NSW Sea Kayak Club – Flotsam [75]

Editor’s note: This online edition is an edited version of the printed magazine as some of the material relies on pictorial elements that are not able to be included on the website.

Flotsam makes Wikipedia!


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Flotsam (aka Flotsam & Jetsam) is a regular column in the quarterly magazine of the New South Wales Sea Kayak Club (NSWSKC) based in south eastern Australia. Flotsam & Jetsam first appeared in January 1993, with an initial focus on brief news items, snippets and some For Sale items.

In 1996, with the nomination of a new magazine editor, Flotsam began to expand its horizons. Noting that Australian east coast sea kayakers were amongst the world’s most boring essayists, Flotsam hit upon a formula to spice up club news and events, using an actual event as the core of a news item, but adding a twist or underlying theme to somewhat distort what had actually happened. Flotsam stories began to be told in a racy, breaking news style, complete with regular ‘quotes’ from the participants involved, e.g. Trip Leader Harry Havu told Flotsam “Mate, it was tough out there…”

Although the new Flotsam was assembled by a lone ‘Flotsam reporter’, ideas and photos began to be provided by a growing number of enthusiastic contributors from within the club. But Flotsam did not have to search hard for material during this period of the club’s history, as “incidents” during club sanctioned paddles were common — the official NSWSKC T-shirt from 1997 bore the motif It was a good weekend … nobody died.

However, this new style caused issues. A common scenario would be for a club member to enjoy a co-paddler’s depiction in a Flotsam news piece, only to then complain bitterly at his own characterisation in the next issue. In club circles, an appearance in a Flotsam story came to give a paddler the official status of “Flotsam Victim”.

To protect itself from litigious threats from seriously irate club members, Flotsam has to date avoided legal problems with this disclaimer:

In the event of a scarcity of genuine news, Flotsam reserves the right to publish partially or wholly fictitious stories for the entertainment of members. The individuals who appear in Flotsam are in all cases real persons. Where necessary, personality is added to provide additional texture.

With the culture change in the NSWSKC following the 2000 “Flare Incident”, and following complaints from some Australian sea kayak manufacturers about some Flotsam content, in 2002 the NSWSKC Executive assigned a “proof reader” to examine Flotsam drafts to ensure its content was not defamatory. As a result material from this point on was occasionally censored. Ironically, the material removed was most commonly truthful comments about known defects in popular sea kayaks (e.g. a true story about a lost rudder pin that fell out of a bestselling sea kayak when transported upside down, was censored in 2005).

In recent years Flotsam articles have become more and more ‘imaginative’ as real incidents on club-sanctioned trips became rare. Typical of a Flotsam piece is one from the December 2004 issue. After a prominent club member was warned for kayaking too close to a pod of whales in far north Queensland, Flotsam solemnly reported a trial of the ‘offender’ in the Mackay District Court charged with the serious offence of ‘guddling’ a juvenile cetacean.

Similarly, the simple fact of female paddlers outnumbering males on an expedition around Wilsons Promontory was enough to provoke a report on a tragic case of two tough male paddlers becoming victim to Male Empathic Period Syndrome (MEPS) while on the water, becoming physically and emotionally incompetent, and requiring rescue by their female colleagues.

However, many believe Flotsam’s high point was achieved in September 2004. On hearing a paddler complaining of ‘pins and needles’ in his leg after paddling a popular but notoriously uncomfortable sea kayak, Flotsam published a fictitious account of this paddler being struck down by severe Deep Vein Thrombosis after crossing Bass Strait, with a resultant leg amputation in a Melbourne hospital. The story was accompanied by the paddler carrying a kayak with a visible stump of a leg, and finished with the upbeat tone that the amputee intended to continue sea kayaking after the tragedy. It is believed up to 50% of the Club’s membership believed this story, many expressing admiration for the tragic hero on the club’s chat line.

With the increasing pervasiveness of the internet, in 2006 Flotsam received several complaints from single male members after several cases where prospective dates were ‘googling’ them, thus revealing less than flattering Flotsam depictions of their potential life partner.

Flotsam generally has an anti-authorisation stance, railing against over-zealous regulation, waivers, helmets and qualifications, and took a strong position against the NSWSKC affiliation (now ended) with the ‘dead bureaucratic hand’ of Australian Canoeing. The President of the NSWSKC also makes regular appearances, usually with some reference to his/her fictitious palatial HQ in a posh beachside suburb of Sydney.

