NSW Sea Kayak Club – About Training … [62]

By Training Coordinator Harry Havu

By the time this article is published, the training programme for 2005 will have been completed. So, this is a good time to look back and consider what eventuated and what we can learn from that to do better in the new year. I hope I’m not too close to the issue to make meaningful observations – but risking a slightly myopic view on the subject, my impression of the overall composition of the 2005 programme can be summarised as: an effective mix of skills training events; successfully and safely delivered to a consistent and high standard, to a large number of club members.

The Sea Skills award (our Grade 3) continues to be the main benchmark for paddlers in the Club and as such is pivotal for the set-up of the training program. The format of training delivery for it took a significant change from the previous year. While quite effective and popular with the trainees, the course in 2004 required an on-going commitment from both the participants and the instructors over many months. This year, two Sea Skills programs were delivered in compact, two-weekend packages. Of course, it is not reasonable to expect anybody to be turned from a novice to a Sea Skilled paddler in just two weekends. That is why the stand-alone modules offered throughout the year were so valuable and as a whole, formed a comprehensive program framework without forcing a large number of trainees and instructors to commit to a multi-month schedule. By picking several of the events throughout the year, club members were able to piece together a complete program to suit their schedule and needs.

Training events included specific sessions for rolling, landing and launching through surf, and forward paddling technique. For the first time, we also offered “Introduction to Sea Skills” weekends. This module is designed to introduce relative novices to the range of basic strokes and skills, which form the core of the Sea Skills award. It provides a logical first step in a learning path for a new member. As discussed above, by choosing from the stand-alone skill modules and the Sea Skills courses a fully rounded program was able to be constructed. The rest is up to the individual paddler wishing to improve his padding. Putting in the time and effort outside of club-run events is a prerequisite for improving ones ability and fitness. Experienced club members were also catered for by offering surf skills and forward paddling at the appropriate level.

The size of the Club Training programme delivered this year has been impressive: the number of trainees multiplied by number of days of training represents one measure of the magnitude of effort expended by our volunteer instructors. The figure for this year comes to 299 (note: does not include the numerous Tuesday and Thursday night training paddles put on by Rob again this year, this alone is a hugely valuable resource to club members). This measure might be repeatable enough to provide a basis for comparison in the coming years, or to other organisations. Just stop and think for a moment: this is equivalent of taking one person out to for training each working day for well over a year non-stop.

Training formats and standards easily provoke a passionate discussion in the paddling community. While there are endless permutations available to construct a training programme, the consistency, flexibility, standard of tuition and sheer volume of training delivered in 2005 makes me take my hat off to the volunteers behind making it all possible: Rob Mercer, Sharon Betteridge, Andrew Eddy, Keith Oakford, Mark Sundin, Stuart Trueman, Richard Birdsey. These club members have set a standard which is hard to maintain, but with everybody’s support we hope to repeat, or even improve on the results of 2005.

… and Grading

As some members would be aware, the Committee has been looking at ways to improve the current club paddler grading system. Feedback from trip leaders indicates that there is a need to lift the standard of Grade 2 paddlers, and to make it more consistent. Currently, paddlers are able ‘self assess’ themselves to be at Grade 2 level. It is hardly surprising then, that the actual skills and abilities of paddlers presenting themselves for Grade 2 trips vary considerably. A better-defined basis and a means of confirming that the paddler has reached this level would be useful.

Why hasn’t a new standard for Grade 2 been set yet, after some 6 months of deliberating on the issue? The initial idea was to use the AC Intro to Sea award as a basis for our Grade 2. It would provide a readily adaptable, defined standard in a similar fashion to the Sea Skills award. However, on closer examination the Intro award requirements do not seem to represent the needs of the Club. Also, the impact of delivering training and assessing members to this standard would require quite a lot of Club resources, which are precious and few – despite the fact that we (soon will) have 3 assessors (Rob, Andrew and Stuart). Your Club Committee is now sounding out the pros and cons of a new internally developed standard, and the means of determining when paddlers have reached it.

NSW Sea Kayak Club — Sharon Betteridge [62]

By Elizabeth Thomson

When I attended my first Rock’n’Roll in 2001, my first training experience was with a woman called Sharon. My first thought was how could such a petite, shy woman be a sea kayaker? But I wasn’t wondering for long. She was my rolling teacher that day and has been my kayaking role model ever since.

Sharon Betteridge is an unsung hero of the NSWSKC who tends to do extraordinary things quietly. Well, it’s time some of these things came to our attention. So read on to find out what they are!

Sharon is an all rounder. Whether it be competitive or recreational kayaking; flat water or sea kayaking; kayaking skills or kayaking stamina; or even kayak building, Sharon has attempted it and succeeded, more often than not, ahead of the pod.

In 1994 she started kayaking in her first boat, a three metre plastic Minnow. In 1995 her first sea kayak, a Mirage 17, superseded this and then in 2000 she added her homemade Baidarka 16. It is a stitch and glue boat that was made in the hallway and lounge room of her inner city terrace home. Having built her Baidarka, she decided to test run it on a short paddle from Sydney to Jervis Bay! However, typically these days she paddles a Mirage 530.

Early in her paddling career, Sharon participated in the Hawkesbury Classic — three times, coming second in her first attempt in the Open Mixed Long Rec. Double class in a Mirage Double with Rob in 1995. Not to mention her coming second in the Open Women’s in the Waggabidgee Canoe Classic in 1996. In the same year, she joined the NSWSKC and was introduced to the sea. Her first sea kayak trip was Palm Beach to Maitland Bay and her first overnight trip was Broughton Island! From this beginning she went on to tackle many of the significant and challenging paddles along the eastern coast of the mainland, Tasmania and New Zealand including the Whitsundays, far north Queensland, the NSW Central coast, the Sydney and Wollongong coastline, Honeymoon Bay to Currarong, the Murramarang coast, the Nadgee coast, the Freycinet Peninsular, Tasman Peninsula, and South Bruny Island, Marlborough Sounds, the Bay of Island and Northland.

Along with taking on the challenges of the sea, Sharon took on the task of gaining sea kayaking qualifications, receiving Sea Proficiency Certificate in 1999. In 2000, she became one of the first Club trip leaders to receive the Australian Canoeing Sea Leader Award and Level 1 Instructor Award in 2004. On the way to these awards she participated in many Club training sessions as a trainee and many of us have since been under her wing on the water in a range of contexts as a trip leader or instructor doing a wide range of skills development activities.

However, perhaps her most unsung achievement was her third trip to far north Queensland in 2004 from Cooktown to Seisia (Torres Strait) — 810kms over 23 days, averaging 41 kms per day with the longest open crossing of 60kms. She coped with tidal currents, winds, big seas, sharks, crocodiles, sandflies and group dynamics, graciously explaining, “Despite the remoteness, the sheer length of the trip, individual personalities and our different paddling speeds, a common goal of commitment to the trip and to each other, combined with an ability to have a good time meant we were able to work together harmoniously”. Most women whom I know wouldn’t have had the skills or resolve to manage such a trip. And that’s why she is my role model.

So thanks, Sharon. Thanks for paving the way for more women in the Club. Thanks for being the quiet achiever making it easier for the rest of us to join in. And thanks for your loyal support of the NSWSKC over the years. You qualify as one of our new Old Farts!

