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 …