Overseas sea kayaking clubs on occasion have asked to reproduce Flotsam, for example, the Flotsam take on the 1999 crocodile attack on Arunas Pilka.

Popular with some, irritating to others, the future of Flotsam remains unclear, with the column now appearing only sporadically in the NSWSKC Magazine. The author of Flotsam remains unknown, but is thought to be a reclusive type. He is said to have no kayaking qualifications, but may be a competent sea kayaker. It is rumoured that he too has been a victim of Flotsam.

See also

  • Sea Kayaking
  • Canoeing
  • Guddling

Flotsam News

Newcomer clinches award!

Talented paddler Shaan Gresser has told Flotsam that she is “over the moon” on the news that she has won the much acclaimed NSWSKC “Shoulder Injury of the Year” Award.

Shaan told Flotsam, “When I look back to all the other great kayakers that have won this award, like John Wilde, Matt Turner, Claudia Schremmer, it makes me so humble”. Shaan, who only took up sea kayaking two years ago, added “I really thought it would be at least five years before I would be good enough to do a shoulder!”

Shaan, who executed a perfect Grade 3 dislocation despite only modest surf conditions, is thought to have clinched the award by choosing to do it on the nearest remote beach to Sydney, thus requiring a helicopter rescue and gaining bonus points in the ‘drama’ component of the award points system. Shaan added, “I’d also like to thank Stuart Trueman for believing in me. He’s an amazing man…I would never have managed this without his leadership and support.”

Global warming a ‘plus for sea kayaking’

In a recent press release, the NSW Tourism minister announced the NSW government will purchase the Queensland Great Barrier Reef marine touring fleet in anticipation of the death of the northern barrier reef and the growth of a new ‘southern reef’ in the warming waters off the NSW coast.

But with all the doom and gloom about climate change, opportunities have also been identified by forward-looking Club President Michael Steinfeld. Mr Steinfeld spoke to Flotsam: “There’s no doubt global warming does promise new features, not just additional sea water, for NSW sea paddlers — not only will spectacular corals appear off our local coast but with rising sea levels several new islands will be created, allowing for many more island camping opportunities”. Mr Steinfeld continued enthusiastically, “Just imagine, Broughton and Montague Islands will be snorkelling paradises…Broulee and Green Islands will be islands again. They will be ours…all ours!!!”

A spokesman for the Australian Conservation Foundation said the ACF was “disappointed” with Mr Steinfeld’s comments.

Flotsam Book of the Month

Another tempting morsel from the rich world of sea kayaking literature:

…as we paddled on the island ahead grew larger and larger. I could see a beach with a perfect camp spot beside a small creek. Soon we were passing the island to our left. An hour later I looked back, the island was getting smaller as we paddled east at an average speed of 7.8 km/h. My arse was now really numb…

An excerpt from The Joy of Long Distance Sea Kayaking by Laurence Geoghegan, available from all major book sellers.

Nick Gill nominated

Nick Gill has been nominated for the inaugural Flotsam “Judgement” Award by Senior Instructor Harry Havu. Mr Havu told Flotsam: “Well, after some uhhmming and ahhhing, Nick made the difficult and very late decision to withdraw from my group’s circumnavigation of Kangaroo Island in February, as he was worried about big surf and possible damage to his beloved Nadgee”.

Mr Havu continued, “And then, just three days into our trip, we get the news that Nick has paddled his Nadgee to an island just off Wollongong and smashed it into three pieces…we laughed so much we had to have a rest day!” Well done Nick!

Enquiry promised

In what was otherwise an uneventful 2009 Rock’n’Roll event at Umina, President Steinfeld has ordered an enquiry into why local marine emergency services were called out no less than six times over the weekend. President Steinfeld told Flotsam, “It appears one of the kayak manufacturers had the word HELP in large letters embedded in the hull gel coat as a safety measure. Unfortunately it appears that when some of our paddlers practised re-enter and roll exercises in these craft, our beach observers may have been a bit fast to initiate alert procedures, which soon got out of control.”

President Steinfeld hoped the enquiry would make recommendations to ensure a reduction of false alarms at future Rock’n’Roll events.