NSW Sea Kayak Club – Pain Alternatives [62]

By Sally Jacobs – Sport and Remedial Therapist

Many people struggle to understand their injuries or know who to turn to for help. The purpose of this article is to help you differentiate between various types of injuries and the different types of treatments available.

Chronic verses Acute Injuries

Chronic Injuries can be defined as persistent injuries with an insidious onset. The injury develops over time and is a result of a range of factors which include our postural habits, the physical stresses we place on our bodies, nutrition, hydration and stress. The human body is not designed to remain in the same posture for several hours a day. Doing so will create imbalances in muscle function and altered posture, which in turn increase stress on joints and other tissues, leading to pain and dysfunction. Examples include chronic musculo skeletal pain, tendonitis, bursitis and Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI). We often fail to seek treatment until the odd twinge or recurring injury become regular fixtures in our lives. The longer the injury exists, the longer it will take to resolve, so taking action early can save a lot of pain, frustration and money.

Acute Injuries arise out physical trauma, they include fractures, dislocations, open wounds etc. The coverage of these injuries in this article will be limited as they all require the same treatment protocol, being first aid and, depending on the injury, may require medical attention followed by physiotherapy.

Symptoms indicate which tissue is involved, it can be one or all of those listed below, in varying degrees of severity, and more than one tissue may be involved.

Nerve impingement:

Nerve impingement refers to pressure placed on a nerve or nerve root by surrounding tissue which may be bone, disc, muscle or fascia. Hernias and tumours can also increase pressure on nerves. Symptoms include numbness, tingling, pins and needles, weakness and sometimes a degree of loss of control of an affected limb. It is for example, impingement of the sciatic nerve that leads to a temporary numbness in the buttocks, legs and feet when you are paddling, caused by muscles tightening around the nerve. This may be due to poor technique, poor posture or poor boat fit, for example, due to direct pressure from the seat or having the foot rests too far back. You might ask an instructor to check your form and boat. Stretching the gluteal muscles and sports/remedial massage can help prevent and relieve these symptoms. However, if the symptoms persist after the activity which caused them has ceased, or they recur frequently, then medical advice should be sought. Your doctor may then recommend that you see an osteopath, chiropractor or physiotherapist.

Numbness in peripheral areas such as fingers or toes, or around the mouth can also be indicative of a viral inflammation or a metabolic disorder and should be discussed with your doctor.

Nerve impingement is often neglected as the symptoms are not severe enough to prompt action, yet it can be a precursor to nerve inflammation, a very painful and serious condition.

Nerve inflammation

An impinged nerve can become inflamed. The inflammation further increases pressure on the effected nerve and causes its dysfunction. This is symptomised by sudden sharp shooting or stabbing pain, which follows the nerve pathway, therefore it tends to radiate from an epicentre to another part of the body, for example, along a limb. It can cause muscle spasms and reduced function in the affected limb. In both nerve impingement and inflammation, the symptoms can occur with or without movement but are often worsened by specific positions. Sciatica, for example, is inflammation of the sciatic nerve and causes pain down the side and back of the leg, the inner thigh and into the foot. Viral infections such as Shingles also cause nerve inflammation.

Nerve inflammation can be excruciating. You should seek medical advice as soon as possible as permanent nerve damage can result if the cause is untreated.

Muscle spasms and strains

In the absence of an impact or accident, very few musculo skeletal injuries are “sudden”. They occur as a result of long term muscle tension, often brought about by remaining in one position for several hours a day, that is, sitting at a computer. A wry neck (torticollis) is an excellent example, where a normal neck movement can result in agonising pain and restricted movement.

When muscles remain in a state of prolonged contraction, blood flow through the tissue is restricted, thus reducing the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to the muscle and impeding the removal of metabolic wastes. Surrounding connective tissues and the nerves which run through the muscle are also affected; adhesions form in the myofascia – the slippery gel like connective tissue that is integral to the muscle tissue. The fascia not only provides the tensile strength of the muscle but also acts as a lubricating surface to facilitate the smooth glide of muscles and other tissues over each other. Adhesions in the fascia account for many of the postural changes which occur in our bodies and a significant amount of pain in musculo skeletal injury. Pain can refer through the fascia, resulting in a variety of symptoms from sharp jabbing pain on movement to burning and tingling. The latter is a result of nerve sensitisation caused by the fascia and or muscle impinging on the nerve endings and a build up of metabolic wastes in the tissue. Trig points form in the muscle, areas of hyper reflexivity in which dysfunctional nerve function will cause muscles to spasm, and shorten, thus reducing the normal range of motion. Any attempt to lengthen the muscle or achieve normal range of motion will evoke a “stretch reflex” which leads to increased spasm and pain. In this state the muscle is highly susceptible to injury through sudden movements or loads, and stretching should be avoided.

Before you get to the stage where you are experiencing the symptoms above, you will receive plenty of clues that all is not well. Over a period of time you will experience dull muscular aches, stiffness and muscle fatigue that is likely to be worse in the morning due to the build up of toxins overnight. Pain tends to dissipate as activity increases. These are signs that you need to take action! At this stage applying heat to the area and remedial massage can restore normal function and prevent injury. If you choose to leave it until you are unable to move without significant pain then you will need a longer course of intensive treatment. Regular massage and preventative exercises such as Yoga and Pilates can increase your performance and prevent injury.

Care should be taken if you have an injury – don’t forget most muscle injuries are overstretch injuries so seek advise from a sports massage therapist or physio before taking up new activities.

Acute muscle injury

If redness, swelling, turgidity or bruising are present as well as loss of or reduced function, massage and heat are contra indicated and can cause further damage. It is unlikely these will occur without some form of trauma, so the principles of acute injury management apply: first aid and see either a doctor or physiotherapist.

Tendon injuries (strains)

Tendons are the inelastic ends of the muscle which attach muscle to bone. A torn tendon will usually result in spasm of the muscle with corresponding pain and reduced function of the muscle and joint. The symptoms usually occur at the time of the trauma and, as with any acute injury, will worsen as the inflammation sets in. The tendon may be tender to touch, and there may be some swelling. It is important to see a doctor or physiotherapist for early treatment as you risk a permanent reduction or loss of function without judicial treatment.

Important! Do not stretch the muscle if any of the above symptoms are present. Seek treatment.

One of the problems arising out of tendon injuries long after the pain has gone is a perceived weakness. You may have badly sprained an ankle and found thereafter, that you roll the ankle for no good reason, that is, on perfectly flat ground. The likely cause of this is damage to the proprioceptors in the tendon which relay spatial information pertaining to the limb to the brain. When these receptors are damaged, the brain doesn’t know where your foot is in space, so that you may be putting your foot down on its side rather than the sole, hence you keep rolling your ankle. Special exercises are required to re-program the proprioceptor cells to prevent the injury recurring over and over again. A physiotherapist will be able to provide this information.

Tendonitis is inflammation of the tendon which usually arises out of excess friction of the tendon due to poor biomechanical function. This in turn may cause impingement of the tendon as is common in rotator cuff injuries of the shoulder. Pain and stiffness occurs on movement and there is usually restricted range of motion due to the pain. The tendon can feel tender or bruised to touch and, as with most inflammatory conditions, pain is worse after rest. This injury requires immediate attention. It will not self resolve. Stop any activity which exacerbates the pain and see a physiotherapist. They may refer you to a sports massage therapist for adjunctive treatment. Acupuncture can also be effective in treating tendonitis, but you should have the problem diagnosed by a doctor or physiotherapist.

