By BILL HICK
Whilst I have been a member of the NSWSKC for about a year, I still have no formal training or grading. It seemed like every club training date that came up I had another commitment that prevented me from attending. My lack of grading was really brought home to me at the 2010 Rock ‘n’ Roll at Batemans Bay where I was basically restricted to the river (although I did get out to a couple of beaches for a short while on the Saturday).
As a bit of personal history, I have a reasonable amount of experience paddling and racing flat-water kayaks (K1s and TK1s), as well as surf, spec and ocean skis. Sea kayaking though is new to me and I have only had my Mirage 580 for a year (I haven’t been into open water yet).
Anyway, I finally got a date that was suitable. I applied immediately and became one of the lucky participants involved in the Patonga training weekend at the end of November 2010.
Because of my flat-water experience, I was a little concerned that I might not really fit in with the rest of the novice participants. This concern was very quickly proven to be unfounded as most of the participants were in the same boat as me (pun intended) and were there to not only gain some sort of grading, but also to learn new techniques or to brush up on old ones. In fact, I think there were probably only one or two novices amongst the eight of us. And whilst I certainly had some skills already, I was definitely deficient in many others.
At least one participant was already proficient at rolling and Gary had two Bass Strait crossings under his belt, the second of which he did solo. Very impressive!
The course was being run by Henry, ably assisted on the first day by Dave and Stephan, with additional help from Ted. Unfortunately Dave and Ted couldn’t make it on the Sunday, but their help on the Saturday was certainly appreciated – especially Ted’s patience with me as I tried to get my draw strokes correct.
I am pretty hopeless with names, but thanks to Henry I have a list to help me out. There were two girls: Lorraine and Lindy and six blokes: Adam, Shawn, Gary, Bernard, John (with the Santa Claus beard) and myself. We were a pretty keen lot and thanks to our trainers, we very quickly relaxed and were quick to work together as well as sharing a few laughs – often at our own expense.
I’m guessing here, but I’d say that Gary and myself were probably the most experienced, but that counted for very little as over the two days we both had unplanned swims, much to the enjoyment of everyone else. I think that my repeatedly unsuccessful attempts to keep the 580 in a straight line in the small surf break may have also provided a bit of entertainment.
As someone who had only ever paddled kayaks with rudders, I was hoping to pick up some new skills. This proved to be the case as Ted tried his hardest to get me to do draw strokes without falling out of my boat – with mixed results. For some of the training we had to team up with another paddler. Lorraine and I worked well together and had a bit of fun at the same time. On Sunday the day started with a seven kilometre paddle, followed by some time spent in tiny waves in the entrance to the local creek. Weather aspects were discussed over lunch, followed by towing practice and then revision of the two day’s activities. Unfortunately, I had to get away a bit early, but the others stayed, and with Henry and Stephan watching on, they practiced the various skills that they had learned.
Not long before I attended the course, an acquaintance told me that some experienced paddlers either don’t join the club, or leave the club because they don’t want to have to do a training course as they believe that they already have all the skills necessary. To those people I would say, put aside your perceptions of the club training and get yourself along to a skills training weekend. No matter how skilled you might think you are, you are bound to learn something new and you will also make new friends.
From my perspective it was a great weekend. I clocked up 500km in the two days travelling backwards and forwards from home, but it was worth every minute. I learnt new skills and refined some that I already had (even though I didn’t actually know that I had them). I made new friends and I had an enjoyable weekend – you can’t ask for much more than that.
Finally, thanks to my fellow participants for your friendship, and a special thanks to Henry, Dave, Stephan and Ted for your time and patience – it was greatly appreciated by all.
Now I can’t wait for 2011 Rock ‘n’ Roll at Batemans Bay to come around.