By RICHARD ‘ANGOPHORA’ STILES
And so it was, in typical laconic Trueman style, that Stuart signed off his last email upon arriving back in Broome on the 28th of July 2011.
As most reading this will know, Stuart had embarked sixteen months prior on a sea odyssey that would take him around Australia by sea kayak. In completing this massive project he became only the third person to successfully do so, after Paul Caffyn in 1981/82 and Freya Hoffmeister in 2009. Many others have tried and given up. He had no ground crew support, adding to the logistical difficulties, the ‘hassle’ factor of organising supplies and, perhaps most significantly, the morale and motivational assistance that such support can offer.
As William Smyth has previously written in this magazine, this trip entailed negotiating some daunting stretches of coast. The Zuytdorp, Baxter and Bunda cliffs in WA are all in excess of 160km long and require commitment and resilience. Stuart noted that the humid heat up north was in many ways more challenging physically than the cold of the southern stretches.
He has stories now for his kids of crocs and sharks, storms and police ‘assistance’. Moreover he feels as though he came to appreciate the varying moods of the Australian oceans – “It’s like a living thing”, he recently commented.
He did however gratefully receive support from many coast dwellers along the way and kayak clubs around the country. His wife, Sharon, offered him family support to allow him to pursue a dream that only a few are seriously interested in exploring. In doing so, she also demonstrated commitment and resilience. Such challenging family negotiations are either the tedious realities that get in the way of dreams, or are they a central pathway through which we struggle to continue to share, at times, differing life interests?
Stuart is now back home, safe and vaguely sound, and is re-acclimatising to domestic living!
Testing as it was, there were no ‘firsts’ on this trip, no one to beat, no killer feat for some company to attach its logo to. He chose to use a sail, which could affect some staunch kayakers’ views of the trip. For me, however, there seems something even more radiant in this. Primarily this adventure was a non-competitive self-expression and exploration – a lone soul’s strange dance with life.
The passions, problem solving capacities and skills of humans are an evolutionary story of never-ending fascination. Stuart’s oceanic journey has also offered others an opportunity to be inspired, to dream and muse. My four-year-old son, for example, has gained a fascinated Australian geographic experience as he followed Stuart around the country.
“Where’s Stu now, Dad?”