Tenosynovitis is inflammation of the tendon sheath, occurring with or without tendonitis. The symptoms are similar to those of tendonitis, though the pain can be over a greater area. Again, seek immediate treatment from a physiotherapist. Massage is not usually appropriate. Acupuncture may be of benefit.


Bursa are fluid filled sacs which lie between tendons and bone and protect the tendon from excess friction between the tendon and bone. They are found around most joints. Bursitis is inflammation of the bursa due either to an impact or excess friction from a tendon. Pain occurs when pressure is placed on the bursa from lying or leaning on it or on movement as the tendon rubs on it. If the tendon and muscle are tight enough to result in bursitis, then the underlying cause is almost certainly a significant biomechanical discrepancy and it is likely that you are experiencing muscular and joint pain in other areas. The treatment may well require a multi disciplinary approach involving a combination of physiotherapy or osteopathy, massage and possibly a podiatrist, if the lower limb is affected. Rehabilitation is usually a lengthy process as the body has to go through a number of biomechanical changes for healing to occur. This problem will not self resolve.

Ligament and Joint Injury (sprain)

Ligaments attach bone to bone and provide stability of the joints. If the joint is overstretched ligament and cartilage may be damaged and the joint may be misaligned. Sprains are painful on movement or weight bearing on the joint and, because of inflammation, are likely to cause discomfort at rest. Often it is difficult to find a comfortable position. The pain is sharp and usually localised to the joint and corresponding muscles. The joint will feel weak and unstable. See a physiotherapist as you will need specific exercises to restrengthen the area as part of the treatment protocol. Ligament injuries are slow to heal and the resultant joint instability can give rise to other compensatory problems, for example, a weak knee can lead to hip, back and neck problems. Massage as an adjunct to physiotherapy or any of the above modalities will hasten your recovery and help in preventing the development of secondary problems. If the joint can not be realigned through soft tissue therapy, then manipulation may be suggested. This should only be attempted by a fully qualified osteopath, chiropractor or physiotherapist. Do not let anyone else manipulate your joints, ever! It could lead to a stroke or permanent disability!

To sum up, if pain persists or continues to worsen beyond 3 days, if you have an injury that recurs every few weeks or months, if you experience any symptoms mentioned above on a regular basis and they move around your body, seek advice.

If in doubt, see your doctor for advice on whom to go to for treatment. They will normally recommend physiotherapy or massage. Other options include chiropractic and osteopathic therapy.

The physiotherapist approach is generally focussed on treating the immediate problem area. If you have a neck problem, they focus on treating your neck. Physiotherapists are vital for treating acute injuries and providing rehabilitation programs after injury or surgery. Other modalities provide additional options for the treatment of chronic injuries:

The chiropractic and osteopathic perspective on health and disease emphasizes two fundamental concepts:

  1. the structure and condition of the body influences how the body functions and its ability to heal itself; and
  2. the mind-body relationship is instrumental in maintaining health and in the healing processes.

If there is a neck problem, then both chiropractors and osteopaths will look for other areas in the body and look at a person’s lifestyle.

Central to chiropractic philosophy is the importance of neurological function and its effect on the body’s ability to heal. Chiropractors work on the basis that by restoring structural integrity through chiropractic manipulation of the spine, neurological function and, therefore, the overall health status can be improved. Chiropractic treatment therefore is focussed more on manipulation of bone than facilitation of soft tissue and this is where they differ from osteopaths.

The osteopathic perspective is equally global but the difference between the two philosophies is that osteopathic principles are based in restoring and optimising circulation throughout the body without which cells cannot receive the nutrients and oxygen required to survive or remove metabolic wastes. Therefore an osteopathic treatment is more focussed on soft tissue therapy and facilitation rather than manipulation of bone structure.

Massage therapists are trained from osteopathic principles and focus on restoring muscle integrity. Often in the case of chronic injuries, several treatments are required, in order to condition the muscles to be able to accept change. That is, the removal of spasms, adhesions, trig points and correction of abnormal reflexes are critical for correct function to be regained. Massage is often used alone or as an adjunct to other therapies and is a powerful tool in the prevention and rehabilitation of injury.

NSW Sea Kayak Club – Old Sea Dog’s Sail and a Pittarak [62]

By Peter Osman

It was the Old Sea Dog’s sail. He had described it in the New South Wales Sea Kayaker magazine and later with more detail in Sea Kayaker. It was the kind of sail which could be rigged and stowed away with a minimum of fuss while coping with a choppy sea. A sail that placed no restrictions on paddling or rolling, whether stowed away or in use.

The pressure to fit such a sail had become intense. Sharks were being reported almost every week in Australia and careful investigation showed that over the decades they had bumped into a kayak, a rowing skiff, an Olympic canoeist, and even a lawyer’s boat insured with the NRMA; but none had ever interfered with a kayak carrying a sail — especially not a sky blue one 🙂

Andre is a most courteous man from Poland who makes kayak sails in his spare time. He is a fine and meticulous craftsmen and probably the most skilled kayak sail maker in NSW. He cut this one from three pieces, fitted a batten and reinforcing tape and described the intricacies of the mast design with details I would never have contemplated. Once we are engaged in discussing kayaks it is not possible to stop. Andre lives in Surrey Hills in a small house with just enough room in the lane at the back to set up the boat. It was the first time this design had been fitted to a Pittarak whose sloping deck and narrow bow imposed tricky constraints on the three stays and halyard. It took two evenings to fit. And much serious thought and discussion, with a committment and method that I will freely pass on to any Pittarak owner who asks.

On the second evening, as the sail rig took shape in the back alley, an emaciated, wiry, nut brown man cast a discerning eye over the work and engaged in a long history of his time on prawn boats in Northern Queensland. The poor fellow was a heroin addict and well known in the neighborhood. Andre warned me that the contents of my car were probably at risk and apologised for the man. But there was no need. The prawn fisherman told his history well. It was worth listening.

On to Johno who is a boat builder and we kayak together. He knows exactly how to reinforce the boat so that the mast can pull in any direction without cracking the deck. Johno once rescued me in the surf using a very strict protocol that guaranteed our boats would not be scratched. We lift the boat into his shed where he waits for a fine day then applies three layers of woven fibreglass mat in a cruciform pattern under the universal joint which holds the mast.

So comes the day. It has taken me all morning to fit lifting and steering lines on the boats rudder and I have carefully selected a time when none of my friends will be watching. So off to Clontarf with the sail neatly stowed and over I go. The roll back up is blissfully normal. So now to rig the sail and try it again. I take it from under the bunjee, pull on one loop to lift the mast and the boat is ready to fly — but first — over the boat is tipped again. Under water the rigging has collapsed and the sail has part folded towards the cockpit. I release the loop and roll. The only difference the sail makes is the need to place the paddle so it doesn’t catch in the halyard. Now the sail is in the water at the side of the boat and is folded up within a few seconds to be stowed under a bunjee on the deck.

