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Long time no post: White Water skipping

I’ve been enjoying a bit of white water kayaking of late at Penrith White Water Centre.  

One thing about the Penrith WW Centre is most folk are nice to chat to and offer their perspective. One fellow I met was David Burgess, a particularly good guy with a smile and the hand of friendship to all. Dave has been a bit of a mentor for my WW skills and some time ago gave me the encouragement to add this skipping routine into my WW skills arsenal to improve my skills and confidence.  So thank you Dave.

The manoeuvre is essentially skipping across Main Wave.  Main Wave is the largest drop at Penrith. All of the water funnelled down a steep and chute.  At the bottom, a large tail kicks up and looks ugly. However, most of the water flushes through and the stopping power isn’t great. Behind the tail are further waves and turbulence that can equally unseat a paddler. To each side, there are hard eddy lines with swirling waters within.  Hitting the rapid slightly off-centre seems logical to avoid the tail but if you drift out far enough then you’ll hit the eddylines so you need to have your edge control and fell all sorted out. The eddy on river right has its own issues with shallows getting in the way of paddle strokes and an overfall that, while seeming small by comparison, has unseated me.  Taking it all on as a new endeavour is intimidating to say the least.

So Dave says, ‘Just punch in hard pointing the bow at the bollard to cross the eddyline as high up in the eddy as possible’.  Believe it or not, he was right.  It takes courage, balance, a few solid strokes and edge control as the water direction switches up twice in a heartbeat.  Now I’ve been doing it for 12 months, it is a cool fun feature to hit on the course.

Penrith WW Centre is a top fun facility on our doorstep in Sydney and I’d encourage other kayakers to get there for enjoyment, thrills and skills development.

White water at Penrith

For those that dont know, Penrith was the white water kayaking stadium built for the 2000 Olympics.  It has up to class 3 rapids on a 300m course with a conveyor to take you back to the top.

I went out today with Wade and Fernando from the NSW Sea Kayak Club.  As it happened, Andrew and Michael H from canoe polo were out there too.

The course was open for 3 hours to recreational paddlers like ourselves.  I was very complacent, only performing one roll before tackling the course.  Without any recent practise and only the one roll in this kayak, I was punished early and came out.  My ego was dented.  I pride myself on tackling Penrith and rolling as required rather than swimming.  Oh well, it wasn’t my first and probably wont be my last swim.  It was a learning opportunity.  Practise more rolls before you start so you’re confident the rolling technique will be there when you need it.  I think did a few practise rolls to get better acquainted to rolling this kayak again and that proved useful; I needed to roll in ernest plenty more times during the day.

I’m gradually getting better at these rapids from very tentative beginnings around 2 years ago.   I think so anyway.  However, I’ve decided, come spring, its time to get some more instruction to push my skills along.

Michael was attempting to do a forward somersaut.  He had no success but good on him for even trying.  There were plenty of spills for us to watch. 

While surfing a wave, I came a gutser and rolled over.  during my upside down travels, my elbow scraped the river bed, concrete and tore a nice little hole through my cag, my thermal and my elbow.  Hmmm.  Some repairs to do.

Friday Paddle 29 June

12 of us went on the standard Friday NSW Sea Kayak Club paddle (OANDORA) this morning.  I’m writing this blog update because it was a glorious winter’s day in Sydney, 20 degrees and sunny with a light breeze, and it was a great day to be paddling.  We paddled to Shelley Beach from Little Manly and I caught a few nice modest waves on the Bower.  Moving on to the exciting bit, we’d been keeping our eyes peeled the entire way hoping for a whale sighting.  Nada.  Zip.  However……off Quarantine Beach, on our return, we spied a lazy seal that had hauled out on a rock and was now basking in the sun….and a sea eagle perched in a tree nearby.   Twin sightings that made our day.

