Paddling For A Cause

This morning I ventured out in the driving rain and headed off to Palm Beach. I was planning on participating in a paddle session, named Paddle for Pete, which was organised to provide support for a local surfer who had broken his neck over Easter weekend.

On the 40 minute drive I was wondering to myself – would there be a handful of stalwarts on hand for the paddle? Arriving at Pittwater I was blown away – both literally as the wind was up, and figuratively, as there were hundreds of paddlers on hand. All shapes and sizes, from surf boards through skis, SUPs through surfboards — all eager to show their support.

It was a tough paddle – my stand up board is a 10.6, which is great in the surf and as a hybrid on short flat water runs, but when the chop is up it gets very, very tricky. I was most stoked to not only finish the 5km course, but do it without falling in or having to revert to kneeling.

This video from Sean Smith, aka the Fatpaddler really sums up the paddle. I feature near the start of the paddle, but it’s the later sections where you can clearly see the level of chop on the water — great coverage!

Here’s hoping Pete makes a quick recovery.

Stand Up Paddling The Inky Darkness

After preparing a yummy Cajun dinner on Saturday evening, I had a rare moment’s reflection and Tweeted:

Wondering where to stand up paddle tomoz – start of training for Hawkesbury Challenge…

You see, I’d earlier that day made the decision to attempt this infamous 111km overnight race in October. My tweet was picked up via Facebook by the Fat Paddler, Sean Smith, who responded with a suggestion – let’s hit the water at the Spit Bridge at 5h30am.

It’s heading into winter here in Australia so that means it’s pitch dark at that hour and likely to remain so until around 6am. Sitting in the comfort of my warm home after a delicious dinner and a glass of wine, made the decision too easy – sure thing, I replied, see you down there.

Waking the next morning as my alarm jangled my senses at 4h30am was way harder, but I was determined to do this thing! Driving the 20 minutes down to the Spit Bridge was an interesting mix of shaking off sleep and shrugging on a deeper determinedness – both being a challenge as the darkness was shrouded deeper than usual by steadily pouring rain.

I arrived at the water and sure enough the Fat Paddler was ready and waiting. After some initial trepidation as there were also rather fresh gusts of wind, I offloaded my stand up paddle board and got ready to paddle out. The local wild life, a school of about eight baby sting rays wallowing in the shallows, were my final welcoming committee as I paddled into the inky darkness and headed under the Spit Bridge and out onto Middle Harbour.

Guided by the Fat Paddler’s lights and the reflections on the water from surrounding houses we made our way further up the waterway. The rain kept falling intermittently, but thankfully the wind eased – paddling on choppy and dark water is a challenge on a 10.6 stand up paddle board. I made a mental note to pursue the acquisition of a 14 foot race board post haste!

I soon relaxed into the paddle, rhythmically slicing through the water took care of any natural instincts to question one’s sanity at being out there at such an early hour.

It was an awesome session, returning some four hours later to the Spit Bridge and one I definitely will do many times over as I build up towards the Hawkesbury Challenge.

For more on our adventure and some pictures of our journey make the jump over to the Fat Paddler’s site.