At last the sail is rigged for real and I firmly resolve that despite the paltry two knot wind I will not lift a paddle until reaching Balmoral. We race along at half a knot. The navy divers are conducting an exercise and look quizzical. Various paddlers and a fairy penguin overtake me but there is definite progress — a micrometer would judge it well. Two hours later the keel gently grazes Balmoral beach and its time for a triumphant cup of tea.

Three weeks pass and it’s Easter Sunday. The sky is dull and clouds are scudding northward. A gentle. grey mist of rain covers the sea between Balmoral and Clontarf. I’ve spent almost an hour paddling two kilometers into the wind so now its sweep and turn and pull on the halyard. The mast lifts and straightaway the sail fills and pulls. At first the movement seems imperceptible then I look back and see that within a few minutes the boat has covered almost a quarter of the distance. As the fetch increases the boat picks up, marker buoys waft by and the boat is overtaking my paddling mates. We pass the point at Chinaman’s beach and there’s the strange sensation of keeping a boat stable in a confused following sea, without any paddling strokes and no need to work at all. As my dear partner, Beryl, would say, “I could get used to this”.

NSW Sea Kayak Club – Turning a Useful Device Into an Even More Useful Device [62]

By Matt Bezzina

For a multi day expedition you might take a VHF Radio, EPIRB and maybe even a satellite phone. These types of communications devices are accepted as being important safety items whilst at sea for any vessel but I doubt you’d find them carried by most sea kayakers on day trips along their local coast line. A lot of us wouldn’t even own one but we probably do have a mobile phone.

Together with a waterproof gadget bag (available from kayaking & marine shops) the humble mobile can be tethered to a PFD to become a basic safety item that in dire circumstances could be used to raise the alarm and initiate a search & rescue. You can also use it to notify authorities of illegal fishing activity, injured marine life, pollution spill or to phone your partner to come and pick you up after that round trip becomes a destination paddle.

The Aquapac brand bag is totally waterproof and lets you use the phone as you would normally. You might just need to turn up the volume and get used to finding your ear!

The only things you need now are a few …

Important numbers to add to your phone book:
Name Phone Description
Coast Guard (02) 9337 5033 Report a vessel in trouble – including your own
Fish Watch 1800 043 536 Report illegal fishing activity
Fisheries after Hours 0438 304 446 AH Alternative for above
Marine Emergency 1800 641 792 Initiate a Search & Rescue
Marine Weather 1900 926 101 BOM Report (Pricey)
Water Police 1800 658 784 Catch a thief
EPA 131 555 Report Pollution
NPWS (Sydney Harbour) (02) 9337 5522 Report injured wildlife (check for your local office)

And if you’re in a real panic you can always call 000.

Keep in mind that reception can be patchy or non existent in many places. CDMA phones have better coverage than GSM phones but you should still verify that your network provides coverage in your intended paddling area. It’s also worth remembering that your phone becomes ballast as soon as the battery goes flat!

NSW Sea Kayak Club – Advanced Kayak Kits [62]

By Mike Snoad

Advanced Kayak Kits started life in January 2001 on Deal Island in the middle of Bass Strait (Deal Island seems to be a re-occurring theme in my life story). It was a question I posed to my fellow kayak expeditioners that started it all. How can I share with other kayakers my recent creation, a purpose built plywood composite sea kayak? This new kayak was proving to be a well-balanced high performer with no apparent vices that was exceeding my expectations on this demanding first trip.

The rest is history. For the last five years Advanced Kayak Kits has been producing ‘build yourself kits’. We now produce kayak kits in four different models in our workshop at Nelligen on the South Coast of NSW. These are all variations of the original Deal Island kayak, which is still in use and has clocked up thousands of kms on expeditions including three Bass Strait crossings. All models are capable of being customised to suit individual requirements in a way often not possible with mass produced plastic and fibreglass kayaks. Accessory kits including our very popular sail kits are part of this customising process.

Our philosophy is simple. Our kayaks must be well-balanced performers. They must be robust and also look good. We test the prototypes of all new models in a wide range of conditions including long expeditions to ensure that they meet our high standards.

We believe that it is important to use the materials that come from environmentally sustainable sources in Australia wherever possible. For instance the marine plywood we use is manufactured in Australia from plantation grown Hoop Pine. This is a timber species native to Australia and it is also significantly stronger that most imported plywood. Other kayak kit manufacturers typically use imported plywood manufactured from tropical rainforest timbers.

Most importantly our customers must have ongoing access to us for advice especially during the kit assembly stage.

The most rewarding part of The Kayak Kits adventure is the positive feedback we get from our customers.

NSW Sea Kayak Club – Kayak Essentials For Women Part 2 [62]

The Eskimo Roll

By Sally Jacobs

For some peculiar reason, all kayaks share a major design fault. They capsize. Apparently this is all down to physics. If you want a boat which is capable of moving at any tangible speed, then it has to be narrow and long. The faster you want to go, the longer and narrower it has to be. But the faster it is, the more unstable it gets, so more speed equals more time upside down. So why do we buy a boat that we know is designed to tip over and drown its occupants?

Well, if you want a kayak that doesn’t flip over, it needs to be wide. If you really stick your neck out and demand guarantees in this matter then you are looking at something the width of a football pitch and your own personal fleet of tugs to manoeuvre it.

Apparently it was the Eskimos who first devised the solution to this problem. For centuries, kayaks have been their chosen form of transport for commuting between their igloos and their office. They figured out pretty quickly that being upside down in frigid water with the odd Orca or two probably wasn’t the best recipe for the survival of their race. Somehow they discovered that if they twisted their torso one way at the same time that they twisted their hips in the opposite direction, that by some miracle, their upturned kayak would right itself. Perhaps it is their apparent surprise that this manoeuvre actually works that explains why the head is the last part of the body to leave the water. This strange phenomenon is called the Eskimo Roll.

Having ascertained that physics is behind most anomalies that surround kayaking, it will hardly surprise you that learning how to Eskimo Roll involves several illogical, counter intuitive actions:

To start with, your instructor will insist that you don a PFD, spray deck, and dive mask, and if the water is particularly cold, a wet suit, too. Any sensible person will immediately realise, before setting foot in their kayak, that something sinister is about to beset them. Why would anyone strap themselves into a kayak with all this safety gear, designed to keep them warm, dry and hopefully upright, just to be told they are expected to voluntarily capsize, and get wet, cold and upside down, and oxygen deprived? Which leads me to ask – why stop at a dive mask? Why not go the whole hog and include the full sub aqua regalia?

If you proceed lemming-like to the next step, you will find yourself attempting to master the knee lift and hip flick. If you are going to try this at home (which I can’t recommend for reasons of legal liability) then I suggest you first measure your room to ensure it is at least twice as long as your paddle. Clear the surrounding area of all breakables, including family members and pets, and tightly draw the curtains – practicing the Eskimo Roll in public, on dry land is definitely not socially acceptable and could get you arrested or sectioned.

