmm that’s $40 pa ! ).
Natural Wanders today keeps me busy running the Bridge Paddle on weekends. On weekdays before my IT job starts (yep, I keep busy) we at Natural Wanders (well, that’s me mostly) run early morning Before Work paddles from my boatshed in Lavender Bay.
The Bridge Paddle is a spectacular trip and it still blows me away when I run this. It can be quite a challenging trip for a beginner so I give a fair amount of instruction before we start our paddle. As many club members are probably aware, it can get pretty choppy under the bridge at times.
I occasionally do other tours but most requests are for the Bridge Paddle so this is the predominant trip and one I really enjoy.
The Before Work paddles are aimed at local Sydney residents who can fit in a paddle before heading off to work.
Good luck with the Club, guys and thanks for this opportunity to say hello again and tell you about Natural Wanders. Hmmm, I seem to remember working through the night myself trying to get NSW Sea Kayaker magazine completed then madly folding it into envelopes at 2 am…..hey really, I’d love to help…gotta go now…….Patrick Dibben.
The Fact Box
The Bridge Paddle. A very spectacular and adventurous paddle. Starting from our base in Lavender Bay just west of the Harbour Bridge, we paddle under the bridge past the Opera House and explore the bays and beaches of Sydney’s north shore with a stop for brunch on a beautiful beach in a bushland setting before our return paddle. Total distance is 12-14kms. It’s suitable for beginners who are fit. Booking is essential. We meet at 9:00 am at Lavender Bay wharf and return there around 1pm.
Before Work paddle: A one hour guided paddle aimed to be a fun, social paddle that gets you fit and improves your kayaking skills along the way. Runs Mon-Fri meeting just before 7am at Lavender Bay wharf. These run as 8 weekly sessions.
For comprehensive details see my website www.naturalwanders.com.au.