By OWEN WALTON
A couple of years ago, with the growing popularity of sea kayaking in the Hunter, Lake Macquarie and Central Coast area, one of the local NSWSKC Members, Brad (aka Rjimlad) decided there was a need for some form of social networking facility required to help bring the area’s paddlers closer together. From this idea he formulated and gave birth to the Hunter Kayak Klan.
This is not a club; there is no constitution, fees or rules, rather it is simply an electronic meeting place where like minded adults can get together to plan, discuss, argue and boast all things related (sometimes very loosely) to sea kayaking.
From an original ‘membership’ of two or three people, it has now grown to almost one hundred. The word membership is not strictly accurate in the accepted sense, just as the Klan is not strictly a club. The only requirement is a simple registration if you want to actively participate and post on the website. Most of us however consider ourselves to be ‘members of the Klan’ or ‘Klanners’.
Our membership base is quite broad: from geographical location, kayaking interest and experience level. Whilst the core of the group comes from the greater Hunter region, we have quite a few ‘out-of-towners’ in the ranks. Some are from the Sydney area whilst a few come from Queensland, Northern Territory, ACT and Victoria. Our most distant member is Geoff from Durham in the UK. Geoff is probably one of the most experienced sea kayakers about and was part of the group that set the quickest kayak crossing of the North Sea. On a couple of paddles he had whilst recently out here, he demonstrated his mastery, both in the rock gardens and in the surf. Those Klanners in attendance were suitably impressed and their goals have now been raised just a little higher.
The kayaking experience and interests of the membership varies widely; ranging from beginners to highly experienced, from “coffee cruisers” to expeditioners, from photographers to flat water racers. One of the Klan foundation members completed a Byron Bay to Newcastle paddle for charity, whilst another won her class in the Hawkesbury Canoe Classic last year.
Whilst not all Klanners are members of the NSWSKC, quite a large number are. At Rock’n’Roll this year, there were twenty of the Klan in attendance. Because of our comparative distance from Sydney, it is often difficult to participate in many of the NSWSKC activities, especially those held south of the Harbour. However, we have arranged all sorts of activities for ourselves in our ‘own backyard’. These have included: new member basic paddling and safety instruction, skill session practice days, winter rolling tuition and practice in a heated pool, paddle and camps (including recent excursions to Broughton Island and the Myall River and Lakes) as well as participation in some local charity events (including Paddlefest on Lake Macquarie and Paddle for Pennies on Port Stephens.).
Another event we have is our annual Klanocopia; a weekend get-together where we have a series of activities and which is geared to cater to members of all levels of skill and experience. Last November we were based at Umina for the weekend and spent Saturday having a lot of very wet fun in the surf, with a couple of the more experienced paddlers showing us how it’s done. On Sunday we changed our paddling location to nearby Patonga, where conditions were much calmer. We had Rob, Sharon and Mark from Expedition Kayaks come along with a trailerload of boats and equipment and spent a lot of the day testing out all the various boats and getting a bit of coaching as well.
Another one of our big days is the Christmas Party. This is a family event and for the last two years we have set ourselves up on the beach at Pelican, in the Lake Macquarie channel. With all the kids there and family members who are not regular paddlers, we encourage them to have a go in the safe area close to shore. We also take the opportunity to test out each others’ boats, before settling into a picnic lunch. After lunch, we paddle on down the channel, under the Swansea Bridge, cross the bar and do a lap of Moon Island, before returning to the families for a quiet little drink.
The Hunter Kayak Klan has proven to be an outstanding success for sea kayakers in the region. It has helped facilitate the coming together of a lot of kayakers inthe area and encouraged the greater group to learn more about all facets of this wonderful pastime. All have definitely improved their skills, both with peer help and encouragement, the assistance from the more experienced Klanners, together with using the services of professional coaching. The majority of Klanners, those who are members of NSWSKC, have achieved their Grade 2 qualifications, some have gone onto Sea Skills and many hope to progress further. It has also helped in introducing quite a few newcomers into the activity.
So that’s the Hunter Kayak Klan; not a club, but a facility that provides a wonderful opportunity for kayakers of all styles, experience and ability in the region to get together and pursue their passion for kayaking.