I recommend that you try the knee lift and hip flick in the standing position as you are less likely to concuss yourself or remove any vital body parts. Hold your paddle out in front of you, arms and legs slightly bent. Keep your hips and legs facing forwards and rotate your body with the paddle parallel to your chest around to your left. Adopt a limp-wristed “I’m a teapot” pose with your hands and imagine you can feel the side of the kayak on your forearms and wrists. Now slowly start to rotate your body and paddle to the right and your hips to the left, watching the forward blade of the paddle all the way. Avoid doing this to music, especially not “Let’s twist again” by Chubby Chekker, you could be overcome by 50’s nostalgia and find yourself performing a vertical take off. Most of the power comes from the torso, not the arms. Try balancing something valuable on the end of the paddle to discourage excessive arm movement. Be careful in your choice here. I started with a pint of Tia Maria but on polished floor boards it was a disaster and I had to be rescued from a close encounter with the gold fish.

In order to try the hip flick in the kayak, you will need:

A stiff scotch, a competent instructor (see Kayak Essentials for Women Part 1), a pool or ocean and of course, a kayak. The role of the instructor is to provide physical & moral support and clear concise instructions. Don’t let him bully you on matters of self preservation. It is perfectly natural to experience several urgent calls of nature just prior to commencement of the exercise and for your eyes to roll back in your skull as you try unsuccessfully to faint. If you catch him playing solitaire on your upturned hull as you struggle to orient yourself under water, you may need to find someone that is more attentive.

Try to meditate before you begin, putting aside all the silly notions about the great white shark wriggling up through the drains and marauding around the pool, or the instructor’s insistence on being the sole beneficiary of your life insurance policy. You need to fill you head with positives such as:

As you saunter toward your kayak, you know you look your sexy best. The PFD lingering tauntingly over a rubber clad thigh, your face mask turning your eyes into saucer like windows to your soul, and your upper lip drawn up under your nose to tantalisingly reveal your Mosman mudcake teeth.

And, as you climb aboard, you know that things can only get better. The effects of gravity are reversed when you are inverted. There are many cosmetic benefits here, starting with your eyelids, boobs and butt. The average person only weighs approx 16kg in water. This is the fastest weight loss program ever! Very few people can eat underwater – what better way to diet! And lastly – thousands of Eskimos can’t be wrong.

You’ll begin practising the hip flick by placing your hands (and life) either in the hands of the instructor or on the side of a pool, or the bow of another kayak. Moving and sinkable objects such as dead classmates, sharks etc. are not suitable for this exercise.

For practice purposes, if you are right handed you will push up from your right side. As you rotate your face and torso towards your right, bring your right knee up and rotate your hips to the left, pushing your face down into the water. Pretend it is your favourite beverage and you are very thirsty. With luck you will find yourself upright again. If you don’t, fire the instructor, and go and find some of your favourite beverage.

After mastering the hip flick, the next step is the sweep stroke. Again from an inverted position with some support from the instructor, you rotate your body, which sweeps the leading blade back to your right hip, at the same time as you execute your knee lift/hip flick. Watching the blade constantly means that you will always know exactly where it is. If the angle of the blade is wrong you will be on the bottom of the pool, but at least you will be fully aware of it. If you get the hip flick and sweep stroke right, you should end up in the upright position. Beware of getting over excited here. It’s quite easy to fall straight over again and without the controlled conditions of a voluntary capsize, it’s quite likely you will lose your composure and drain the pool of its contents in your efforts to resurface. This is a common form of mid boat crisis that afflicts thousands of kayakers every year. Learning to roll is all about practice, stiff scotch, practice and more scotch.

The benefits of the Eskimo Roll:

  • Increased confidence: soon you will be able to venture out of the kid’s paddling pool and into the ocean proper where you will quickly realise the merits of the kid’s paddling pool with its predictable tide and surf conditions.
  • Increased credibility: your kayaking peers will respect you, novices will be in awe of you, everyone else will think you are stark raving bonkers.
  • Increased freedom: you will be able to explore the new limits of your universe and all that is great in it – cappuccino, mud cake, sea sickness..
  • Increased oxygen perfusion: breathing is good, it enhances endurance so you can get yourself into serious trouble more efficiently.

Disclaimer. This article is meant to be taken with a pinch of salt, a vodka sour and an olive. Any resemblance to actual fact is entirely coincidental and not my fault. The author accepts no liability whatsoever for injury, death, damage to property or third parties, or marriage breakdowns resulting from attempts at any of the manoeuvrers described herein. Before learning to Eskimo Roll it is recommended that you see your psychiatrist.

NSW Sea Kayak Club – Diary of a Hawkesbury Paddler [62]

By Kerrie Claffey

First 30k

  • start ok
  • tide going out
  • feel good about passing the slower Brooklyn (non competitive class) singles who started 15 mins earlier
  • take opportunity to washride the passing Brooklyn doubles who started 15 mins later
  • brief rain shower but not too cold
  • gets dark
  • feel ok
  • do good time


  • find Tom (who started 15 mins earlier)
  • change into warm/dry clothes, top up water, eat, pee
  • get going quickly to take advantage of rest of outgoing tide

next 35k

  • start ok
  • chatting with Tom
  • get on wash of passing double (Tom misses it)
  • fall off wash
  • tide changes to in-coming
  • getting tired/sore
  • stop for a banana
  • watch racing classes steam past and wonder where they hide their outboards
  • get a laugh when the K4 with the blow-up Kangaroo in pos. 2 & the party lights cruises past,
  • kangaroo doesn’t throw a single stroke!
  • things come to rock bottom when I finally get overtaken by a Pittarak!
  • hurting badly
  • no Tom to chat to
  • wonder why I’m doing this
  • not doing it next year
  • might even pull out at Wisemans
  • oh that’d be hard to live with since I made it the last 3 years — but f$%*k I hurt
  • moons up but who gives a f$%*k? where the f$%*k is Wisemans? Ah, f$%*k it, if I ever make it to Wisemans, I’m pulling out!


  • where’s the crew (Mum & Mick)? where’s Tom? f$%*k I’m cold, wet, tired, hungry, miserable & I can’t find anyone to give me a hot feed or money to buy one or share the misery! change into warm/dry clothes in front of open fire
  • go to physio tent for massage
  • they take temp
  • 4 deg down
  • wrap me in space blanket
  • give massage
  • start to feel better but desperately want to sleep!

Tom comes in

  • he’s found Mum & Mick
  • I eat while Tom has massage
  • don’t mention pulling out
  • see what he says
  • he comes back — “Wow, that feels better — I’m gunna marry that little Dutch girl at the finish”
  • “so we’re going on then?”
  • so after 1hr 30, warm, fed & partially rested, we step back into the fray
  • knowing there’s nowhere else to pull out till the finish
  • another 45k (well, you can pull out at Spencer but that’s only 12k to the finish — and you just wouldn’t!)

next 20k

  • start ok
  • s l o w l y
  • but that’s ok
  • time no longer an issue. Chatting with Tom
  • tide going out again
  • visibility not too bad
  • some low cloud, almost fog but not down to river level yet
  • catch glimpses of moon/stars thru breaks in cloud
  • very calm
  • no wind
  • water glassy
  • pleasant night
  • seems to get very light
  • gee the moon’s bright especially as full moon was last Monday & it’s now half moon
  • ah yes, that’ll be first light
  • getting tired again but daylight helps circadian rhythm
  • and soon arrive at Pitstop


  • strip of beach with river access only
  • bunch of volunteers have huge open fire & coffee & scones & mars bars & massages
  • & they help you in & out of your boat thru the mud
  • it’s just so good to get there
  • they deserve sainthood! 15mins there is the best survival tool I know!

next 25k

  • feeling boosted by the stop, continue s l o w l y
  • pleasant morning on river
  • still calm, glassy, totally undisturbed
  • paddle speed still ok, faster than Tom
  • but lower back is agony
  • just can’t get comfortable in the boat
  • so keep stopping to rest & wait for him
  • hard to get going again
  • at Spencer am well ahead of Tom
  • consider racing ahead to finish
  • sun up
  • so rest, find sunnies & wait instead
  • getting hot
  • stop to remove a layer
  • on the way to finish, just have to go ahead, round corner, see the bridge
  • it takes for f$#%*king ever to get there. I’m never doing this sh#t again! should be ecstatic
  • but almost in TEARS of agony!