Greenland Rolling with Cheri Perry and Turner Wilson

I was lucky enough to attend the NSW Sea Kayak Club event hosting Cheri Perry and Turner Wilson and their Greenland kayaking (qajaq) day at Watson’s Bay, Sydney, Sunday 23 April 2012.

Cheri Perry demonstrating learning to roll with a 'seal-skin' airbag

Cheri and Turner have taught in all manner of symposia across the world, teaching greenland rolling skills and skin on frame kayak building too.  They are world class and, now even come with their own DVD produced by adventure cinematographer Justine Curgenven, This is the Roll.

What a day.

I joined the program in the morn after the yoga session.

Session II for the day was Cheri demonstrating various sweep, pry, sculling and hand (or is that body?) rolls with Turner providing seamless, in-sync commentary from the shore.

Turner Wilson provides commentary for the rolling demo. A perfectly in-sync team with Cheri

At first I thought the lack of clapping for Cheri throughout her demo from the spectators must have meant they didn’t see the skill.  Surely the spectators couldn’t do these fancy rolls already.  The answer was so much simpler:  they were all so gobsmacked by Cheri’s demonstration of her skills, her sublime and smooth execution of the rolls, they were speechless, unable to utter a sound to grunt, let alone cheer and unable move a limb to clap.  It was hard not to be awestruck with the skills that are so far beyond so many of us.  For me, I’m not sure whether the underneath the hull sculling roll, the straightjacket roll or the effortless hand roll was the best.  My target list of rolls to learn is now refreshed.

For session III, we shifted to a grassy park where Turner and Cheri plucked 6 individuals from the crowd at differing levels to teach.  More than that really, they were showing us how they teach people.  Lessons then moved to the water to finish the teaching/learning experience.

Turner Wilson gives Rae some land based body positioning instruction

The beginners were given a lesson in the standard Greenland backwards finishing roll.  Tom had never rolled and Adrian, whilst a proficient roller, had never picked up a Greenland paddle and suffers from lack of flexibility.

The intermediates received a lesson in the standard reverse sweep roll.  Ann C. and Rae D. jumped in here.  Both are solid Greenland rollers ready to progress.

Turner Wilson gives Rae some land based body positioning instruction

The advanced group received a lesson in the storm roll, a forward start to forward finishing roll.   That was Ian V and I.  We can both execute standard Greenland reverse sweeps already.  I’d heard of a storm roll but never studied it or watched someone perform one, let alone attempted it.

Cheri built the roll up by starting with a 90 degree sweep then pry recovery.  A pry is pulling down, something we are constantly telling sweep rollers not to do.  A pry is much harder on the body, requires muscling up compared to a sweep.  The pry had my left hand merely pressing down, holding the paddle firmly onto the kayak’s upturned hull as a fulcrum.  Funnily enough, I was then told not to pry but to continue the sweep to the rear and recover forwards.  It seemed to work and hopefully I can repeat it and record it on video so I can review it and embed the learning experience in my head and muscle memory.

Cheri instructing me (Photo by Owen W)

Session IV was held up the road at the Vaucluse Bowling Club.  Cheri and Turner presented a slideshow on Greenland kayaking culture and tradition and the Greenland rolling and ropes competition.

The key, Cheri and Turner emphasized, at the actual Greenland rolling event in Greenland, is one of participation rather than competition.  The Greenlanders are determined to keep the history and tradition of their culture alive and this is done through participation rather than the more limiting elitism of competition.  All of the children get involved, in kayaks in the near zero temperature waters from the ages of four!

I believe that the spirit of participation is something that our club practises also.  It is the essence of the NSW Sea Kayak club that it is a recreational club and not a competitive kayak racing club.  It allows for paddlers to explore sea kayaking within peer groups roughly equivalent in skill level and to learn by doing.  That doesn’t mean we can’t demonstrate the skills we’ve spent hours learning… a positive way though…..

