The Experiences of a Newbie

By BILL RAFFLE

It was my first Rock and Roll and who would have thought when I bought a sea kayak last year that I would be sitting next to Captain Jim Kakuk of the Tsunami Rangers discussing our respective pre-launch rituals.  I was able to share with the Captain my pre-mission nervous pee strategy and we chatted about the additional flexibility offered by his wash deck.

It was great to catch up with some of the squadron from our introductory basic skills weekend led by Rear Admirals Stephan and Dee last November.  There is an unspoken bond shared by those that have faced this experience together and it was quite moving to be reunited with Lance Corporals Leona, Zorka and Angus.

Angus was looking pretty fit and capable so I was doing my best to talk myself up in the all important pre-paddle chat around the marquee.  I did suffer a slight credibility setback when Angus suggested we carry both kayaks down to the beach at once and I had to ask whether he would mind if we did them one at a time.

Thankfully I bumped into Gary Roberts and was able to impress him with tales of my Western Australia circumnavigation paddling backwards.

Down at the beach and I ran into Anne “Spider Woman” Cumming who was about to test a new kayak.  Last time I saw Anne she was calmly paddling to the shore to remove a Huntsman that was hiding somewhere under her spray deck – I still squeal like a pig when I recount the incident to my therapist.

Anyway, I offered to stand in the water to help Anne practice rolling the test kayak and Mark Alchin came up and said he knew what I was doing standing in the water and he wasn’t coming closer.  I slinked back to a full beach of onlookers and received a couple of knowing looks and strained half smiles.

Finally out onto the water and the expedition into the southerly wind made me feel like I had connected with Stuart Trueman when he talked about his exhaustion on day one of his current trip.  Luckily for me I was able to revitalise myself with an orange juice popper and a cheeky little camembert and sundried tomato focaccia.

Relieved to eventually scramble back onto dry land it was good to see so many of the people who have been so helpful and welcoming to me.  I reckon you can tell a lot about a club by the way it treats its new members and I am very grateful to have received such a friendly introduction and for the punt some experienced paddlers have taken in asking me along to things and in particular to the amazing Wayne Bennett of sea kayaking, Rob Mercer.

Rock and Roll was a great chance to catch up with people I have met and to put faces (and in Laurie’s case hair) to the names of the people I had heard about.  The more I see the more I realise there is to learn and the skills, stories, trips and photographs (particularly those taken by Guy Reeve) on display were inspirational.

A big thank you to those who organised and ran R&R and I’m looking forward to seeing where the path to next year’s event leads me – which I am sure will be a more varied journey than the one taken by Stuart Trueman’s perpetually returning cigar.

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