  • change into dry clothes, check times
  • I did 16.54, disappointingly an hour slower than last year. Tom did 17.17, good time for first effort
  • hobble over to see physio
  • cop a serve about how unfit I am
  • I’m so inflexible & untoned
  • really need to tone up glutes & abs
  • Mmmmm, so m’be if I tone up & can keep paddling with fewer stops, I can do it faster next year …

Day after

  • feel surprisingly ok
  • probably partly because my paddle technique has improved &, apart from my back, I’m doing most things right
  • and partly because the phyios are so good at stretching & getting muscles to shut down
  • oh how quickly we forget the pain
  • I’m sooooooooooo tempted to just give it one more try …


NSW Sea Kayak Club – Of Bruising and Cruising [62]

The Old Crocs tour of F.N.Q.

By John Wilde

I suppose that some people regard me as a ‘bruiser’. I’ve done my share of 4 am starts in Bass Strait. I’ve paddled for hours with no sight of land on a crossing to New Guinea, spent nights storm bound on Maatsuyker Island, Australia’s most southerly light house and I’ve done my share of hairy breakouts through surf on the Nadgee Wilderness coast. I don’t remember ever getting presented with my Gore-tex sock, but I do own a pair of Gore-tex lined boots if that will do. Mind you, I wouldn’t like to try wearing them inside my Y fronts.

Of course, I have always been aware that there is another type of paddler. A mention of a good ‘bruising’ with my wife gets me an elbow in the ribs and a swift kick out of bed. My wife, I have to confess, is a ‘cruiser’. She is happy to go for a quiet trip out to the Tollgates, or even a trip over the Tuross bar on a calm day, and paddling with her is a different kind of experience. She spots the shy Kingfisher on the lakeshore. She doesn’t just see the Sea Eagle; she knows where it nests and how many chicks it is likely to have. On trips with her we return with abandoned birds nests, colourful feathers, interesting bits of driftwood, a few shells. We don’t pump muscles or compare heart rates, discuss propeller blades, rudders or skegs. We stop to watch the swans, look for whales or dolphins.

Last year I took part in a very pleasant trip to the Whitsundays, ably led by Mark Berry and in the company of Rick Martin and Peter Dobbs Clement. The latter two had never been kayak camping before and well beforehand we discussed the fact that this was going to be a relatively easy trip, allowing for plenty of time to pack in the mornings and the chance for Rick and Peter to develop and pick up new skills. Even on the drive up from Wollongong to Mackay I could tell that this was a ‘cruiser’ trip in the making. Mark had a list of likely motels to use, depending on our progress. Before 10pm we would book in, have a good night’s sleep and be ready for the road again at a respectable hour. In my experience ‘bruisers’ drive ’til midnight, pitch their dark coloured tent on the edge of the road and are off again before dawn in a manner that would do the SAS proud. Funnily enough, we still managed to drive from Wollongong to Mackay in a day and a half.

In the Whitsundays we would agree each evening what time we would start paddling the following day. Funnily enough, tides, winds and weather usually conspired to make the ideal time to leave at about 11am. How Mark managed to make the elements conform to this pattern for two weeks solid I have no idea, but it was very well done. After a cup of tea, a leisurely breakfast, a bit of a snorkel amongst the coral and perhaps a bit of fishing, we would hasten away, lest the currents got the better of us. No up before dawn to catch the outgoing tide, a cold cup of water and a muesli bar before a 50km crossing. Obviously we were not trying! Group spread was minimal, we’d chat about families, the weather, and the beautiful scenery. We would gather around to help if someone hooked a fish, felt like a break, or wanted to visit another beautiful beach for a swim. Apart from the occasional ‘burst’ [Mark and Rick were in training for the Hawkesbury], we were relaxed and uncompetitive. A very sociable bunch and a great trip.

A few weeks ago I retired from work and one of my main short term goals was a trip that I had been promising myself for years – a 1,000kms along Cape York, probably a bruiser trip, but that is the nature of the beast. Unfortunately it was not to be, as I dislocated my shoulder 2 weeks before the starting date and with all gear bought and food drops in place I had to pull out. Dave Winkworth, not to be put off, set off on his own, by the sound of it, in appalling conditions, whilst the other two team members, Arunas Pilkus and Mike Snoad also aborted for different reasons.

Two weeks later, by now in desperation and on plan 42b, I rang Mike to see if he was interested in a ‘cruise’ up Hinchinbrook. He jumped at the shorter trip and by the evening Arunas was on board also. A few days later we were doing the typical thing, camping by the road on the way up, but by Lucinda, Arunas was beginning to weaken and with torrential tropical rain sealing the deal, we booked into a motel for a good night’s sleep.

Our first day on the water was a real cruise for Mike and Arunas. Unfortunately I was in my own personnel ‘bruising’ space, barely able to paddle with my arm and struggling to hold my paddle in my left hand. Contrary to popular rumour, I did not end up taping my hand to the paddle shaft, but it was discussed as a possibility. The dislocation, which occurred in a remote location on a white water river, was not relocated for a couple of hours. This had left me, beside the torn tendons and muscles, with considerable nerve damage, affecting 5 muscle groups in my arm and hand.

This was going to be a long haul for me. While Mike and Arunas explored our first landfall, at the beautiful Zoë Bay. I sat on the beach chewing aspirin and feeling grateful for our arrival. As I had organised the itinerary and booked the campsites, the following day was our first rest day and although I sensed some frustration, we spent the day relaxing and enjoying this unique spot.

A couple of days later we agreed to stop in for coffee at the small eco resort on Cape Richards at the north of Hinchinbrook. After ordering coffee the attractive waitress promptly laid the table for our lunch. We embarrassingly explained that we were only taking a short break. “Ah, the lunch menu will be up on the board shortly”, she replied. As we relaxed on the deck by the pool reading the morning papers, time seemed to slip by and then, there was the lunch menu. Well, no harm in just looking and it wasn’t bad either. What’s that? Cheap beer also? As we ordered our meals at the bar I’m sure I heard Arunas mutter, “I hope that Dave doesn’t hear about this”.

Later in the day we did the 10km hop to Garden Island, just next to Gould. Mike and I spent an hour of that time chatting amiably about family and relationships while drifting under sail, I caught a small shark and Arunas, not to be outdone, landed an enormous queen fish. In the evening, as we watched the tropical sunset from our idyllic campsite, we tried to polish off one of the fillets from the latter, whilst drinking some quite acceptable homebrew that Mike had swapped the rest of the fish for, with a yacht out in the bay. I seemed to have lost my dependence on aspirin and I think I knew which side of the line we were operating on.