Cheri Perry and me after Cheri and Turner taught me the storm roll - who wouldn't get a photo with greenland rolling royalty

To all the NSW Sea Kayak Club members that couldn’t make it, you missed a great day out.

Thanks go to:

• Dee R for organizing the NSW Sea Kayak Club event

• Rae and Neil D for hosting them

• Rob and Expedition Kayaks for loaning the gear and the learning sessions

I shall update this post if I find someone that photographed or videoed me being taught.  If you have this, please let me know.  I also captured some video of Cheri’s demonstration.  I will post an extract of that in due course.

Currarong Emergency Drill

Me holding an orange smoke flare (photo by Sandy Robson)

On Monday morning (26/3), five of us (Guy, Stephan, Stu, Sandy and myself) set our alarms and got onto the water at 6am to paddle out into Currarong Bay.  We had a rendezvous with Julian, a grade 3 paddler in our club and a SAR (search and rescue) helicopter pilot to run an exercise in testing various bits of emergency kit. 

I had the pleasure of letting off 4 pencil flares, both ends of a day night flare, my own handheld smoke flare and lastly triggered my DSC distress signal on my VHF handset.  Elsewhere in the group, we had several smoke flares, a 121MHz beacon, an eye-safe rescue laser, a large green dye packet and the helicopter dropped a long lasting (20 min) and self-scuttling, floating flare. Most of us were in contact with the local VMR and Julian in the helicopter via our VHF handsets.

It is vitally important to practice the tools of first resort, namely self rescue skills, assisted rescues and deep water re-entry skills, etc.  However, it is equally valid I think that people practice using the tools of last resort…flares, distress signals and the like.  And I’m really pleased we could assist in a small way to help train our local emergency personnel.  The one disappointment for this exercise is that more people couldn’t join in.

Julian and his crew worked on located us with the homing signal from the beacon and visually spotting our flares.  I wonder what a brightly buring flare looks like through night vision goggles from 4 klms away.

It was a great exercise and one I was keen to be a part of.

Tassie Trip Write-up

I’ve finally finished my write up of the Tassie trip.  You can find it here (Trips > 2012 > Bass Strait).  Stay tuned for plenty more photos which I’ll put into an online album down the track.

We hit Mussleroe Bay 24 Jan

After some 16 days, we hit Mussleroe Bay yesterday via Swan Island, after ambling down Flinders, Cape Barren, Preservation and Clarke Islands. We catch the Spirit of Tasmania ferry home tonight. The trip was awesome in exploring wilderness, remote islands, big crossings, and meeting lots of friendly people living in these parts of the country. I’m sure there will be plenty of stories to tell from this trip…..

The friendliest place in Australia

20th Jan:

I have to say one memory of our trip will be part about the long crossings and that Bass strait is one of the most dangerous waterways in the country but very importantly about the friendly people were are meeting as we immerse ourselves into the local community.

We are doing a bit of a tour of the community as well as the landscape.  Along the way were have met dozens of colourful charaters, all very friendly, happy to interact in a way that you wouldnt get in busy, aggressive Sydney.

There was….

David and Mary, the current caretakers on Deal Island, who offered us water, tea and cake, free use of their mobile and a chat.

Marianne and Judy in Killiecrankie, owners of the campground.  Helen opened Deep Bite cafe on a Monday for us to grab some food.

Pete, Pete and Pete from the Whitemark pub; one patron, one owner and one cook.  Gina was on the taps that night and Cindy was telling us of her mountain biking stories.  Meanwhile, the dog was chasing the white ball around the pool table; very amusing to watch.

Patsy looked after the Emita musuem.   A happy lady who offered us use of her car to visit an historic church.

Max owns the Lady Barron general store and chatted to us for a while.  Max is an ex-fire fighter from Victoria who had come here to retire 4 years ago.  Now he works 7 days a week manning his general store.

