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Sydney Harbour 18k Charity Paddle

5 May 2010 1,261 views No Comment

Jess and I left the house (we’re next door neighbours) around 7am, picked up his kayak from the skiff club, and drove over to Blues Point on the harbour. I ate my breakfast on the way and fretted about how much I wanted a coffee. Jess was very obliging, listening to my whinging and finally stopping to let me get my beloved latte.

Sunny day; boats everywhere

At Blues Point it was pretty hectic as hundreds of people were arriving with kayaks & boats, dropping off, teams meeting, plus all the registration & catering going on. Although we were paddling with the National Parks team (Jess is a Park Ranger) we didn’t have too much to do with the team so we just sorted ourselves out: put our kit where we needed, registered, got our act together.

Blues Point is such a beautiful spot, right opposite the Harbour Bridge; you can see the Opera House underneath the Bridge. It was a gorgeous day, sunny and warm, and crucially (for paddling) not too windy.
The teams went out first and then we all got in the water. It was a bit of kerfuffle getting the boats in the harbour and paddling to the start line. I mean how do you know where the ‘line’ is in open water..? Then we had to wait for a ferry to go past which made lots of wash and bobbed us around. As usual at the start of sporting things I was all adrenalin and hyperactivity, would have kissed / hugged anyone who got too close!
It was hard not to be in a good mood though, the atmosphere was fantastic, the weather was beautiful and we were about to paddle underneath the Harbour Bridge. I felt like the luckiest person ever!

Paddling under the bridge

It was a pretty funny start because a lady said over a loud speaker “er, Greg, you’re meant to have started”, and then ‘Greg’, shot the pistol, nice. And it was soup straight away. Chop chop everywhere, people scrambling for position, bashing around. I’d already told Jess I was only ‘in’ for a nice time and I’d be hanging back on the start. He was cool with that. We navigated the other paddlers, massive amounts of wash, waves & chaos and then we were under the Bridge. It was excellent. Although the whole time I had to grip really hard with my core and bum because it was so choppy!

There was good spirit amongst the crowd, lots of smiles, lots of chatting, the athletes way up front and the good-timers jostling around :) The course followed the harbour edge from beach to beach and it was simply stunning; it was also amazing to see the harbour from such a different perspective. Jess and I paddled along together chatting away about life, the universe and how our limbs were aching a bit. I was actually trying not to think too much about how far we’d been, how far there was to go and whether I was in good shape for this 18k effort or not…
After a little while Jess suggested stopping for a stretch, we pulled up and took a break which mostly was a nice relief for my silly, girly arms. Like with most sports, just a brief break made all the difference and we felt good to carry on. It was incredibly sunny, y’know when it’s so warm that you start to feel crispy from the salt drying on your skin. And it’s almost frustrating because you’re so warm (I was sweating underneath the kayak skirt!) and you’re so close to the water but not getting the refreshment! Ah, moan moan…
I kept trying to change my stroke and use my body more; twist from the waist, so that I was pulling back with more than just my shoulders and upper arms. It worked but then if I stopped concentrating (frequent) I would go back to just arm strokes. Everyone around me seemed to just be cruising along…

Paddling past the sights of Sydney

We carried on and Jess told me about some of the places that we were paddling past because he knows a lot about the history and geography of the place, it was cool. Then we talked about stopping again and decided the ‘next’ beach. Which was a great idea until it turned out to be the gay, nudist beach. We paddled on…
Each time we went round one of the harbour ‘heads’ (I don’t know the correct term, but the furthest sticky out bit between the beaches. Y’know what I mean..?) was the choppiest part of the course. There was a lot of current and swell and treacherous-ity. Clearly, it was a calm, still day and I am exaggerating but what I mean is they were the most challenging parts of the course. There was one ‘head’ that we came round and there was a guy in a ski who tumbled out 3-4 times while he was in our line of sight. Aw, I really felt for him; it must have been pretty miserable hopping in his ski, bashing along for a bit then tumbling out again.
Around the course there were surf life saving IRBs just watching the water and the paddlers. I thought that was pretty cool cos I’m a surf life saver and often hear about the voluntary work we do (I’m not IRB proficient) and there it was in action!

Almost at the end

We cruised into Balmoral – always pretty and simply gorgeous today – and knew at this point that for sure the serious work was over and we would definitely have calm waters for this last bit. There was a bit more traffic in this bit of the harbour; we had to paddle around moored and moving boats, other paddlers and various other floating things (kids in rubber rings). Our route sort of did an ‘s’ curve and we crossed from one side of the bay to the next. The water was green and clear, stunning.

As we approached the end Jess paddled on to get some photos of me coming in to the finish :) and I did my best to look effortless and relaxed, hmm. We finished up pretty good, not too stiff, happy enough, and dying for a swim! After dragging our boats up, grabbing a drink and some fruit, that’s exactly what we did, it felt goooood.
The set up at the finish was really impressive: catering, groups of people and families all around, goodie bags for paddlers. We milled around for a bit and then had to get on with the inevitable ‘faff’ of coordinating cars, boats, passengers, goodie bags etc. Not ideal but not to be dwelled on. It was a smashing day, an awesome experience, lovely people all round, and hopefully a beneficial day for the charity too.

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