Another 10 idyllic days followed. Mike and I had a massage in Mission Beach, though the woman seemed to think that I was mad as she worked on my injured shoulder. More beautiful islands, with coral fringing reefs, some lovely quiet campsites on both these and the mainland and not a sign on that old Tic Tick Croc, the nemesis of both Captain Hook and Arunas.

At Fitzroy Island, just south of Cairns, Arunas and I suffered a surfeit of cheap red wine in the ‘Raging Thunder’ bar. Unfortunately after the fourth carafe Arunas developed this strange stutter, which led the waiter to understand that we wanted another four. Or at least that’s what I think happened. My memory of the occasion is a bit vague. In the morning, a snorkel over the coral and a climb to the top of the island, at 260 metres, giving expansive views over the area we had recently traversed, seemed to clear my head. That afternoon we managed the 5 km crossing to Turtle Bay on the mainland without incident.

I think that this was all getting a bit much for Arunas. Our final plan was to finish at Palm Cave, ‘just north of Cairns’ according to Arunas, to stay with a friend of his who would lend us a car for the shuttle back to Lucinda. Just before we retired for the night he announced that his friend started work at midday and we would need to be there before that. Mike also worked out the distance to be not far short of 40kms. As we loaded the boats and drank our cold water by torchlight the following morning I was sure that I could see a smile on Arunas face.

If there is a message to these ramblings it is to get to know your companions and the way that you are all going to operate well before you take part in an extended trip.

In my experience, the most common form of group friction is over ‘bruising or cruising’. If you are always after a 6am start, when your companions are only concerned about the taste of the coffee, or how well the bacon and eggs are cooked, you are in for trouble. The easiest way to avoid this is to establish your motives well before the trip begins.

I like paddling with Arunas, he is one of the strongest expedition paddlers that I know, a bit like the character ‘Baloo the Bear’. Mike is different again. He also knows how to push the envelope. He thinks nothing of spending a few days exploring a remote island in Bass Strait before continuing the journey with another 60km solo crossing. I’ve got time for that attitude. Me, I still hope to ‘bruise’ my way up Cape York in a year or two. And Dave Winkworth, he’s a machine. We caught up with him in a bar in Cairns, still on a real high and looking as fit as, after his solo push to the tip. For those into group spread, we are claiming a record. We estimate approximately 900 kms at one stage!

So how do you, the reader, rate? On a scale of one to ten, a Bruiser or a Cruiser? [A Bruiser of course scores ten]. Personally I don’t think that it matters providing that you are compatible with your group. Remember, it is not just reaching the destination that creates a great trip, but the manner in which you do it and how much you learn on the way.

Just enjoy!


NSW Sea Kayak Club – Flotsam [62]

By Mark Pearson

This edition of Flotsam acknowledges the input of David Whyte, Harry Havu, Ian Coles and Peter Kappelmann and Mike Snoad.

Award nomination to go ahead despite near tragedy

Sea kayak designer Kevin Brennan’s ‘102%’ Sail design is being put forward to the North American Sea kayaking Innovation Awards event to be held in Seattle in February 2006. Brennan’s Sail, a development of the original gaff rigged sail introduced to the NSWSKC by Norm Sanders in 1995, has been nominated due to its “development breakthrough in its control line philosophy”. The sail is controlled by no less than 27 lines and cords, which, if coordinated efficiently, give a measured and impressive 2% performance increase over the standard two liner gaff rig!

But the nomination is not without controversy, as the high tech Brennan rig has it critics. Club member Dee Ratcliffe purchased a Brennan sail but complained to Flotsam that even after the five day course on how to use it, she still got confused about what each line was for, and which one to pull when. Yet another new sailor, Doug Taylor, complained that the control lines had become a ‘birds nest’ in strong but irregular winds and he had to pull ashore and spend the rest of the day unravelling “the biggest knot I’ve ever seen …”

In a more disturbing incident, Brennan sail enthusiast Claudia Schremmer was “almost garrotted” after two of the control lines looped around her neck and then tightened after the sail again caught air. While trying to loosen the stranglehold, the kayak all but capsized, and but for the intervention of Club Training Officer Harry Havu, a tragedy could have occurred.

Havu told Flotsam “Yes, it was terrible, one minute Claudia and I were whooping and hollering in the good wind having a great time, then suddenly I looked round and Claudia’s face was going red and she was all tangled up! Luckily I had my deck knife on hand to cut the line and help her out.. but I’ve got a Brennan sail myself and now I’m too scared to use it!”

In response, designer Brennan told Flotsam “that’s all rubbish, this rig is easy to use, particularly if my customers take the time to go through the Manual, which shows how to control everything in nine clearly written chapters!”

Asked about the garrotting incident, Mr Brennan explained “garrotting is easily avoided, and Chapter 7 goes into some detail on this … on a turn across wind simple ensure the upper and lower crosshaul lanyards are kept tight and away from the crossover cords, then just before the jibe, simply reverse the baton flex and reefer control lines and cleat down the uphaul main sheet .. it’s quite straightforward .. !”

Club Vice President Richard McNeall told Flotsam “We have heard nothing official about the incident, so are happy to proceed with the award nomination at this time.. however, if someone were to actually die using a Brennan sail, of course the Executive would have to reconsider the nomination …”

Flotsam attempted to contacted President Thomson for her views on the matter, only to be informed that she was “holidaying in Victoria.”

Controversial safety policy under fire

Flotsam can reveal that plans are well advanced for the introduction of a controversial safety policy which may be enforced as soon as 1 July 2006! The new regulation, which will require all kayaks to have a mid size esky strapped to the rear deck for club trips above Grade 2, is thought to have been influenced by an Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) report released in May 2005.

The AMSA report indicated that in boat sinking tragedies in the period 1995 to 2005, the recovery rate of the boat was only 25%, whereas the boat’s esky was recovered in 95% of cases! Club member and AMSA employee David Whyte told Flotsam “Given the strength of the statistics I informed the Safety Committee about the finding and they seemed very keen on the esky idea, particularly if it could reduce our high insurance costs. I guess the Committee’s thinking seemed to be that if the esky is nearly always found, then if there’s a kayak strapped to it that can only be good!”

However, the proposal is not without its opponents. Club stalwart Dave Winkworth was less than impressed, telling Flotsam “This typifies the Safety Nazi approach of the club these days .. what next?.. will we have to take inflatable life rafts? Add permanent sponsons, outriggers? And how do we teach people to roll with an esky strapped behind them? Will we have to call it the Eskymo roll? I urge the Committee to rethink this policy before its too late!”

Club morals campaigner Margot Toghunter had a different take on the development, thinking that the presence of a rear deck esky would only encourage male paddlers to take beer on trips. Ms Toghunter told Flotsam, “Providing male members with such easy access to beer would, without doubt, lead to an increase in lewd and libidinous behaviour. And we poor girls already have to put up with enough of that when the men are sober! The Committee must think again!”

Flotsam attempted to seek the views of Club President Elizabeth Thomson on the issue, only to be informed she was “paddling in Victoria improving her technique.”

Stiff competition in Mallacoota

Prominent Dodgee paddlers recently got together in Mallacoota to attend the Annual Mallacoota Dodgee Jamboree, the official annual celebration of owning the much revered sea kayak. But of course, being Dodgee owners, after a couple of lite beers things soon got competitive and very soon all were boasting that theirs was the best and biggest Dodgee of them all.