Rod and Lew separately offered us lifts as we hitched from Lady Barron to Whitemark today. Rod took us part of the way before he had to turn off on another road.  Lew took us the rest of the way.   Interesting road trip stories of catching crays on the hooka.  I think one only need ask for a ride on Flinders Is and it is available.  Only one car went passed and didnt stop for us but they were full of people.

Tonight will be a 2nd night in Lady Barron as Gary and I take it easy and Richard and Mardi explore the area by kayak.  I’m currently sitting in the Whitemark library waiting for gary to get some minor repairs done to his body at the local hospital.  Tomorrow we head further south to Cape Barren Island.

At Lady Barron, south east Flinders

I have had trouble with technology but now sorted. This is the trip so far……

8th – drove to Port Welshpool in one hit.

9th – slow start and took a while to pack. Leaving the cars for the first time can take some time as excess baggage is culled.  We left around midday. Camped Johnny Suey, which is about half way to Refuge Cove down the Wilsons Prom peninsula. 30kt cross winds through Corner Inlet until we got the protection offered by the prom as we plied southwards. Amazingly fun paddling in those winds. Met a south Aussie bunch kayaking right on the corner of Corner Inlet.  They were holed up to avoid the winds but had inadvertantly camped in the most wind and sand blown place within range.  Oh well.  Noticed that one of them (Donna?) had a Tahe Marine Greenland T.  It would have been an interesting conditions for her to be expeditioning in such a low volume boat. She had a smile from ear to ear though….it is the kind of kayak that will do that to you. 

10th – paddled to Refuge Bay.   Stay on the north beach of the cove.  No facilities there.  Met up with a bunch of Qld paddlers doing the crossing like us.  Nice people.  4 guys and a girl

11th – walked up Kersops Peak before breakfast by myself but no network service. I discovered days later my HTC is useless with the Telstra sim but the Blackberry is good.  Walked to Sealers Cove through the day with the gang. I got 7 leeches and one tick.

12th – paddled to Hogan. Copped 30kt tail winds for the last hour. Talk about interesting first crossing…..   Mardi had a couple of wet exits to test our team.  We met up with the Qld team again and they arrived an hour or two after us so were even more exposed to the rougher conditions.  They said they were sailing and one guy rolled four times…..  Like I said, it was an interesting choice to do the crossing.  We stayed at the stockyards.  In recent weeks there was a grass fire which has killed maybe a hundred penguins, their lifeless bodies trying to escape the heat and smoke were scattered around the rocky shoreline.  Very sad.  Still, dozens more penguins tried to waddle past up as we cooked dinner on the rocks.

13th- rest day.Weather too severe. I cooked some rasberry muffins for the gang who were circumnavigatiing the island via the rocky shoreline.  They were most impressed as they turned up in the late afternoon for a sweet treat.

14th – paddled to Deal Is, Winter Cove. 10hrs. We were knackered after this but decided to paddle to Killiecrankie the next day regardless as conditions were forecast to be unbelievably benign. Again, the Qld paddlers were there.  They came across a day after us.  We met up with a 3 man crew from Rivers club in a triple yak. They’d been stuck and paddled to Killie the same day as us but had to fly home from there.  Mardi and I walked the 4km to the Caretakers Cottage for fresh water, mobile reception and a freindly chat.  Bed was late and up early for the big crossing.

15th- paddled to Flinders. Wright Rock was a real treat with maybe 200 seals on it and in the waters around us. I circumnavigated it twice.

16th- went to Royden. Met up with 14 of us doing Bass Strait. A 5 man crew from WA and the one from QLD.

17th- to Whitemark. Via Emita and checked out the museum.

18th- to Trousers Point, or strictly speaking the north side where we were is called Fotheringate Bay.

19th- to Lady Barron. Currently at Tavern eating dinner. Gary’s birthday. Happy Birthday.

We are on the way

We have set off on the road trip bound for Port Welshpool. The crew are in good spirits. Richard Barnes, Gary Roberts, Mardi Barnes (Richard’s sister in-law) and myself.