Event host Peter Provis told Flotsam “Well I was sure I had the biggest one, but we spent all day measuring length, girth and curvature, and blow me down they were all the same ..”


In a grass roots reaction to the ever increasing organisational, qualification and bureaucrat requirements associated with sea kayaking in the State of NSW, Flotsam can reveal that an alternative sea kayaking movement has evolved that is offering Club members a different style of sea kayaking ‘experience’.

Unofficially led by charismatic guru Laurie Geoghegan, the movement, known colloquially as CHAOS (Casual Hardmen against Officious Seakayaking) is gaining converts at a rapid rate.

Mr Geoghegan told Flotsam “Well, although some good things have come out of the Club’s conversion to control and regulation, I thought it was about time we took kayaking back to basics, to less structured times, when every trip was a venture into the unknown .. and judging by the response so far I reckon it’s a winner!”

Geoghegan’s latest adventure, a four day trip between Narooma and Eden, attracted seven experienced kayakers: Andrew McAuley, Stuart Trueman, Andrew Watkinson, Paul Loker, Richard Styles, Mark Pearson and John Tottenhoffer, all keen to sample sea kayaking under the new CHAOS doctrine.

Flotsam caught up with the some of the participants in a Sydney coffee shop a week after the completion of what was obviously both a physical and spiritual journey for the group.

First to talk was Andrew McAuley. Andrew had exemplified the unstructured nature of CHAOS events by going to the trouble of hauling a double Mirage all the way from the Blue Mountains, only to forget to organise someone to paddle it with him.

“Well at first I felt a bit silly,” said Andrew. “But Mr Geoghegan told me that it was OK, that I was already ahead of the other trainees in that I had to deal with an unexpected event even before getting on the water, so I thought about his advice and looked for the positives. I realised that the double had all this extra room, so I took a surfboard along and my kite surfing gear, and having fun with that stuff was great.. paddling a big double alone could be the way forward I reckon..”

On the expedition itself, Paul Loker said “Well, under Mr Geoghegan this was such a radical way of running a trip and it just blew me away… no forms, no briefing, no maps, no GPS’s, no compasses, no information, nothing! It’s all done on instinct .. everybody just getting out there and paddling roughly in the same direction to, errr, somewhere .. brilliant!”

Paul expanded “Like, on the first morning I think I heard we were going about 35kms to a place called Hidden Valley, and with a name like that obviously not an easy place to find! But the group spread was massive and I hardly saw anybody all day. I had no idea where I was or where to stop, and that feeling of uncertainty was just magic! And but for following some bloke’s black sail in the distance, I reckon I would never have found it. So I reckon it was a minor a miracle that seven out of the eight of us actually made it to the camp, and quite an emotional reunion when Richard eventually turned up the next morning. All in all a brilliant, enlightening experience!”

The deep thinking Richard Styles was also impressed with the new philosophy. “Mate,” said Richard as he sipped on a skim decaf Latte “I guess not finding the Valley, landing on an unknown beach and seeking refuge at someone’s property was the perfect introduction for me. I felt I was really experiencing Mr Geoghegan’s teachings first hand …”

Richard continued. “But it didn’t end there .. on Day 3 we had heard the weather forecast had been updated and that the wind was going to turn nasty and against us .. so I started to pack up immediately as I’ve been trained to do by the Club, but Laurie settled me down, rolled me a cigarette thingy, and showed me how to sit back and relax .. it was awesome how we dawdled and stuffed around that camp in defiance of that forecast ..!”

Tough paddler John Tottenhoffer agreed. “Yes, that morning was incredible .. it was like, contrary to everything we’d been taught! We treated the weather with contempt by basically ignoring it, and this attitude was just so liberating … OK, the downside was we copped five hours of plugging into a bastard of a headwind and we were all knackered, but the freedom of giving the weather ‘the finger’ that morning was just so uplifting …”

Chiselled old timer Stuart Trueman was also challenged by the new ethos. “Well, we didn’t even discuss water as an issue so I didn’t take much, and never knew when to fill up, so I nearly died of thirst on Day 2. But Mr Geoghegan told me to relax and not worry about it, and in a funny sort of way it was just terrific not having to worry about regulating how much I drank and when, ‘cos I didn’t have any ..!”

Even at trip’s end the venture kept pulling surprises. RSVP.com addict Andrew Watkinson told Flotsam “Well, we were exhilarated by what we had learnt over four magnificent days, but of course I was itching to hit the road for the long drive back to Sydney and all those women. But then as he drove us north to our cars, Mr Geoghegan decided on the spur of the moment to try an alternative fuel for his truck! OK, so the experiment was an absolute disaster and we didn’t get home till midnight, but Laurie should be commended for keeping the uncertainty and thrills going until the very end ..”

Days later, Flotsam caught up with Mr Geoghegan on his sprawling south coast estate for his evaluation of the event. “I rate it as a great success! Things generally didn’t go to plan because there was no plan, and that’s how CHAOS works!”

Geoghegan continued “I found the task of influencing this new group to relax and chill out was a real challenge but it did start to happen, and slowing them up on Day 3 to maximise the headwind experience was really rewarding. Off the record I wasn’t happy with Mark Pearson for actually listening to the weather forecast in the first place. He was the only trainee in the group who continually went against the grain by showing an interest in the weather and sea state each day. With this new philosophy, weather and planning and destinations and stuff are not important and Mark needs to learn that or he’ll not be invited back …”

Mr Geoghegan concluded “But despite Pearson, for mine this was the most pure CHAOS trip yet. I credit a long list of incidents to the free and relaxed spirit of the doctrine that clearly resulted in personal growth and development … I forgot my tent, so gained valuable new skills in setting up a tarp shelter and mosquito aversion techniques. Andrew forgot his paddling partner, and so learned how to pilot a double all by himself. Richard made landfall on an unknown bit of coast and learnt to seek the hospitality of local residents. Stuart forgot water and learned he can survive pretty well without it. John scalded his torso after falling into his Trangia and learnt that baby oil is a burnt paddler’s best friend. Finally I had the courage to try an alternative fuel for my truck and learned that there is a limit to what an old diesel rig will run on .. all these rich experiences are purely due to the flexibility and unstructured nature of CHAOS philosophy.”

Although further CHAOS style trips are likely, it is not known when, where or who will be going on them, as that level of detail “goes against the spirit of the movement,” said Mr Geoghegan.

Members lose privileges

In breaking news Flotsam has learned that an administrative furore has broken out after NSWSKC Club members were blocked from accessing the Australian Canoeing website!

A memo from Australia Canoeing stated “with regret” that AC had had to “remove password privileges from NSW Sea Kayak Club members that allow access to membership details”. Club Secretary/Treasurer Michael Steinfeld told Flotsam “this is an outrage, and yes I am outraged!!”

Although details of why this action has been taken are not clear, a senior but anonymous AC source told Flotsam “who cares what the issue was .. you people must understand that we here in AC basically think you sea kayakers are smelly and uncouth, and but for all your lovely money we wouldn’t even be talking to you in the first place…!”

Flotsam attempted to get the views of Club President Elizabeth Thomson on the issue, only to be told she was “learning advanced skills in Victoria “.